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Consumer Movement: Ways to involve students

Consumer Movement: Ways to involve students

Consumer Movement: Ways to involve students

Mangalore Today News Network

By Bhamy V. Shenoy

Mangaluru, Dec 7, 2023:
All of us blame our political leadership for corruption and also for myriad problems we face. How many times we reflect on how we the people have failed to take up our responsibility of living in a democracy and we may also be guilty?

Days around December 24th, when we celebrate National Consumer Day (NCD) may be the most appropriate time to promote responsible citizenship. This is because every aspect of citizenship is influenced one way or the other by consumer rights and responsibilities.

Consumer forum

In the past such events have been conducted in a ritualistic style to discuss consumer protection act and to claim that consumers should be treated as kings in the private sector and as master’s in public sector. But we fail to discuss why the reality is very different. The best proof to show that we have failed miserably is the long list of consumer woes.

Students when and if they participate are silent participants. Government organized National Consumer Day celebrations force students to participate. Very little planning goes into such celebrations. Not one post audit has been carried out to assess results.

This year we should consider more innovative way to make a difference. It is to  create opportunities to willing and concerned students to organize the NCD in their own way at their institutions.

They should be challenged to learn about India’s consumer movement, consumer protection act, working of Consumer Redressal Commissions, how consumers are often taken for a ride, how every government office treats citizens as servants when they are the real masters, how consumers themselves do not join together to stand for their rights, how citizens are ready to bribe willingly and fail to uphold the rule of law, how they silently put up with power interruptions, how citizens fail to keep cities and rural areas clean, how they make use of single use plastic even when they know it is banned, why we keep quiet when political parties buy votes through freebies, why do we have a low voting participation especially in areas where literate people live, etc. List is long, and so also ways of coming up with ideas to increase the involvement of people to usher in a vibrant consumer movement.

While the above concept of involving students is not only sound and much needed initiative, it is also relatively simple to implement provided we can think out of the box. Colleges/institutions should consider identifying few teachers ( at least 4% of the total number of teachers) who are interested in taking up socially relevant projects and they in turn to motivate students (again 4% of students) to work with them. 4% is suggested based on a research which has shown that once around 3.5% of the whole population has begun to participate actively, success in bringing about revolutionary changes appears to be inevitable

Planning is required to discuss how each institute can plan series of activities to celebrate national consumer day in its own unique way rather than the instructions sent by the government. These meetings will be more like brain storming session rather than making speeches. No need to limit the NCD celebration just for a day.

In fact it is more effective to do over a week around Dec 24th. If for the usual reasons, 24th is not suitable because of the ever present problem of either getting ready for examinations, or students on leave after exams, institutions can take this socially relevant activities any time during the year.

Also students should not be given any instructions and be left to their imagination. This is the most practical way of teaching them qualities such as leadership, creativity, team building, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and finally responsible citizenship. Let us recall the brilliant success of Greta Thunberg in promoting fight against climate change by sitting in front of the Swedish Parliament for two years. She was just 16 when she started the movement.

It is not that anyone needs to be told on how to exercise our rights as consumers while shopping or seeking services at government offices. Unfortunately we as a society have not taken this activity seriously.

As mentioned earlier, at the drop of a hat, we are ready to offer bribe and then blame the system. How often we think we are “masters” when we approach police, commissioners (DC, MCC, MUDA and Police), government officials, RTO, Registrar’s office, etc?

Even when we are treated worse than servants, and our human rights are violated, we keep quiet as our forefathers did during the colonial era of British Rule. We humbly accept it as our ‘fate”. Time we start fighting for our rights.

We do not think twice of using single use plastic. Without any fear we throw garbage. When trees are felled, we think that is the responsibility of the environmentalists to complain. Only when we cannot manage without paying our fair share of taxes like property tax, or for the use of water, power, we unwillingly pay.

Have we wondered if we do not pay taxes, how can the government take care of us? NCD is an occasion to ‘nudge’ long sleeping consumers to awake and encourage them to demand their rights. Then only Consumers will be kings. And our civil servants will treat us as their masters.

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