30 July :‘We are in the process of bringing about further amendments to the Consumer Protection Act’ said Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Agriculture while inaugurating the 24th Meeting of the Central Consumer Protection Council (CCPC) here today. ‘The proposed amendments would make the Act even more dynamic, responsive and consumer friendly’, he said.
The Minister informed the members of the CCPC that the Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance have provided adequate budgetary allocation for implementing important schemes for strengthening the infrastructure of Consumer Fora. A project titled ‘Computerization & Computer Networking of Consumer Fora in the country’ i.e. “Confonet” is being executed on a turnkey basis by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). Under this project, all the Consumer Fora are being computerized and networked. This project was started in 2004-05 and till date, the National Commission, 34 State Commissions and 593 District Fora have been provided with computer hardware & software. Similarly, we have another scheme titled ‘Integrated Project on Consumer Protection’ where financial assistance is being extended to States/UTs to supplement their efforts in strengthening infrastructure of the Consumer Fora. Under this scheme funds to the tune of Rs. 73.82 crores have been released to 21 eligible States. This is in addition to Rs. 72 crores that we had given to the States under One Time Grant to strengthen the infrastructure of Consumer Fora. The Central Government has also provided around Rs. 195 crore for strengthening the infrastructure of Consumer Fora.
He further added that a project titled, ‘Strengthening Consumer Protection in India’ which is a bilateral project of Indian and German Government, is being implemented. Under this project, the States of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have been selected on pilot basis for implementing the project related to consumer protection activities. While the States of Madhya Pradesh and NCT of Delhi have been selected on a pilot basis for implementing the project related to legal metrology activities. This project would provide and attune the best practices to meet our requirement, on consumer information, advise and complaint redressal. This project would also initiate an effective and efficient legal metrology system. With this objective, Legal Metrology Laboratories are being upgraded by state of art equipments by the German partner.
In consonance with the special emphasis placed by this Department on the development of legal metrology in the country, a comprehensive Legal Metrology Bill is under consideration. This would replace the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 and the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985. The proposed law would further simplify the requirements of weights and measures in inter-state trade, optimum utilisation of existing legal metrology infrastructure in the country. Other objective this legislation would fulfil is provide for personnel who are better attuned to the ever changing requirements, to handle the subject of legal metrology in the States/UTs.
The Minister highlighted another important policy initiative that is under consideration is whether an organisation like the National Consumer Protection Authority, be set up as a proactive body empowered to take suo-moto action to better protect the interests of the consumers in general. He informed the members that an umbrella framework for National consumer initiatives is also being deliberated. This could be a policy enunciation or guidelines. It will provide the general framework for consumer welfare in the Government.
The Central Consumer Protection Council (CCPC), established by the Central Government is headed by Shri Sharad Pawar and Shri Taslimuddin, Minister of State who was also present at the meeting is its Vice Chairman. The members of the CCPC include the Ministers in-charge of Consumer Affairs from the States of each of the 5 regions in the country, an administrator of a Union Territory, Secretaries of Departments of Consumer Affairs at the Centre, as well as some States and representatives of Consumer Organisations. The membership to CCPC has been reduced from 150 to 35. This truncating was necessitated so that the unwieldy CCPC could take up more issue based focused discussion in its meetings.