My first interaction with CUTS was in the late 1980s when I was a journalist working with India Today. I met the founder of CUTS, Mr Pradeep Mehta, who seemed pretty much obsessed with the idea of starting a consumer rights movement in India. At that time, he appeared to be torn between the compulsions of leading a regular existence as family breadwinner and the idea of striking an uncertain course as a consumer crusader. For a while he did both – conducting business as well as developing CUTS. Even at that time, his heart clearly was with CUTS and his business an ineluctable but irksome duty. I was never in doubt about the way Pradeep would finally swing. He made his choices and those choices worked.
Pradeep has had to fight against cynicism and disinterest at various levels, beginning with his family. His wife though extremely supportive, nevertheless felt concerned at his obvious lack of interest in his business. Indian society in the 1980s was not very clued up or interested in consumer rights movements. Pradeep had to plough the lonely furrow. Virtually all of the CUTS funds in those years came from his business earnings. Where he did succeed was in his ability to rope in other people to work as volunteers. Over the years, he has perhaps replicated this on a much larger scale.
CUTS can strengthen its research and advocacy by helping build grassroots organisations in urban and rural areas that will directly interact with people and help them out. The only challenge that CUTS faces is to be better known within India as a pioneering institution.