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Monday, April 17, 2017

You're never going to please everyone, and if you do, there's something wrong. – Constance Wu

This is a hard truth and every time someone wants to do good he or she cannot satisfy all. This holds true even for the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill 2016 introduced in the Lok Sabha by our Hon’ble Transport Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari on the 10th of April, 2016. The Amendment Bill once passed is set to bring about some crucial changes in the current Motor Vehicles Act. Though the clauses introduced and if implemented strictly is all set to reduce road accidents in India, it is not going down well with all sections of the society.

With a five fold increase in fines, drivers and especially truck drivers who unfortunately form a handful percentage of traffic violators, have expressed their dissatisfaction. The President of Telangana State Lorry Drivers Association, N Bhaskar Reddyhas already started contemplating about a strike if their interest is neglected. “We do not know how we will pay the fines, as such we are operating in losses. We so far only know about the hike in fines and find them very unreasonable. If the MVA is stacked against our self interest, we will be left with no choice but to protest.” While the truck drivers are crying foul, Vinod K Kanumala, chief functionary at Indian Federation of Road Safety is happy with the “good move” but sounds a note of caution about the enforcement department which should act seriously.

Other than the monetary factors, Vinod K Kanumala added that families of road accident victims seek more accountability.  Losing a loved one is never easy and the situation becomes worse when the culprit can’t be put behind bars.
Traffic cops have also welcomed the move of the government as hefty fines will be a deterrent to traffic violations. Though steep fines will work as a deterrent, one needs to guard against corruption as well. One of the steps to increase transparency as suggested by AV Ranganath, Deputy Traffic Commissioner, Hyderabad is to have people pay fines at post office or banks.”

Well there will always be some teething problems, but no problem can be bigger than your safety.
Stricter provisions in respect of offences like drunken driving, juvenile driving, driving without licence, overloading etc will make our lives safe.The Bill ofcourse can’t promise a complete stop to road accidents but it will definitely ensure safer roads for you and your loved ones!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


        India’s daily death toll due to road accidents is more than four times the annual death toll from terrorism. Every person going on the road has risk of injury or death such as pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, passengers, etc. Drivers’ fault is the single most important factor responsible for accidents: Revealed by an analysis of road accident data by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.  This highlights the fact that Government must enforce stricter road rules in India and also provide adequate infrastructure to safeguard its citizens.

If a drunken person kills another person, it is considered murder but if a drunken driver kills a whole family on the road due to negligent driving, he can get away with a minimal fine.  This is a serious lapse of law in our country.    We all know how easy it is to get a driving license in India.  We also know how easy it is to escape after a road offence in India.  RTO offices are traditionally considered to be one of the biggest centers of corruption and bribe in India. 
As quoted by Dr. P. Hirishikesh, Chairman of Institute of Health Systems, nobody cares for traffic rules in India; they are treated like best practices rather than compulsory.  Talking about human errors is ridiculous in India.  But which human error are we talking about?  Unless there is a grand National mindset change (or strict governance) things will remain as they are.

            At present an innocent person who is injured on the road for no fault of his has no support from the Government. The entire burden of treatment and support to the family falls on him. The Government has absolved itself of its duties and responsibilities.  This is morally not correct.  It is the fundamental duty of the Government to enforce laws and make roads safe for its citizens.

            Ministry of Road Transport and Highways initiated the Road Transport and Safety Bill (RTSB) which is expected to be presented in Parliament in the monsoon session.  The Group of Transport Ministers Conference has come up with some 30 plus recommendations to finalize changes in the 1988 Motor Vehicle Act.  One major recommendation by the GoM is stringent penal provisions for repeat offenders on grave traffic violations, by revoking the license for two years of a third time offender.  This will not only act as a deterrent but will definitely reduce the number of accidents on the roads. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

In this Digital Era Consumers are using various services depending on navigation and maps such as booking a cab, sharing a location, finding post office, bank or petrol pump. Be it for ordering food by sharing a location, geotagging friends and family members over social platform or even for safety application that required location to be shared in case of SOS alert to sent everywhere usage of map and sharing location is involved . But If the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, becomes a law, all this valuable information and service that makes our lives easier, convenient and productive could be at risk.

Today geospatial information is used in almost every sphere of life be it by a fisherman who would like to share information about tides and weather, or by trapped mountaineers, rescue teams in operations during Chennai floods Politicians are using this for sharing their location for masses for easy reach. Civil Society organizations are using for survey, organizations using information based on geography. Consumers are using for cab booking, hotel booking, food ordering etc. Teachers and student community is using for map based research. Also this bill is going to impact large numbers of startups who are running their business using geographical location be it for food ordering, cab booking or hotel services.

Our Government has been promoting and encouraging the theme of ‘Digital India’ but this proposed bill is a return to the License Raj. Consumer VOICE has asked the government to review the wide ambit of the bill and create consumer friendly Geospatial guidelines that enable the real-time utility of maps.

Mr. Hemant Upadhyay
 Advisor IT & Telecom
Consumer VOICE

Friday, September 11, 2015

Food Fortification-Why do we need it?

Micro-nutrient deficiencies affect not only the poor. Less obvious but nonetheless important are the effects of today’s lifestyles in the developed world on nutritional status. There are increased food choices, yes, but low micro-nutrient densities. The hectic pace of life can lead to inadequacies in the diet, so that even in well-endowed societies people are increasingly looking to fortified foods to make up the deficiencies. Food fortification has for one reason or the other emerged as a non- complicated way to improve the nutritional value of a diet. It has been applied for decades to improve the nutritional status of target populations in various countries by adding value to simple, affordable staple foods. Indeed, in many countries fortification of staples such as wheat flour is mandatory, to replace nutrients lost through food processing or to reduce the prevalence of identified deficiencies.

To keep up in today’s busy world, people are multitasking, and when it comes to keeping up with their daily nutritional needs, they expect their foods to multitask as well. According to the 2009 International Food Information Council (IFIC) Functional Foods/Foods for Health Consumer Trending Survey, the great majority of Americans believe that food provides benefits beyond basic nutrition and are interested in how certain foods or food components can improve or maintain their health.

Today, many people can identify a specific food and/or food component and its associated health benefit. Historically food fortification, such as iodized salt or vitamin D-fortified milk, has served as a public health measure to address population-wide nutrient deficiencies. Now, there are calcium- and vitamin D-fortified juices, breads fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, and vegetable-oil spreads with plant sterols available for health-conscious consumers searching for foods with additional health benefits. These types of foods contain added nutrients and ingredients that may promote or support overall health and wellness in a variety of ways across many different body systems including heart, bone, digestive, eye and brain; weight management; and increased energy and immune health, among others.

Ideally, foods not only must meet consumer needs and preferences but also address nutrition, regulatory, safety and technical constraints. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), World Health Organization (WHO) and several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, follow similar guiding principles when it comes to their fortification policies.

What Is It?
Food fortification is primarily the addition of one or more essential nutrients (for example, iron, vitamin A, folic acid, iodine) to a food, whether or not it is normally contained in the food, for the purpose of preventing or correcting a demonstrated deficiency of one or more nutrients in the population or specific population groups. It is a safe, effective way to improve public health and has been used around the world since the 1920s. Commonly fortified foods include staple products such as salt, maize flour, wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil and rice.

Is It Necessary?
Shortfalls in nutrient intakes could result from changing lifestyles. Even those in affluent communities may not achieve recommended micronutrient intakes without fortification of the food supply. Consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and milk products may be lower than recommended. This makes some micronutrients – potassium, dietary fibre, calcium, and vitamin D – low enough to be a public health issue. Other vitamins of concern include iron, folate and vitamin B12. 
As per World Health Organization (WHO), about two billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies because they are not getting essential daily dietary requirements. Many diets, especially those of the poor, contain insufficient amounts of these essential vitamins and minerals due to lack of variation and/or consumption of predominantly processed foods. Since most populations in resource-poor settings do not have access to adequate quantities of fruits, vegetables and meats, where micronutrients are abundant, they are vulnerable to long-term health problems and raise societal and public healthcare costs and potentially depress the country’s productivity.
Considering that providing vitamin supplements or tablets poses logistical and economic constraints in such resource-poor settings, food fortification provides a practical and inexpensive alternative.Diseases such as goitre, rickets, beriberi and pellagra were once common health problems in the early 20th century. Today, these diseases are rarely seen due to a series of food-fortification programmes that have helped stave off a multitude of nutrient deficiencies. According to the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing content of an essential micronutrient in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.

What Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals required in small amounts that are essential to our health, development and growth. Proper intake of vitamins and minerals can mean the difference between a healthy, productive life, and a life fraught with illness. Micronutrient deficiencies are the leading cause of mental retardation, preventable blindness, and death during childbirth. A lack of these important vitamins and minerals also has a profound impact on the body’s immune system. Beyond the enormous health implications, micronutrient malnutrition has a significant economic impact.

Fortification Is Not Enrichment
‘Fortification’ and ‘enrichment’ are terms used to describe the addition of nutrients to foods, but are two separate concepts. Enrichment refers to the restoration of nutrients lost during the handling, processing, or storage of foods, and levels are generally based on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards of identity. Fortification refers to the voluntary addition of nutrients at levels beyond those naturally occurring in the food. Globally, the decision to fortify products is left to individual food manufacturers. Voluntary fortification is a common practice in many countries. Many countries including the United States, Canada and Australia require mandatory fortification of certain staple foods with specific nutrient(s) to improve public health, such as the fortification of enriched flour with folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects, and also restrict the fortification of foods with certain nutrients such as vitamin D.

Iodine in Salt – the First Fortification
During the 1921 American Medical Association (AMA) convention, two Ohio doctors presented findings from their clinical trial demonstrating the effectiveness of sodium iodide treatments for the prevention of goitre. It was found that without iodine the body could not properly synthesize thyroid hormones, which often resulted in an unsightly neck goitre or in more serious cases, mental retardation. Iodine deficiency generally occurs in areas where the soil has been depleted of iodine because of flooding, heavy rainfall, or glaciation.
Shortly after the publication of the results, Michigan became the first state to institute a public campaign to provide dietary iodine via salt. An extensive educational campaign that involved schoolteachers, ndustry as well as medical and public health communities helped increase consumer awareness about, and demand for, iodized salt so that by 1924 iodized salt was commonplace, despite the fact that iodization was never mandatory. Epidemiological studies following the implementation recorded a significant decline in the incidence of goitre, confirming the success of the programme. Most table salt continues to be fortified with iodine today.

Fortification in India
In India, fortification of salt with iodine (generally called iodization of salt) and fortification of Vanaspati (hydrogenated fats) with vitamin A is mandatory. The National Anaemia Control Program (started in 1970) distributes iron tablets to children, pregnant and lactating women, and the National Vitamin A Prophylaxis Programme (started in 1971) provides two mega doses of vitamin A to children 9–60 months annually. As per NFHS-3, the coverage under these programmes is very low. Anaemia continues to threaten the life and wellbeing of a large number of the population, and vitamin A deficiency remains a public health problem. Hence, provisioning of small amounts of micronutrients through fortification of multiple foods that are consumed by various population groups and are either distributed through public funded programmes like public distribution system (PDS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and Midday Meal (MDM) scheme, and/or sold through the open market commercial channels offers an opportunity to provide micronutrients on a sustained basis.

Constitutional Provisions and Policy Support
Article 47 of the Constitution is government of India’s commitment to improve the health and nutrition status of its people. It states: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.”The National Nutrition Policy (NNP) also recommends fortification of staple foods to address widespread micronutrient malnutrition amongst the general population. The three large-scale ongoing

fortification activities in India are:
  1. Iodization of salt: Iodization of salt with potassium iodate started in 1962 in a few districts and has since covered most states and union territories. 
  2. Fortification of vanaspati: Fortification of vanaspati with vitamins A and D started more than 50 years ago and has been obligatory in India since 1953.
  3. Fortification of milk: The department of food, ministry of food and civil supplies, government of India, pioneered and initiated fortification of milk with vitamin A in 1980, by providing technical as well as financial support. Presently, many milk dairy federations/cooperatives, including Mother Dairy, are fortifying milk with vitamin A. Both iodization of salt and fortification of vanaspati are mandated under the law and milk fortification is strongly recommended in the National Nutrition Policy.
Government of India’s Guidelines and Recommendations Supporting Fortification of Foods to Be Provided under ICDS and MDM
  1. Via letter no.1-2/2006-CD-1, department of women and child, on 31 January 2006, recommended provision of fortified ready-to-eat foods for children below three years of age to tackle micronutrient deficiencies
  2. Via letter no. 5-9/2005/ND/ Tech/Vol. II, ministry of women and child development, government of India, on 24 February 2009, recommended fortification of nutritional supplement with 50 per cent RDA in compliance with the IMS Act
  3. The policy recommendation for MDM programme also suggests that double-fortified salt (salt fortified with iodine and iron) be used for cooking as school children have a high burden of micronutrient malnutrition
Regulatory Support
  • FSSAI permits fortification of wheat flour and clear wheat flour (aata and maida). 
  • As per Justice Wadhwa Committee Report 2007, wheat flour can be sold in PDS instead of whole wheat grain and voluntary fortification permissible in PDS.
  • On July 2008, in the third meeting of the executive of National Nutrition Mission, the need to focus on micronutrient fortification was highlighted.
  • India’s 10th Five-Year Plan recommends staple foods, especially flour fortification, as an important part of the strategy to tackle micronutrient malnutrition.
  • The ministry of food processing industry, GOI, provides financial assistance for food fortification and for capital equipment and its installation.
  • The ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, department of food and public distribution, clearly recommends provisioning of fortified wheat flour through PDS.
Fortified Foods under Public Funded Programmes
  1. Fortified foods like the corn-soya blend (CSB) and Indiamix have been provided as supplementary nutrition for over three decades in the World Food programme- (WFP) and CARE-supported ICDS projects.
  2. Fortified biscuits were being provided as a nutritious snack to children (6–11 years) in primary
  3. schools in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, prior to the universalization of MDM.
  4. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, state governments including those of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Delhi and Pondicherry were providing fortified bread as one of the food items for supplementary nutrition under the ICDS programme.
  5. Many state governments including those of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are providing fortified foods under the ICDS programme, especially for children aged 6–36 months, as take-home ration (THR).
  6. The government of Gujarat is providing fortified wheat flour for preparation of cooked meals under ICDS and MDM.
  7. ICDS programmes in West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar are providing candies fortified with vitamin A, iron, folic acid and vitamin C to children aged 2–6 years as well as pregnant and lactating women.
  8. The government of West Bengal has been distributing sachets of multiple micronutrient powder or sprinkles to the mothers of children below two years of age at ICDS centres. The supplements are administered with any kind of food given to the children.
Vitamin D in Milk
In the early 20th century, rickets (soft bones and skeletal malformation from incomplete bone growth) was common among underprivileged children living in industrialized cities. Inadequate diet, poor hygiene, and lack of exercise were among the factors believed to play a role in the formation of this disease. The relationship between diet and rickets was not clearly understood until an English physician conducted the first experimental study on rickets with dogs. His observations of specific ‘anti-rachitic’ factors found in cod liver oil, butter and whole milk eventually led to the identification, purification and synthesis of vitamin D. Subsequently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a standard of identity (SOI) for milk which included the optional addition of vitamins A and D. Today, the majority of our milk is fortified with vitamin D. However, additional food sources of vitamin D are limited, so obtaining vitamin D solely through dietary sources can be challenging and many people fall short of their daily requirements for vitamin D.
Naturally occurring sources are also limited mostly to oily fish and cod liver oil. Besides milk, select foods such as cereals and orange juice may be fortified with vitamin D. Supplements may also be necessary and are readily available. Because certain brands rather than all items within a food category may be fortified, it may be helpful to check the nutrition facts on food packets.

Can All Foods Be Fortified?
Indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods and the fortification of fresh produce, meat, poultry, or fish products is not allowed by many countries; fortification of unprocessed foods is prohibited in European countries. This is meant to help consumers understand the nutritional value of foods from each food group. Also, fortification of some types of foods such as sugars and some snack foods (for example, candies and carbonated beverages) is discouraged, so that consumers are not encouraged to choose fortified foods that are inconsistent with achieving dietary guidelines.

Fortification FAQs
• How safe is fortified food for consumers?
Experiences in countries that are already fortifying show that fortified foods are completely safe for consumers and that the benefits are enormous. The amount of vitamins and minerals added to a specific food is usually set at a proportion of the individual’s daily requirement and is usually less than one-third of the total recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Fortification is always strictly monitored and by implementing stringent quality-control measures, companies can ensure that there is no excessive intake of a specific vitamin or mineral.

• How does fortification affect the shelf life of a product?
Fortification has no impact on the shelf life of a product. The vitamins and minerals have a shelf life of their own although they do become less active over time.

• Does fortification change the appearance, taste, texture and flavour of the food?
No. When deciding on the appropriate premix for food fortification, only those vitamins and minerals are considered, which will not change the appearance, taste, texture and flavour of the food. In some cases encapsulated micronutrients may be used to prevent the interaction of micronutrients with either the atmosphere or with other micronutrients. The concept is based on the fact that the consumer’s buying behaviour should not be affected by the fortification process.

• What is the cost of food fortification?
Cost of food fortification is miniscule, ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 100 per metric ton, or just about 3 to 10 paisa per kg of food, depending on the type and number of micronutrients added and the staple food that is being fortified.

• What do companies stand to gain from adopting fortification?
Experience has shown that when a leader in the food industry takes the first step by fortifying food on a voluntary basis, it can result in many other food companies following suit. This voluntary fortification of foods by the industry also gives confidence to governments to consider making the process of certain food products mandatory. In many countries, including India, forward-thinking food companies have started fortification voluntarily and have a good record of success.

• What claims is a company allowed to make to market their fortified foods?
Companies can state that their product is fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals and they can indicate the levels of added micronutrients. In India, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has laid down science-based standards for articles of food and issued regulations to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. These can be viewed at

Voice Action – National Edible Oil Fortification
The Government of India is committed to addressing the problem of micronutrient deficiencies and has been running a Vitamin A supplementation programme for children under five years for more than a decade. However, only 25 per cent of children under five years old have received a dose of vitamin A in the six months preceding the nationally representative National Family Health Survey III (2005–06). Also, there is no programme to cover children above five years, pregnant women, women in post-partum phase, and adults.
To supplement these efforts, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) collaborated with Global Alliance for Improving Nutrition (GAIN) and Voice and launched an initiative on National Edible Oil Fortification aimed at advocating for oil fortification. The project aims at building consensus around fortification as an industry-led initiative and to generate evidence on the merits of business-led expansion of a fortified edible oil portfolio. The project will entail engagement with various stakeholders (business leaders, technical experts, nutritionists and policymakers) to build consensus on taking forward the agenda of largescale fortification of edible oils. Under the initiative, Voice, CII and GAIN together are organizing Stakeholder Consultation on Oil Fortification workshops across all major cities of India. The workshops began on 18 June 2015 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, and until 22 August 2015, covered 23 cities in 23 states and union territories across India.

Oils and fats, like carbohydrates and proteins, are major components of the human diet. Depending on the source, oils provide not only energy but also the essential fatty acids required for human growth and development. The fat soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D and E –mix uniformly with oils, making them an excellent, cost-effective vehicle for fortification with these micronutrients. For example, studies have shown that fortification of cooking oil with vitamin A improves intake amongst vulnerable populations without any increase in cooking-oil consumption.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Bhopal-based couple was scheduled to attend wedding reception of their daughter in Delhi last year. But they were aghast to hear an announcement at railway station that the train was running late by six hours. They had to miss one of most important events of their daughter's life for no fault of theirs.

Deciding not to give up and determined to get justice they moved consumer court against railways in consumer forum Bhopal.

A former governor of Meghalaya, who had booked an AIR China ticket from Bhopal last year, had to remain hungry for 11 hours after he boarded a flight just because he was served non-vegetarian food. He had opted for vegetarian while booking his ticket.

Both cases are still being heard in consumers' court. Later, he filed a complaint with the Consumer Forum of Bhopal to demand compensation. Many other people have knocked on doors of consumer forum after such harrowing experiences.

Talking exclusively to TOI, Rakesh Saksena, Judge MP State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission and Akhilesh Pandya, Judge District Consumer Court said many consumers are still not aware of their rights.

Urging consumers not to forget to take bill or receipt for goods purchased by them, Rakesh Saksena said "The court always asks for evidence and a vigilant consumer can do needful by always taking bill."

Pandya said, "A consumer is anyone who is paying money to avail services in return and anybody who is not satisfied with services in return for money can come to the consumer court."

He said train passengers often miss to exercise their basic consumer right travelling in a reserved compartment. While travelling by reserved compartment, it is responsibility of the coach attendant to take care of their belongings because passenger has paid extra money to get compartment. It is also duty of the coach attendant not to allow any person without ticket In case a passenger doesn't get this service, he has a right to filed complaint with consumer forum."

"There are cases where people are fighting for justice for even popcorn worth Rs 60. A girl from Bhopal bought popcorn from a mall fell sick after eating the stuff. She found insects in packet. After filing a case in consumer court, she was paid Rs 10,000 as compensation," he said.

Grievances like poor quality food in railways, planes, bad hotel services, consumers can always present an affidavit of co-passenger. Grievances of bona fide consumers are always heard."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CERC finds leading brands have copper and arsenic beyond permissible limits
5 mg/kg is the highest allowed limit for Copper in turmeric
That organic turmeric, you pay a bomb for, to ensure that you get a chemical free product may actually be laced with heavy metals. For, a Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) study has found presence of heavy metals beyond the safe limits in some leading brands of organic turmeric powder.
Pritee Shah, Chief General Manager, CERC said several brands had been making claims of being organic and it was the perfect time to test. “We chose turmeric because it is a commonly used product. Moreover, people pay a high price for organic products in the belief that they are getting better quality things that is chemical free and safe to consume. But our study has proved otherwise,” said Shah.
CERC tested six popular national organic turmeric powder brands for safety, specially for the presence of pesticide residues and heavy metals, namely lead, copper, tin, zinc, cadmium, arsenic and mercury.
Heavy metals can be individuals and compounds and many of them are necessary to support life. However, if consumed in larger amounts, they become toxic. They build up in the biological system and are a significant health hazard.
Because of lack of analytical standards for organic food in India, CERC followed the standards applicable to conventional turmeric powder as per the standards set by the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins & Residues) Regulations, 2011.
Of the six brands that were tested, none were found to have chemicals or lead or tin. Mercury and cadmium were within limits but copper and arsenic were found in three and four brands respectively
Fab India had the highest level of copper 7.20 mg/kg as against the limit of 5 mg/kg while Asal had the highest level of arsenic of 0.52 mg against the standard limit of 0.1 mg/kg.
Shah said they will pursue the matter further so that action is also taken in this matter. “We have also written to the various concerned authorities including the ministry of health,” said Shah.
On what precautions customers need to take Shah said, “Before consumers buy such products they need to read the label carefully. Write to the company and ask them what makes their product organic. These days we have companies calling their product organic and display certificate from several organisations both local and international,” said Shah.
Heavy metals found in organic turmeric brands
Organic food is believed to be healthy, safe to consume and environmental-friendly. 
However,Consumer Education Research Centre's recent study reveals the presence of heavy metals beyond the safe limits in six popular brands of organic turmeric powder. The study was conducted with the objective to check the presence of pesticide residues and heavy metals like lead, copper, tin, zinc, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. The amount of arsenic and copper present in the organic turmeric brands is proved to be harmful for health. However, none of the brands tested was found to contain pesticide residues. Lead and tin were also not detected in any of the brands.

Other metallic elements like zinc, mercury and cadmium were within the limits in all brands. The six brands Asal, 24 Mantra Organic, Fab India Organics, Morarka Organic Down to Earth, Sattvic Organic and Natural and Vikalp Organic Product were tested in the study. But samples of three brands did not conform to the limits for copper. Fab India had the highest level of 7.20 mg/kg as against the limit of 5.0 mg/kg. The level in 24 Mantra was 5.47 mg/kg and that in Sattvic was 5.71 mg/kg. Copper is one of a relatively small group of metallic elements which are essential for human health but longterm exposure to excessive amounts could cause liver damage, kidney failure, coma and death.

Copper also brings a significant fall in the percentage of motile sperms in humans. When contacted, customer care executive Mamta at Fab India Organics said she was not authorised to provide any information regarding this and suggested sending an email for further clarification. Arsenic was also found to be beyond the safe limit in four brands. While the standard limit is 0.1 mg/kg (maximum), Asal had the highest level of 0.52 mg/kg followed by Sattvic with 0.44 mg/kg. The level in Fab India was 0.18 mg/kg and in 24 Mantra 0.25 mg/kg.

Long-term exposure to arsenic from food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes. Consumption in childhood can cause health problems later in life. The samples were tested against the values set by the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins & Residues) Regulations, 2011. Uday Dhakan, Manufacturer of Sattvic Organics said, "Sattvic is a certified brand, we export it to various countries too. I will look into the matter and once I know all the details of the findings of the study conducted by CERC, I can comment."

Dimple Mehta, a home-maker who has been using organic food items for years said, "This is disappointing as now I don't know what a consumer should use? These companies charge lot of money from consumers as they brand their products as "organic'." Pritee Shah, CERC Chief General Manager, said, "Consumers pay high for organic food as they believe it to be good for their health. But the findings are shocking which implies consumers are not getting what they pay for. There are no analytical standards for organic food in India so, we have written to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Ministry of Health and brought this issue to their notice."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tenants can take builder complaints to consumer forums
Tenants harassed by builders in a development project can approach the consumer forums.
More and more old and dilapidated buildings are going in for redevelopment. The builder makes money by selling flats to new buyers, but considers it onerous to provide accommodation to the existing tenants without charging money. Since free services are excluded from the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, would the tenants be entitled to file a consumer complaint for deficiency in service against a builder? 

Case Study: Jagdishbhai had a tailoring shop on tenancy basis in Moon House. The landlord sold the property to Surbhih Realtors, which decided to demolish the old building and construct a commercial property. Jagdishbhai was to be given shop No. 1, measuring 26.29 sq m in the new property. An agreement was executed, under which the builder agreed to bear expenses of registration of the sale deed. Possession of the shop was to be given in a month. In case of delay, builder agreed to pay Rs 10,000 a month. 

The builder failed to give possession of the shop and offered an alternative one on the rear side of the complex. Since it was not acceptable to Jagdishbhai, he filed a complaint before the district forum for a direction to the builder to hand over shop No. 1 and to pay Rs 10,000 per month for the delay. The builder contended that Jagdishbhai was not a consumer since the transaction did not involve any payment or consideration and argued it was a landlord-tenant dispute and not maintainable before the forum.

A dilapidated house in Mumbai's Ghatkopar with residents living in it. (TOI file photo by Anil Shinde) 

The district forum overruled these objections and directed the builder to hand over shop No. 1 and execute the sale deed. If this was not complied with within 30 days, the builder would also be liable to pay Rs 10,000 per month. 

Both parties appealed to the Gujarat state commission. While Jagdishbhai wanted the compensation enhanced, the builder wanted the order set aside. The commission concluded that Jagdishbahi was not a consumer as the transaction was in respect to transfer of tenancy rights to ownership property and as the service was not hired for consideration. It allowed the builder's appeal and set aside the forum order. 

Jagdishbhai filed a revision before the national commission, pointing out that the earlier landlord-tenant relationship had ceased to exist with the execution of the agreement for allotment of the shop on ownership basis. He also argued that consideration need not be in cash but could be in kind.

A dilapidated house in Mumbai's Lower Parel. (TOI file photo by Uma Kadam)

So, handing over the old tenanted premises would form consideration for allotment and possession of the shop in the redeveloped property. The commission allowed his revision, holding that he was a consumer, entitled to file a complaint against the builder for deficiency in service. 

Since 10 years had gone by, it directed that the builder should either give possession of the shop to Jagdishbhai, else allot another shop of the same area at a prominent place in the complex. The builder was also asked to pay Rs 15 lakh, so that it would fetch a monthly interest of Rs 10,000. A compensation of Rs 2 lakh for harassment was also awarded. 

Impact: Tenants harassed by builders in a development project can approach the consumer forums. 

(The author is a consumer activist and has won the government of India's national youth award for consumer protection. His e-mail address is

Source: Times of india

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The government is planning the most radical overhaul of key consumer laws in decades to keep pace with a changing marketplace – from botched online shopping experiences and shoddy haircuts at salons to exploding mobile phones.
The Ram Vilas Paswan-headed consumer affairs ministry has decided to amend the Consumer Protection Act 1986 to create a proposed National Consumer Protection Authority, aiming to update the country’s consumer protection laws in light of India’s new economy.
Indian consumers are increasingly buying newer goods and services not covered under current laws. For instance, there is no law yet for refunds in online shopping. What if you paid for a song download but ended up with an empty file? An early morning electric shock from a beard trimmer due to poor circuitry sounds funny, but there are no rules yet on product liability.
Several of the first-time provisions being envisaged will affect all businesses and may even force some firms to overhaul their systems and processes.
For the first time, the Bureau of Indian Standards – the country’s watchdog for product quality – will set up benchmarks for paid services, such as bus journeys, hotel packages and beauty clinics.
At present, the BIS Act 1980 covers just 90 products, most of which are industrial -- such as steel – that are rarely bought by individual customers.
Its basket is being expanded to include 2,000 items of common consumption. These include simple but life-saving equipment like a two-wheeler helmet, for which currently there are no prescribed quality standards.
“Class-action suits”, a legal tool, will now be extended to consumer laws, so that one individual complaint of a faulty product or service could be treated as an interest group of people in similar circumstances.
“There will be clear rules for recall of product, refund of product and return of product,” an official said.
The three-tier consumer-court system will continue but their process will be updated.
Currently, the district forum deals with consumer disputes where the value of the goods or the compensation claimed is less than Rs. 5 lakh and the state commission hears cases for claims exceeding Rs.5 lakh but not exceeding Rs. 20 lakh. The national commission hears claims exceeding Rs. 20 lakh and also decides cases challenging lower court verdicts.  

The official said a review showed there is no “authority of a federal nature” that deals with unfair trade practices. “All of this must be seen in light of the bigger countrywide picture as well as the Constitution, which in article 301 and 307 talks of a common national market,” the official said. Source: Hindustan Times

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Authority, through the amendment to Consumer Protection Act, 1986, can impose penalty, conduct probe into violation of consumer rights

The Union ministry of consumer affairs, in a bid to quickly dispose off cases and thereby give much-needed relief to consumers, has proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The ministry proposes to replace the present Central Consumer Protection Council by the Central Consumer Protection Authority by delegating it with punitive powers, Food & Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told Business Standard on the sidelines of a retail and FMCG conference.

This Act might be called the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2014. The authority can act against those traders who are violating consumer rights and can impose administrative penalty.

Besides, the authority can conduct investigations, either suo-motu or on a complaint, into violations of consumer rights and conduct search and seizure of documents/records/articles and other forms of evidence, summon delinquent manufacturers, advertisers and service providers to record oral evidence and direct production of documents and records. This apart, the authority can order recall of goods or withdrawal of services found to be unsafe or hazardous and order reimbursement of the price of the goods (or services) so recalled, to purchasers of such goods or services.

“In the present set-up, there are district fora, state commissions and the National Disputes Redressal Commission which compensate consumers for losses due to unfair trade practices or negligence. The experience is that a case which would have been resolved in no time, keeps on lingering due to adjournments and paperwork. Therefore, the ministry is mulling to set up the Central Consumer Protection Authority. The objective of the Central Authority will be to prevent the exploitation of consumers and violation of their rights and to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. Cases can be resolved through mediation and conciliation,” Paswan said.

Paswan said that currently, retired judges were appointed on the consumer fora, state commissions and National Disputes Redressal Commission. However, the ministry was considering appointing members through the state public service commission at the state level and through the Union Public Service Commission at the national level. Currently, 621 district consumer fora, 35 state consumer commissions and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions at the apex level are functioning. “Till July 23, 2014, a total of 41,69,564 cases have been filed and 38,01,037 cases have been disposed in all these consumer fora, thereby achieving a disposal rate of over 91 per cent,” he informed.

M S Kamath, secretary, Consumer Guidance Society of India said, “It is not the law which has failed but the people who are running the system have failed it miserably. According to the regulation, the district forum is supposed to get rid of a minimum 75 cases a month. However, the output is 30 to 35 cases in most district fora which include cases which are dismissed by default or decided ex parte.” On the minister's proposal to revamp the present structure, Kamath, who has been fighting cases since 1989 onwards, opined that the government would be only replacing one set of incompetent people with another, whose competence was not known or established.

Shirish Deshpande, chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat suggested that the minister and ministry needed to sit down with various consumer organisations before finalising the amendments. Courtesy: Business Standard