The Hindu, August 13, 2010

Consumer is hardly the king in towns and rural areas of Rajasthan despite several initiatives by the Government, including the much talked about ‘ Shudh Ke Liye Yudh’ campaign against food adulteration. In most districts, the Consumer Protection Councils are not active and only 26 per cent of the consumer complaints are disposed of within the prescribed period by the district forum.

A study carried out by CUTS International, a consumer rights NGO based in Jaipur, recently noted that only 60 per cent of the districts have drug inspectors. The Consumer Protection Councils envisaged in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, are either not established or have not done much.

The study was conducted in 12 districts — Tonk, Chittorgarh, Kota, Bundi, Alwar, Banswara, Jodhpur, Jalore, Churu, Sikar, Dholpur and Dausa — under the “Grassroots reach out and networking in Rajasthan through consumer action” (GRANIRCA) project supported by Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The study was based on the data of 2008 and 2009.

The study found that the problem of adulterated and sub-standard food items remains the foremost concern of the consumers. There was a considerable increase in samples of food items taken for examination by the Health Department but only 14 per cent of them were found to be adulterated. A proper and timely analysis of samples, which is crucial for booking the offenders, was found to be lacking. Only 26 per cent of adulteration cases were disposed of within the prescribed period.

The system of controlling spurious drugs and medicines is very weak. Only 60 per cent districts have drug inspectors and at places one person takes care of two or more districts. Rajasthan has only one lab in Jaipur for testing of drugs.

Apart from the quality of products, the buyers were also found to be short-changed at patrol pumps, mandis, grocery shops, sweets shops and so on. The district inspectors, responsible for ensuring accuracy of weights and measures as well as standard of packaged commodities, were found not taking steps to check quantity. As for monitoring of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the District Supply Officers did not do much to ameliorate the grievance of complainants. After failing to get relief from these departments, a consumer is left with the option to approach the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum. But of 12 districts studied, only seven Redressal Forums were found to have the required three members. Four of them were working with two members and the Sikar District Forum had no member.

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