By Bhamy V. Shenoy
Every year March 15 is celebrated throughout the world as World Consumer Rights Day. It was on that day in 1962 the US President John Kennedy formally addressed the US Congress on consumer rights. The theme for this year’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) suggested by Consumer International is “Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust.”
As India is in the midst of implementing “Digital India,” cashless economy and delivering subsidies to the poor using Aadhaar- driven digital platform, such a mission looks appropriate. However, when we look at millions of Indians who are living under extreme poverty conditions even after 70 years of Independence, India’s consumer movement needs a different theme which should be to eliminate extreme poverty. One may question what consumer movement has to do with poverty. A vibrant consumer movement can lead to all-round efficient economic system with minimum corruption resulting in rapid development.
Now coming close to our own city, we also need a vibrant consumer movement to save Mysuru from going the way of Bengaluru in addition to eliminating poverty. With that in mind, Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP) has adapted the Mission of enrolling at least 10,000 members called “MGP-10000.”
As of March 15, 2017 MGP has completed 27 years. Still it has only 700 members despite its considerable contribution to Mysuru. Celebration of WCRD can be the right occasion to attract more members to strengthen the consumer movement in the city.
It would be presumptuous to assume that everyone has positive opinion of what MGP has been able to accomplish during the past twenty-seven years. However, in the light of favourable response to MGP’s activities by most stakeholders of the city [like the administration, media and general public], one can easily conclude that MGP has succeeded in establishing a high degree of credibility in the city. This has been possible mainly because it has always taken up hundreds of causes to serve Mysureans without any fear or favour.
List of civic issues taken up by MGP is a long one. Some of the success stories are: Developing a Smrithi Park around Laxmikanta Temple in Hebbal; developing a Coupon System to eliminate corruption in PDS kerosene; saving Cheluvamba Park when an office/residential building was constructed, saving People’s Park from total extinction, contributing to save lakes in and around Mysuru like Kukkarahalli, Lingambudhi, Karanji; convincing Education Departments not to announce SSLC and PUC rank holders and also to give access to answer papers; preventing the construction of Ropeway project and Canopy over the steps, preventing widening of NH-212 passing through the city and diverting it to Ring Road.
However, in some fields achievements were only partial. MGP has conducted thousands of food adulteration demonstration, but adulteration is still rampant in the city. Building bye-laws are continued to be violated on a large scale despite MGP’s efforts in exposing many such violations. CDPs only serve the land mafia and not the citizens even when MGP has worked with the authorities on every CDP since 1989.
But there is still a long way to reach what an NGO like MGP should do. MGP suggested Self-Assessment tax system to improve MCC’s revenues from property tax. But there is still a long way to reach the full potential (not even 40%). Protest against judicial system to reduce adjournments and improve justice delivery system had no success at all. It was MGP which had made the suggestion to break earlier KEB into five professional companies and also to have an independent administrative body to monitor their operations. But we still do not have 24X7 power. MGP’s relentless fight, from its very inception, to expose corruption in different government offices has not yielded noticeable results.
It would be escapism to blame the citizens for various failures or inadequate impact of MGP’s efforts. MGP should be humble enough to realise that it has failed to attract Mysureans, particularly the youth and women to become its members in large numbers. And thus MGP has in effect failed in creating a very powerful public platform which could have prevented / solved civic problems and saved Mysuru’s heritage.
Right now Mysuru has three major issues where political leaders and public have different views. They want to develop Chamundi Hill at any cost while public wants to preserve it as a reserve forest. When the public wants a world class library in a central location, political leadership wants to build it in People’s Park violating Karnataka Parks Act and end up destroying the park. When Mysureans are suffering from daily water crisis, Corporators instead of handing over the management of Vani Vilas Water Works to a competent professional body want to control it resulting in helping the water mafia. If public get involved, not only these urgent problems can be resolved, we can start the long range plan to prevent Mysuru from going the Bengaluru way.
From the above discussion it should be obvious that if only MGP had a larger membership, it would have been in a far stronger position to convince the elected leaders to consider the public opinion.
Those interested to build a powerful civic platform to serve Mysuru can contact MGP on Ph:0821-2515150 or its Secretary Dr. M. M. Shenoi on Mob:94484 – 82050). More information on MGP is available at www.mygrapa.org.