Business Line, January 06, 2013

The Centre is making all-out efforts to educate the general public about their rights and legal remedies for redressing grievances, Union Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs K.V. Thomas has said.

The Indian consumer protection movement has, of late, gained momentum with more safeguards put in place to protect their interests, the Minister said while inaugurating a seminar on consumer awareness, organised as part of the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival.

Monitoring mechanism

He said his Ministry has an inbuilt mechanism to closely monitor the performance of the three-tier consumer disputes redressing system functioning at the national, State and district levels. Its performance levels have improved a lot in the recent past, he added.

The Ministry has also stepped up publicity measures to make the consumers more conscious of their rights and legal remedies available for redress of grievances.

The government is also conscious of the growing misuse of print and electronic media by traders and manufactures to hoodwink the consumers and measures to curb this unhealthy tendency are also being considered seriously, he said.

The Minister also called for a coordinated action inter-linking all the ministries to tighten the redress mechanism following complaints of cheating by consumers.

Online facilities

Pankaj Agrawala, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, said that various steps have already been introduced by the Ministry to speed up consumer disputes redress mechanism, including facility for online filing of complaints, that reduces the need for frequent visits to the Consumer Redressal Forums.

The Ministry has earmarked Rs 100 crore for publicity measures, including in 12 regional languages aimed at generating more awareness among the general public for speedy redress of grievances in disputes.

Food adulteration

Biju Prabhakar, Commissioner of Food Safety, Kerala, was of the view that despite all-out governmental efforts at tightening the inspection system and punitive measures against offenders of food adulteration, there is little respite for the general public from this growing menace.

There is practically no item that is untouched by adulteration or indiscriminate use of banned chemicals and colours in food stuffs including in milk, fish and sweets. All these have contributed to an alarming increase in cancer cases linked to lifestyle diseases, he said.

George Cheriyan, Director, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), and Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CART), Jaipur said that although Kerala appeared to be a model in many aspects, the State came only fourth after Chandigarh, Punjab and Gujarat in terms of consumer awareness on rights and recourse to redress mechanism.

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