The Erin Brockoviches of India

Do you think that the consumer rights movement is non-existent in India? Do you think that nobody bothers to file a complaint and fight a case if they have been wronged by a faulty product or deceived by false claims? Then chances are you don’t know about these consumer rights activists who fight tooth and nail to try and get citizens their due in consumer courts. Meet Mala Banerjee and C.P.Rai – two of India’s many dedicated advocates of the consumer’s cause.

Banerjee has helped scores of people across Bengal find justice as she drafts away new complaints as and when any grieving party comes to seek her help, without charging a rupee. Now 50 years of age, she still remembers the promise she made to Mother Teresa to help people, and for free. She can be reached at 9831046377. Writes Charu Sudan Kasturi in The Telgraph:

She may lack the glamour of Erin Brockovich, the California consumer rights activist played by Julia Roberts in an award winning film eight years ago, but Banerjee has helped dozens across Bengal find justice.

As a fresh law graduate just exiting her teens, Banerjee had worked at Mother’s Missionaries of Charity as an unpaid ayah.

“When I was leaving, Mother made me promise that I would continue to work for the people, and for free.”

Banerjee chose to work on consumer rights; she thought her legal training would help.

C.P.Rai and his dreaded typewriter

C.P Rai at his typewriter

C.P.Rai is a 70-year old retired government employee and now spends a large part of his time addressing the petitions of dozens of ordinary government employees and doling out free advice to others. One of his main points of contention against the government is that there is an application charge for the filing of complaints in the consumer courts. This could start with Rs.100 for a claim of Rs.1 Lakh, and go up to Rs.500 for higher claims. Rai believes that this is a major deterrent for poor people to file their complaints, and should be done away with.

When Rai’s fingers clatter against the keys of his three-decade-old Godrej typewriter, it often portends potential trouble for government agencies or private companies that stand accused of hoodwinking or cheating customers.

Rai is occupied these days devising his latest strategy to challenge Delhi’s bus system that he says quietly cheats people. “I have been battling the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) for nine years now. Buses are the common man’s mode of transport and appear cheap. But quietly, they have been looting you and me,” he says, his eyes flashing but his voice calm as he explains.

There are others like professors Sri Ram Khanna and Bupinder Zutshi who have contributed to the movement by introducing consumer rights into the curriculum at Delhi University and JNU respectively. They have also floated organizations like Voluntary Organization in Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) and Consumer Voice, an online magazine for consumer awareness.

These crusaders for consumer rights have ensured that the hapless customer has a voice against injustice and at least a chance in hell against the mammoth corporations and their might.

Read the complete article here.

Image Courtesy: The Telegraph

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