Is Maharashtra govt ready to take consumers’ rights seriously?

  • Shailesh Gaikwad, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 24, 2015 16:58 IST

On Saturday, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis attended the 40th foundation day programme of Grahak Panchayat, a well-known consumers’ forum, and promised he would safeguard consumers’ interests.

Just two days before that, his government transferred Sanjay Pandey, head of its legal metrology department, which checks whether goods sold to consumers are as per specifications, related to weight and measures, promised by manufacturers or sellers.

In the past few months, the less known department was in news due to its drive against errant retailers or traders. After he took over as controller of the department (the post is occupied by an IPS officer), Pandey started taking the complaints of the consumers seriously and initiated stern action against traders’ short-charging the consumers. He also planned to start a toll-free helpline for consumers to lodge their complaints.

He probably shocked many in the corridors of power, when he started sending notices to builders for not selling flats to buyers as promised in the sale agreement. Though builders protested, he pointed out that there were provisions under the relevant law, under which he could take action against them for not selling products to consumers as per the measurements promised to them.

On March 19, Pandey received orders that he was being transferred with a promotion. The impression was given that Pandey had to be transferred as he was promoted and he won’t be able to occupy the current post due to his higher rank.

Ironically, the post he was being shifted to — deputy inspector general (prevention of atrocities against women), Pune — was upgraded to additional inspector general, so that Pandey could be shifted there.

The question that arises is that if Pandey was doing good work as head of the legal metrology department, why did the government not retain him by upgrading his post as it did in case of the Pune post? If there was a problem with his functioning, the government is justified in shifting him to another post.

However, if he was performing his duties well, then isn’t the shift enough to tell people why he was moved within six months?

So far, the government has been quiet on this front. It may soon clarify why it took the decision. This, however, brings back the focus on an important issue — do politicians and governments care for consumers’ rights?

The state also has a consumer protection department, which is toothless, and manufacturers or sellers don’t care what it says.

All of us have experienced how manufacturers or service providers treat consumers and no government or authority makes them take consumers seriously, unless any orders is passed by the consumer courts.

Complaining against defective electrical equipment or a bad telephone service or wrongly-charged credit card is a painful process. No political party or government wants to put consumers’ rights as a serious issue on its agenda.

Maybe politicians are afraid of losing support of manufacturers and traders if they take consumers’ rights seriously. Does the abrupt transfer of Pandey have anything to do with it?

Responding to the trading community’s demands, the state government has decided to scrap the Local Body Tax [which was opposed by traders, not consumers].

To compensate for the losses because of the scrapping of LBT, the government has planned to burden citizens with more taxes at state and city levels.

The Opposition parties have alleged that the government in the state is protraders and against common citizens.

The ball is now in the court of CM Fadnavis. Citizens and consumer activists are expecting him to take steps that would convince people that the Opposition’s allegations are not true.

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