TODAY -



E-Pao! Education - Consumer protection and welfare

Consumer protection and welfare
— Role of educational institutions in Manipur —

By: AK Vyas *



"The customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us.
We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption on our work.
He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business, he is part of the it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him.
He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so".
— Mahatma Gandhi.

Now-a-days Manipur is a part of global market. The entire market system of Manipur works to meet all the current needs of ultimate/final buyers. An ultimate buyers or purchaser uses the paid up goods and services, either himself or along with family members or sometime with friends and relatives.

The ultimate buyer is known as consumer or customer. Market functions mainly on twin factors - producers and consumers.

In between producers and consumers there are many market players as intermediary or agent or whole-seller or retailer/hawker. In limited cases, sometime, produced goods or commodities may be sold directly while in most cases commodities are sold by simply change of hands or by value addition.

A big producer sells his goods to an agent, an agent sells to the whole-seller and whole seller to retailer or hawker. For pushing the commodities in market various advertisement-modes are being utilised, especially due to technological advancement, e.g. radio, TV, e-mail etc.

Apparently our system seems simple and non-complex. But various nefarious activities are involved right from starting point to using point. Our customers are at receiving end. The pious opinion tendered by Gandhi is irrelevant for unscrupulous traders.

The plight of consumer or customer can be explained very succinctly by paroding the words consumer and customer which give rise to meaning, ‘dying while consuming for consumer' and 'dying in trouble for customer'.

A customer is generally, misled by star or model studded advertisements. Advertisements create a void in the mind of customer.

In Manipur one can see so many girls and boys who have coloured their hair in red or other colour to be fashion-trendy.

A customer is often cheated by purchasing less-weighing commodity or purchase of inferior or sometime injurious community, purchase of duplicates or expiry dated goods or paying more prices than MRP (maximum retail price).

Purchase of goods on more than MRP is done due to compulsion of bandh, strike or extortion. Most of the customers, even educated ones, do not know they can bargain on MRP price as well. In Manipur without BIS hallmarked jewellery is sold without hitch and hesitation.

In the modern age of science and technology numerous are the ways of profiteering and cheating. In Manipur local goods are dependable but Manipur as a user State has to depend on Indian goods coming through NH-39 and 53 and outside goods coming through Moreh route (as Moreh is international market of Manipur).

Sometime more consumption is equated wrongly with consumerism. More consumption is becoming now-a-days symbol of one's status while consumerism denotes to consumer movement, a movement to protect consumer right.

A consumer has:
1. Right to safety
2. Right to be informed
3. Right to chose
4. Right to be heard
5. Right to seek redressal and
6. Right to consumer education.

Above rights are modelled on the basis of UN guidelines for consumer protection.
1. Right to safety
2. Right to information
3. Right to chose
4. Right to fair hearing
5. Right to satisfaction of basis needs
6. Right to healthy environment
7. Right to redressal of grievances
8. Right to consumer education.

In the face of enormity of consumer, problems, numerous consumer oriented legislation and consumer protection (laws and means designed to ensure fair trading for buyers) for a consumer education is a must.

For imparting consumer education schools and colleges may be the best institutions. Schools and colleges, in their elegant manner, may render the best help to consumer movement, a socio-economic movement, which is yet to take concrete and viable status and shape.

Our traditional education does not teach students about consumer awareness, consumer rights, consumer laws, etc. Hence many students do not know about grievance redressal system, consumer protection act, consumerism, consumer fund, consumer co-operatives etc.

They don't know about the process of cheating. In the wake of such a vast proportion of cheating system, for students who are potential purchasers or guide to their family members in buying, we have to devise our course-curricula incorporating well defined system of consumer education right from high school level to college level.

Course context should be designed to cover essential aspects of consumerism - social, economic, legal, moral and alien.

First of all the Manipur University should design course-content and as a modest beginning prepare a batch of trained-teachers who can move the wheel of training programme for willing students. There should be degree and diploma courses for college students.

At higher level, first of all, training should be made job oriented. For State like Manipur the need of consumer education cannot be ignored.

Though, there is comparatively higher level of literary rate, 70.5 per cent in Manipur people at large are not aware about consumer rights and redressal machinery.


* AK Vyas wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 4th, 2006



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