Jaipur 15 June 2004

The consumer movement of India has achieved a significant recognition in Rajasthan. For the first time, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan (also holding the finance portfolio) called consumer groups to take part in a pre-budget consultation, held in Jaipur on Monday, the 14th June. Many consumer groups from all over Rajasthan told the forum to take proactive steps for promoting the consumer movement in the state, which will act as a catalyst for the overall development of its economy.

“Consumer interest is synonymous with national interest. In Rajasthan, a vibrant consumer movement has been developed with active participation of consumer and other social action groups. It is time for the government to facilitate this movement in order to achieve the larger goals of social and economic development of the state and its contribution to national development. This requires a better and an enabling environment for furtherance of the consumer movement. Thus, the government was urged to set-up a ‘Consumer Directorate’ and ‘State Consumer Welfare Fund’ so that common consumers benefit from their association with the movement. The consumer movement needs to expand its space and sphere of activities to intervene positively in developmental policy-making.” This was highlighted in a memorandum submitted by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur.

“Increased public investment in agriculture would directly benefit more than 70 percent population of Rajasthan and accelerate overall economic growth. Promoting dry-land farming and micro irrigation techniques would yield greater productivity, as water and electricity are both scarce in Rajasthan. The state can be benefited from the experiences of countries facing similar challenges,” said Rajeev Mathur, Director of CUTS, while presenting the memorandum to the forum.

“On power sector reforms, it was expressed that a mere five percent conservation at the consumer end would save huge amount of electricity – equivalent to Rs. 400 crores. This can be achieved by strengthening the relationship between electricity distribution corporations and consumer groups,” he added. CUTS has been taking active part in power sector reforms in Rajasthan and regularly providing consumer perception in this regard. Other issues, on which CUTS has been active at the state level, include road safety, water conservation, population policy.

Among others, the memorandum provided a roadmap to the people of Rajasthan (including policy-makers and different stakeholders) on public utilities such as road, water, electricity. It also covers areas on which the state has advantage and suggested paths to take initiatives for cultivating those advantages for the benefit of the people. These include tourism and industrial activities.

For better fiscal management, the memorandum suggests drastic reduction in administrative expenditure and timely completion of government projects. Currently, Rs. 1,760 crores is stuck in about 300 incomplete (delayed) projects in the state. It also suggested for the introduction of performance-based management system for all functionaries and departments by setting appropriate performance benchmarks to make the government machinery more productive and accountable.

Taking this opportunity, a document titled “Vision Rajasthan 2020” was also presented to the Chief Minister and other participants. It outlines strengths, limitations and opportunities and analysed them in the light of various challenges that the state is facing. CUTS will seek wider consultation on this document, so as to have cross-fertilisation of ideas and experience of different stakeholders and as a contribution of the consumer movement to the development of the state.