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Monday, January 22, 2018

Protect consumers

Saturday, 04 November 2017 12:08
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When we talk of adulteration the first thing that comes to mind is the food. Food adulteration is a big threat to the consumer. For quite some time it has become the hot topic as it is fraught with great danger. Food adulteration is universal and not confined to India but no other country can beat India because this is a country where everyone has unlimited freedom to indulge in such activities with no possibility of retribution. Though food laws that exist are comparable to international ones, but there is very little activity at the ground level to monitor or detect adulterated foods in the market or punish guilty. So isn't our system adulterated to combat such adulteration? It's surprising that fraudsters are always one step ahead of the safety agencies when it comes to detecting adulteration. Their techniques are increasingly becoming more and more sophisticated with time. Food frauds literally constitute a high tech industry because of enormous economic gains inherent in adulteration. Food adulteration is a growing problem in India with rampant instances of adulteration of even essential food commodities such as milk and spices. The problem seems to be getting deadlier by the day. There are reports like inventing synthetic milk, synthetic egg, reports of fruits, mangoes being ripened with calcium carbide, reports of fish being made to appear fresh with formalin. The point is that whether be it pricing of goods in the open markets or its quality, the consumer is always at the losing end. Take the case of pricing of goods of daily consumption like food articles, milk, milk products, bread, meat, vegetables, fruits and many other non-controlled hundreds of eatables, both namkeen and sweat, available in the market, a consumer is absolutely not sure of the price, quantity or quality that he is being offered by the sellers for a price demanded from him. Except for a very few businessmen who stick to their principles for carrying out fair trade, majority of the sellers are ever eager to exploit the consumer. Sure, due to globalization and opening of markets consumers have access to innumerable brands. But is the consumer getting value for money? Why is consumer protection becoming more important in today's scenario? And is the concept 'let the buyer beware' still exists? Today it is a fact that the consumer is not only charged higher price, he is also being cheated in as far as quality of the goods is concerned. The new trend in selling the packed goods is reducing the weight instead of increasing the price to hoodwink the consumer. There are no standard weights for packed items. Similarly, other items of use like garments, foot-wear, etc are being sold at exorbitant rates having no relation to the accepted rate of profit on investment made. This unchecked anarchy is not prevalent in sale of goods only; the paid services available to the users are also equally mismanaged and heavily biased against the user/consumer. The services provided both by official/government agencies as well as by private entrepreneurs or professionals go absolutely unchecked by any Government agency. Even service/consultation charges fixed by the Government for professionals like doctors are flouted with impunity by those Government servants who are officially allowed to practice privately, what to talk of private service providers. The nursing homes do not conform to any laid down standards and are allowed to function without even basic registration. Hospitals, both private as well as Government, are treating the patients like animals without any body exercising any control on their functioning. The position of other official service providers like power department, PHE, municipal/town councils, PWD, and traffic police appears to be nobody's business. These Government agencies are free to supply or not to supply, manage or not to manage, maintain or damage the jobs assigned to them. Come to think of it, the working of all these agencies which meet the common man's daily needs are supposed to be monitored and governed under established laws of the land by Government agencies. Sadly agencies like drug controller, health officer, weights and measures wing and other inspection teams constituted for inspection/checking etc do not perform their duties effectively. It is high time for the Government to seriously think of protecting the consumer, especially in the far-flung rural areas, from the clutches of the unscrupulous businessmen who take away the common man's hard earned money without providing him genuine goods and services.


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