Consumer Protection by Gangadhara Rao, G

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Consumer Protection Machinery and Financial support in India: A needy Rationale. Prof. Gangadhara Rao, G. Ph.D., Department of Management Studies. GITAM UNIVERSITY HYDERABAD CAMPUS

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Introduction: Consumer is a king in market, is hardly realized anywhere in the world and the upper hand of the Supplier appears everywhere. Welfare state is the prime objective of Indian constitution. Consumer Protection Regulation Act , 1986 (COPRA) Three-tier machinery Momentous job to the Governments.

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Pigovian welfare. “It is now universally accepted that the level of consumer awareness and protection is a true indicator of the development of a country and the progressiveness of its civil society” (Working Group 2007). NDC in its 5oth session (2002) ---- as a thrust area. Review: CUTS (2005), Bhanojirao (2007), Pradeep and Nityananda(2006), Singh and chadah(2006) Sheetal kapur(2005). Srinivasan(1999).

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Present Study: To estimate the operational strength, To analyze the financial support by Government of India to consumer redressal machinery to the states. To propose a needy rationale for devolution of funds now or in future. Database: Reports of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, States Sales tax and Income tax Census data for 2001.

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Structure of Consumer Redressal Machinery IN India National Commission State Commission District Forum

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structural support and operational strength 1995-2007 Uttar Pradesh - 74 Madhya Pradesh - 45 Jammu and Kashmir - 02 Maharastra, Bihar and Rajasthan are the states with many number of District Fora.

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The states were given structural support grant during 1995-99 for four years period and later in 2004-05. The per unit average grant (including state commission) for 1995-99 is estimated. The highest was allotted to Jammu and Kashmir(5.83 lakhs), though this state follows its own act rather than COPRA. And the least amount was allotted to Orissa (1.41 lakhs). 2004-05 Except 8 major states from the selected 17 states (including Delhi), other states are given the fund. Orissa was given higher amount in 2004-05 by 8.44 lakhs and followed by Andhra Pradesh with 3.50 lakhs.

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physical safety (ii) protection of the consumer economic interest (iii) standards for the safety and quality of consumer goods and services (iv) distribution facilities Recent origin but Safeguards

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(v) measures for redress (vi) measures for food, water and pharmaceuticals and (vii) consumer education and information programmes as envisaged by United Nations General Assembly and COPRA.

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“ These fora are mandated to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal of the consumer’s grievances”(Annual Reports,Mini con. Affairs). Burden of future role of these will be ever increasing when MRTP act was repealed. The COPRA and these bodies are to play an undaunted physical, psychological and moral support to the consumers of India. Fulfill the objectives of welfare society of the Indian constitution.

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Meager Funds For generation of infrastructure in all the major states divulge meager funds. Not sufficient to hire at least a reasonable accommodation to accommodate the bodies- presidents and members of District Fora in different states. The planning commission did not give any reasonable weight to these consumer protection securing bodies. Restrained to work freely, and to denominate them as strong redressal agencies for consumer protection and welfare. Each District Forum got Rs. 1.41lakhs during 1995-99 in Orissa.

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Vacancy Position & Negligence Other than A.P., Assam, Bihar and Punjab, the remaining states had presidents to State Commissions but in member vacancies, number of states had vacancies i.e. six states. Negligence of state executives . All the states except J&K, M.P. and Maharashtra had number of vacancies for president posts at District Fora. Bihar had the highest vacancy position in presidents followed by T.N.and Kerala. Member vacancies - Bihar showed high number of vacancies, having U.P. and M.P. as competitors. The least vacancy position in members of District Fora is observed in W.B., T.N., Punjab and J & K.

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State commissions and District Fora across states indicates a usual negligence of the state governments over these bodies. They have not given right and accurate operational support or arrangement to these redressal agencies. Once the system is weak, the ideaology behind COPRA or UNO resolution will certainly be defeated. “To create suitable administrative and legal mechanisms which would be within the easy reach of consumers and to interact with both Govt. and non-Governmental organizations to promote and protect the welfare of the consumers” Annual Reports(2007). Therefore, the concerned governments being the people representatives are to realize the importance.

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Needy Rationale in transfer of Fund Parameters :(i) % of fund to Sales Tax collection of the state concerned, (ii) % of fund to the income tax collection of state, (iii) per household fund allotted and (iv) per worker fund spent.

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Relative ranks of concerned variable with reference to all-India is analyzed. Average Actual fund granted by government of India during 2001-05 is taken. Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan, M. P., Punjab and Delhi received huge grants Bihar was given the highest fund (18.66 percent), but in sales tax contribution is 13th place

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Same way, income tax stands as 23.61 per cent but its relative rank is 11th one among states. During 2001-05 among states-divulges though some states are large they received less, namely W.B, T.N. A.P. and Kerala. In Sales tax, Maharastra, T.N., A.P., U. P.and Karnataka show the highest ranks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively among all the major states,

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Sales tax collection in the state in question is considered, Bihar, Haryana, Orissa, Rajasthan and M.P. show high amount of grant. Where the consumer activity is higher, there the central government did not transfer needy grant- agencies become weaklings. Maharastra, Delhi, Karnataka and T. N. are the highest contributors by their ranks among major states from 1st to 4th places respectively.

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This informs that these states enjoy high incomes among people and a stable and high consumption is possible in these states. In return these states require higher fund transfer from centre, to make the solid footing in consumer redressal mechanism.

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In Income tax collection of the concerned states, Orissa (46.30) Rajasthan (45.06), Haryana (37.82), Punjab (25.09) and Bihar (23.61) are the front runners - redressal fund. The number of households are in large number in U.P., Maha, A. P., W.B. and T. N.-high ranks. Grant per household tells that Haryana (with Rs. 1085.85), Delhi (with Rs.896.23), Punjab (Rs.694.10), Rajasthan (Rs.432.54) and Kerala (Rs.306.81) are the highest fund receivers.

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When household is the basic unit for a family or consumers, the volume of households will be the primary source of consumerism. The percentage of workers to all India workers- U.P., Maha., A.P.,W.B.and Bihar are the high worker proportion states in India. But the per worker fund informs that Delhi(Rs. 535.95), Haryana (Rs.478.75), Punjab (Rs.329.26), Kerala (Rs.200.12) and Rajasthan (Rs. 168.69) were benefited

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Naturally the workers volume will enable the markets to have demand for the goods and services. In a nutshell, Except Maharastra, others like A.P., T.N., U.P. and W. B. remained as the real losers of the benefit of fund transfer, while Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan and Punjab stood as the high beneficiaries in fund devolution.

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Ministry of Consumer Affairs-- economic criteria consumer welfare, which enables the states to arrange strong base in the coming years. ” The need of the hour is for total commitment ….. in a harmonious manner so that our society becomes a better place for all of us to live in” (Singh2006). As in the Socio-economic legislation, this act stands as an important safeguard to the people of Republic of India. The working of group of planning commission recommended for XI five year plan Rs. 2165.84 crores to protection programs. (Working Group 2007).

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Case settlement State commissions- Assam, J & K, Punjab, W. B. and Bihar exhibits less volume of cases compared to U.P., Raja., Maha., Kerala, T. N., and A.P. and these states showed large filing of cases in 1998. In settling cases, kerala tops out of all states with only 5.02%. followed by W.B. (12.01%),T. N.(19.28%) and A.P.(20.78%). The high volume of pending cases-U.P.(77.87%),Rajas.(67.49%), Assam (66.44%), Bihar (57.96%), Punjab (56.81%) and M.P. (43.06%). Out of all the states, Assam shows very lowest filing of cases 1037 but its pending of cases is 66.44%.

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Growth of Cases (%) Quinquinnial period by yearly average during 1998-08-much observed annually in Punjab (56.87), Haryana (45.75), M.P. (43.06), Delhi (33.77), Gujarat (25.33), and Karnataka (24.58) The lower growth established in J.& K. (8.69), Assam (9.57), T.N. (12.48), Kerala (13.13) and Rajasthan (13.26). The filing of cases in State Commissions appear speedy when compared to latter one.

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J.& K.(3.98), Kerala (4.07), T.N. (5.05) and Delhi (5.30) have demonstrated at a low ebb of consumer disputes. On the other side, Gujarat (17.05), Karnataka (15.40) and M.P.(12.41) have shown the growth of cases. In the remaining states ranged between 6.45 to 10.72 in state Commissions.

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Pending of Cases (%) The pending of cases in most of the states becomes remained same. The comparative picture shows, that there is no improvement in the settlement of cases, whereas this situation has been changed by current year (2008). In Karnataka (1.56), Delhi (3.85), W.B. (6.00) and M.P. (9.75), the pending of cases fell sharply.

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A welcome feature- since the consumer wants to get justice in his consumption or purchases, Unjustified delay & deriving satisfaction through the hard earned money spent on the goods or services. At national level, National Commission had 41.20 of pending cases out of 15088 in 1998. Being appellate authority still it keeps much pending may lead to distrust over it. In due course, the pending of cases reduced to 24.11 in 2003 and 18.38 in 2008

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Case Settlement in District Fora The District Fora- by 1998 show a very big amount of cases in many states. Paints a large canvass in all the states except Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. Case pending is very low in all states at District Fora rather than state commissions and National Commission during the study period.

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Many cases - District Fora in U.P., Rajasthan, A.P. and Kerala but the settlement rate in these states is high. District Fora displayed growth of consumer disputes during 1998-03, and in latter period decrease took place in all states except in J & K. (changed from 1.55% in1998-03 to 16.87% by 2003– 08). The annual average growth of filing cases in all states existed at single digit rather than J.K. and Gujarat.

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It is observed that the pending of cases also declined sharply in 2003-08. When compared to 1998 cases, all the states have shown a general sharp declining trend in the pending of cases in 2003-08. This sea change did not happen in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat and U.P. The District Fora have less pending cases compared to State and National commissions.

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There is clear decadal change in District Fora in pending of cases. The pending cases range 6.35%t to 35.34% in different states in 1998 Which fell fast and ranged between 3.10% and 17.32% by February 2008. The District Fora have less pending cases compared to State and National commissions.

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11 states have single digit in pending of cases which is completely opposite to 1998 where except kerala, all states had double digit in per cent in pending of cases. The primary causes for this sharp change could be presumed in both sides. “ Thus what is required is a vibrant movement, that is much closer to the people and is pro-poor, pro-women, and pro-rural”(Sheetal Kapur 2005).

Fall of Cases at District Fora : 

Fall of Cases at District Fora District Fora displayed growth of consumer disputes during 1998-03, During 2003-08 decrease took place in all states except in J & K. (changed from 1.55% in1998-03 to 16.87% by 2003– 08). The annual average growth of filing cases in all states existed at single digit except J.K. and Gujarat.

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Logical Reasons For Fall Expenses, compromising, the responsiveness of corporate sector and lok Adalat. Working group of planning commission: 82% to advocates out of all expenses. The pending of cases also declined sharply in 2003 and 2008. When compared to 1998 cases, all the states have shown a general sharp declining trend in the pending of cases in 2003 and 2008. This sea change did not happen in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat and U.P.

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Field Study Hence, the further research at field level is to be made in all these states in rural and urban areas, whether the consumers are unwilling to knock the doors of redressal agencies to avoid expenses, litigation, delays, time consuming processes, or on the other side, providers of goods and services are arranging in-time tackling to avoid further complications.

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Policy Implications COPRA & consumer welfare. Streamline the funds deployment by realities which demand a scientific approach than eyewash manoeuvres. III. The paucity of funds hamper the basic goals and priority of the consumer movement. ‘voluminous segment of consumers’. To fulfill the earnest aims of the “Welfare State”. Less filing of cases by 2008 & need of field level study.

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ThanQ. Solicited : Clarifications and Suggestions