Posts Tagged 'campaign'

We Need A Big Change-Consumer Rights

I am back with “We Need a Big Change” series. This time it is, as title suggest, about consumer rights. I will start with a personal grievance.

I was applying for admission in a university for Masters in mass communication and journalism. The envelope that was provided by university, to send my demand draft, was little strange. Instead of having “To” address in the centre of envelope as it usually is, it was on the right while the center place was reserved for writing “From” address that was to be mine. There were only two days to go, I paid for a speed post hoping my application will reach on time. What happened next was something I will never forget. Two days later, to my horror, I discovered that my application had been delivered back by Indian Post to my home address! Welcome to India!

I agree that “From” and “To” column were unusually placed on that envelope, but I expect people employed at postal department to be literate. You can imagine how I would have felt about my application not reaching on time. I added a demand draft for 500/- as late fees (thank god, for that option) and resent.

I was enraged, I went about to ask where I could complain about the negligence of the postal department. After a lot of asking around, I got to know there actually was a division in the postal department to registered complaints. I smugly filed that complaint hoping to get this issue noticed. I thought perhaps I can claim my late fees. That was about four years ago, I have never heard from postal department about it. How naïve I was to expect championing of consumer rights in my motherland! 😦

That was first time I thought there should be a forum for consumers. Good news is, guys, we have such forums—National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and also a respective State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Bad news? Only 43% Indians know about it, only 24% of them know how to use it. 😦

Let’s take an example to prove my point. You get a new credit card, you use it to the fullest. You realize you haven’t yet got the bill. You call the customer care, wait in queue for 30 minutes, remember you are paying for the call. Believe me, I am not exaggerating, I waited for 45 minutes in SBI credit card customer helpline number Some service they have!

After you get in the call with customer care executive, you are told you will be sent your duplicate bill. Yet you don’t get it and finally you have reached your due date. You are asked to pay your late fees, for no fault of your own. What do you do?

  1. You pay up.
  2. You hem and haw and then pay up.
  3. You try to file a complaint with consumer court with insufficient evidence, nothing happens and you pay up . Very rare people file complaint though…
  4. You bargain and den some nice executive waives it off only to find same thing has repeated again next month. This time executive would not waive off your late fees no what how you explain. You pay up to get rid of the hassle.

Did you know that you could have gone to the banking ombudsman appointed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under Banking Ombudsman Scheme 2006 for grievance redressal? I know, like me, you didn’t know about it. You could have done it simply by writing on a plain paper or filing online complaint or by sending an email to the ombudsman.

The credit card companies till date have collected more than Rs 6,000 crore in a decade from customers in India by way of fines and late fee. The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) has ordered a probe into the fees levied by them. (Information Courtsey, Times of India).

Think of number of people who could benefit by this information about ombudsman. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs did their best to promote awareness by “Jaago Grahak Jaago” campaigns but there is more we citizens collectively can do about it.

Do you have a strategy in mind how to handle at individual level? Do you have some experiences where you could do with advice on consumer rights? Feel free to add them here. It’s time we made sure that consumer is not king only till they buy the product rather their rights should be preserved after they have got the product.

It’s late in the night now but I have a strategy forming in my mind. I would like to share it with you. I will come back with more on this.

Media Campaigning for Development

Media campaigning is one of the reasons that made me want to join media. (I didn’t though, because I had learnt hard way that my body wasn’t able to cope with irregular work hours.)

Few months back, I read this news item in Hindustan Ttimes that said a local NGO had undertaken an initiative to educate villagers. The women who carried cow dung cakes were provided laptops so that they could teach their fellow villagers. I was impressed, I thought it was a beginning. I wanted to be a part of it, I wrote to the reporter whose email address was given at the end of the new copy to learn more about the NGO. But reply never came. 😦

That was the birth of my grouse with media that when they report something good-going, like a ray of light in development, there is not enough information for the reader to pursue and support it. Adding required information such as contact details of the NGO adds authenticity to the news report, this is more so important in the wake of era where case like Uma Khurana are booming aplenty.

I decided to find more such news that is reported in the news and add it on my blog. Here is a brief list:

1. Bal Vikas Bank: A bank that is managed, operated, and utilized by only street children. If you saw the movie Traffic Signal, you would realize how street children are made to part with their hard-earned money by bullies. This bank provides them an safe-keeping option for their money, which of course is not a huge amount yet all they own in the world. And the children who manahe it and keep the accounts should the responsibility with great aplomb. Working children all over the country want to be part of this programme, if you are interested you could contact this NGO here.

2. Salaam Balak Trust (SBT): Organizing walks for various reasons is a rage in the city. You can walk with Pradip Kishen to watch trees of Delhi, you could walk to watch monuments of Delhi in a group, and you can walk with Javed and Salim to watch how street children on New Delhi railwy station survive. Yes it’s true, there is such a walk. Javed and Salim who conduct this walk were street children before they were rescued years ago. The proceeds from it goes to educate the street child, an initiative by SBT. Ashwin Kumar’s internationally aclaimed short movie Little Terrorist’s hero was kid who was rehabilitated by this NGO. You can visit this site here and read more about case studies. Spending 250/- bucks for this walk is also considered good enough by this organization.

3. Sponser an Elderly: There are NGOs where you can pay for the monthly or yearly expenses of an elderly. The amount, as given in the news report, ranged from 7000/- to 24000/- a year. But for the elderly individual, his/her yearly expenses have been taken care of. The newspaper account said that most young were doing this, and the elderly who were sponsered bless them. There were some youngsters who took out time to spend with these elderly citizens to provide them emotional support. I searched and came up with two such organizations, click here and here. Contributing to these organizations also gets you tax rebate. 🙂

4. The Hunger Site/Breast Cancer/Child Health/Lieracy Site/Rain Forest/Animal Rescue: I have known this web site since I was in college. How it works is simple, you just need to click for each of these causes daily, and the sponser of the site will provide a cup of food/book/mammogram per click. So click this link daily. I had learnt of this site from a US news paper when several food packages were distributed in Somalia.

I read about success and case studies of each of these NGOs/organizations in newspapers and magazine. There are more, yet to be tapped. But it is late, I have got to sleep. I will be back with more, I promise.

Hope together we can make a difference!

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