Consumer lawyer and activist Jehangir Gai shared his long experience of fighting for the consumer and the intricacies of pleading one’s case in consumer courts, to a packed audience
As consumers, we often find ourselves on the back foot, when dealing with deficient services or products. Often, we do not know of our legitimate rights and avenues of redress under the Consumer Protection Act. Jehangir Gai, an experienced consumer activist shared his views on this. The event met with such an enthusiatic response that the venue had to be changed to accommodate the large audience. Mr Gai began by saying, “Should I be happy that so many have come to hear me, or be sad that there are so many unhappy consumers.” Mr Gai then injected a dose of reality. “An awakened consumer is an enlightened consumer; often, an enlightened consumer becomes a frustrated consumer (after approaching the consumer forum).”
Mr Gai pointed out a few steps every consumer must keep in mind, to avoid being taken for a ride:
• Never rely on the recommendation of any trader. His concern is his sales numbers, not your benefits.
• Ensure that you get a proper cash memo or invoice.
• Never sign any agreement blindly, relying on the explanation given by a marketing executive.
• Do not sign any document without checking its contents. If the consumer cannot respect the value of his signature, the courts may not look upon his case with much favour.
• An agent is NOT authorised to collect premiums (for insurance products). Under the law, the agent’s actions do not make the company liable to the client.
• Be vigilant about your rights—don’t depend on others for action.
Most consumers are unaware that, for consumer issues, there are three strata of consumer courts that can be approached depending on the monetary value of the consumer’s grievance. Mr Gai explained that if a dispute involves monies up to Rs20 lakh, it falls under the jurisdiction of the district consumer forum. If the dispute involves monetary value above Rs20 lakh but below Rs1 crore, then the state consumer commission can take up the case. Finally, if the dispute is in excess of Rs1 crore, the consumer has to approach the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). That said, every case decided at the district forums or state commissions can be appealed to the higher level.
In his talk, Mr Gai also shared how to build effective evidence for consumer courts and the finer points of the law itself, like the ambiguity in the definition of ‘commercial purpose’, and the definition of who is considered a consumer. Using case laws—ranging from grim to rib-tickling— Mr Gai explained to the audience the various bizarre turns that a consumer case can take.
According to Mr Gai, during 1999, about 1,500 cases were filed in the Mumbai suburban consumer forum; the number has come down to just 500 in 2013. Contrary to what most people would believe, this is not a good sign. Consumers have given up due to the slow pace of justice.
An organisation in Mumbai that provides services and volunteers to other NGOs,
In 1984, a group of visionaries, led by V Srinivasan (IAS, retired), felt the need to build a strong voluntary sector that would work to help the poor and underprivileged to participate effectively in social development. They thought this would be best done by facilitating voluntary initiatives by NGOs and people.
It took formal shape as the Society for Service to Voluntary Agencies (SOSVA) which is now headed by Dr Vasant Talwalkar as its president. To meet its objectives, Sosva has undertaken multifarious initiatives, such as promoting volunteering, training and development, as well as supporting projects like safe drinking water, providing livelihoods and teaching English, etc.
Volunteerism Action (Volact) was started in 1995 by registering volunteers from all walks of life to match their skills and interests and placing them with voluntary agencies that need such support. Since inception, it has placed 5,990 volunteers with 215 NGOs; as many as 1,393 volunteers were placed with 52 NGOs only in the last financial year. “SOSVA is the first Indian NGO to promote systematic volunteering through this programme,” says Radha Vedantam, chief executive of SOSVA.
The volunteers offer their services across a wide range of activities such as teaching swimming to special children, conducting workshops on puppet-making, teaching conversational English to orphan children, teaching yoga, arts and crafts, etc.
SOSVA’s Training and Promotion Institute (STAPI) is now a full-fledged institution for capacity building, training and imparting skills to NGOs across a wide range of health and development activities. While STAPI started out as a part of Sosva, it has now been hived off into an independent entity.
Like most NGOs doing ground-breaking work, Sosva’s biggest challenge is to raise resources for its efforts. “We are in the grip of a vicious circle of lack of funds and staff. We need to break free from this to move the institution to a different trajectory of growth and self–sufficiency,” says Ms Vedandam. She explains that SOSVA’s presence is limited only to Mumbai because of lack of funds.
SOSVA runs a project called MEDIGIFT to provide free medical supplies to hospitals that need such support.
Ms Vedantam says, “Under an Indo-US bilateral agreement, SOSVA receives medical supplies from US donor agencies and distributes these to charitable and needy hospitals in India. Until now, 17 shipments of supplies, valued at Rs27 crore, have been distributed to 38 hospitals.”
SOSVA has been the nodal agency for Family Health International’s programme funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for minimising the risk of AIDS/HIV in Mumbai and Thane districts, through a network of seven partner NGOs.
It is also involved in of volunteer-run activities, such as the Safe Water-Save Water project, to build awareness about water crisis among children in 27 schools. Sosva has initiated a project to enhance reading skills of 8th and 9th standard students in English- and Urdu-medium schools at Dharavi (a Mumbai slum). This too is run by volunteers since March 2012 and is set for extension to two more centres. The spoken English programme for 5th standard students at three different centres.
SOSVA has started a solar light project to install these lamps and bring sunlight into houses in slum communities which are completely dark during the day. These include the Raoli Camp, Cheetah Camp and Aarey Colony. In association with ISS Integrated Facilities Services, Sosva has started a project for livelihood generation. It finds jobs in house-keeping and security services to underprivileged youth.
You can support Sosva’s activities through donations or by registering to volunteer.
Sosva has 80G tax exemption (donation by cash or cheque/DD). You can also donate in kind (books, clothes, and toys for children, computer accessories, electronics and food, etc.)
Room No. 5, 6 & 7, 1st Floor,
Bhimabai Rane Municipal School,
R Roy Marg, Opposite Central
Plaza Cinema, Girgaon,
Mumbai 400 004,
Telephone: +91 022 2291 4630
Email: [email protected]
Medical developments from around the world
What Are Trans-fats?
Trans-fats are vegetable oil fats that are solidified in the laboratory to increase their shelf life and also to improve their appearance. This hydrogenation process, wherein hydrogen is incorporated into liquid fats to make them solid for commercial benefits and longer shelf life, was discovered by a French Nobel Laureate chemist Paul Sabatier in 1890. Americans jumped onto the bandwagon and Wilhelm Normann patented this process in the US, in 1902. This helped the industry to use this for foods like pizza base, cookies, etc, to increase their shelf life. By the end of the Second World War, hydrogenated margarine had totally replaced the healthy butter in American homes. See how quickly one gets a Nobel Prize if one does something which is good for business. Hydrogenation is not a great discovery; but the man got his Nobel anyway and this trans-fat must have killed millions by now. Now, the American Heart Association has finally admitted that trans-fats are really bad for human health.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
As one ages, one needs more vitamin C for cell repair and good health. Many of us believe that only citrus fruits, like oranges and their family, have vitamin C.
Many other fruits have plenty of vitamin C, like mangoes, bananas and guavas. Taking vitamin C tablets is dangerous, as it might increase the risk of diseases because of a process called hormesis.
Ginger: A Superb Medicine
A 2008 study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, showed that ginger helps the muscles of the stomach contract. This aids digestion by moving the contents of the stomach into the small intestine, a great help to those suffering from indigestion.
Ginger also reduces inflammation. Colon cancer is preceded by inflammation in the colon and a study of cancer prevention had shown that inflammation markers in the colon were significantly reduced after 30 days of treatment with ginger root. This study was performed at the University of Michigan Medical School. Suzanna Zick was one of the researchers who worked on this study.
Ginger alleviates pain, like osteoarthritis pain, effectively. Research shows that osteoarthritis pain can be relieved by taking ginger. One study revealed that taking 500mg of ginger extract, twice a day, worked as well as taking 400mg of ibuprofen three times a day, for knee and hip pain related to arthritis. Research has also indicated that ginger and orange oil used in massage therapy can help reduce stiffness and pain in the knee.
Ginger reduces nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, without any harm to the foetus. Dizziness, which is a very common complaint in the elderly, usually due to benign positional vertigo is helped to a great extent by regular use of ginger.
Some studies indicate that ginger can help prevent blood clots and possibly lower cholesterol, but the data is patchy in that area.
In an article in www.moneylife.in, I had written about how the global warming hypothesis may not be sound after all. Studies have shown data to have been fudged, to push the global warming hypothesis, among other things that fly in the face of all the related alarmism.
Now, see the report from NASA in leading publications: “This story is starting to break worldwide right now across the media, with The Telegraph now reporting, NOAA’s US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has been ‘adjusting’ its record by replacing real temperatures with data ‘fabricated’ by computer models.”
Because the actual historical temperature record doesn’t fit the frenzied, doomsday narrative of global warming being fronted today on the political stage, the data was simply altered using ‘computer models’ and then published as fact.
Who does one believe in this world? Science is just a creation of the human mind. George Berkeley, of Berkeley University fame, wrote years ago: “If there is no perceiver, there is no perception.” Scientific perception can be easily faked as needed to suit our purpose.