Comprehensive amendments in existing law to protect interests of consumers
PATNA: Union Consumer Affairs and Food & Public Distribution Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, has said that amendments in existing Consumer Protection Act have been finalised to introduce new regime of consumer protection in the country. He said, proposed amendments to be brought in Parliament in the monsoon session would make consumer redressal inexpensive and quick, will also provide recall of goods & services, if found unsafe or hazardous, and compensation to consumers. Briefing media persons at Patna on Thursday about initiatives of the NDA government, Paswan, said that the Government would treat the adulteration in food products and deficiency in consumer services as corruption. Referring the recent case of a fast food product investigation, the Minister said the Government is exploring all possible options to check reoccurrence of such incidence and to ensure exemplary action to safeguard interests of consumers.
Ram Vilas Paswan said, food inflation remained moderate over the last year due to various measures taken by the government. Increase in prices of pulses, mainly because of demand and supply gap, has been taken by the Government seriously. “We are considering all possible measures to ensure availability of pulses at reasonable prices including its import.” he asserted. Seeking active market intervention by the States to keep prices of essential commodities under check, particularly pulses and edible oil, Paswan said his ministry has written to the State Governments to make available these commodities through Civil Supplies Corporations/ Cooperative Societies outlets, especially to economically weaker sections, at reasonable prices. States have also been requested to take strict action against hoarding of these items. The Centre has convened meeting of the States in the end of this month to discuss an action plan in this regard.
Highlighting proposed plans of the Government for Consumer welfare, Ram Vilas Paswan said redressal of consumer grievances will now be made consumer friendly, enabling e-filing of cases and not requiring personal appearance till the stage of admission. A “Central Consumer Protection Authority” has been proposed to investigate unfair trade practices and check misleading advertisements, initiate class action and order recall or replacement of defective products. Provision is being made for product liability to enable consumers to sue for damage caused by defective products/ deficient services. A dedicated portal www.gama.gov, to enable consumers to register their grievances against misleading advertisements (GAMA), has already been launched. Six key sectors viz. food and agriculture, heath, education, real estate, transport and financial services have included for this purpose. The complaints lodged on the portal are taken up with the relevant authorities or the sector regulators and the consumer is informed after the action is taken. In another initiative, to provide a host of consumer services under one roof, Grahak Suvidha Kendras are being set up in six locations including Patna.
Paswan said that food grain management has recorded significant improvement over the last year. Additional storage capacity of more than 43,480 lakh MTs has been created in remote areas, especially in North East, to keep at least three months food grain allocation in advance. Innovative experiments like shipping of rice from Andhra to Tripura through Bangladesh waterways and Andhra to Kerala through sea route have been made. Twenty lakh ton modern storage is being created in the shape of “Silos” , damage/ leakage of FCI stocks has been brought down very significantly i.e. 0 .004 percent.
Highlighting the farmer centric approach in the initiatives of his Ministry, Paswan said, “Interests of farmers and consumers are high on the agenda of the Government. In order to protect farmers interests affected with unseasonal rains, the government not only relaxed quality norms for wheat procurement but also decided to bear value cut, for shriveled and broken grains, so that farmers get full minimum support price for their produce”. As a result, during the current Rabi marketing season government agencies have procured five lakh ton more wheat than the last season. He said, FCI has been asked to work out a plan for procurement of pulses and oil seeds from farmers on MSP and to adopt an aggressive paddy procurement plan in the regions where market prices generally rule below the MSP and distress sale is reported, especially in the states of Andhra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Paswan added.
Paswan said to ensure implementation of National Food Security Act (NFSA) more efficiently, the Centre has decided to bear 50% expenditure of food grains handling and of dealers’ margin money. The Center has finalized rules for payment of Food Security allowance to the beneficiaries of NFSA in the case food grains are not made available to them.