And Many More Campaigns….
Consumers India has taken up large number of campaigns on wide variety of subjects like 'Ageing with Dignity', 'Justice for All……Just Now', 'Junk the Junk Food & Live Healthy', 'How safe is Municipal Water?' etc. Brief details regarding some of them are given below.
Ageing with Dignity
Are we ready to ensure quality ageing of vast number of elders in the country? The weakening of traditional joint family system has posed new challenges in the care of the elderly population.
In two programmes organised by Consumers India on 'Ageing with Dignity' in collaboration with India Habitat Centre and Vasant Vihar Club during 2012, areas of key concern were identified. They were carried forward through vigorous advocacy campaigns. Some of the issues taken up in this regard are given below:
Provide Geriatric and Palliative Care, Mr Health Minister
Due to increased longevity, the proportion of the elderly in the total population is increasing rapidly. A goal-oriented approach is required to address concerns of such a large segment of population and to give them life with dignity. Consumers India has been advocating for
- Develop geriatrics as a speciality in all medical colleges and make services of qualified geriatricians available in all hospitals for providing quality health care to elders.
- Provide quality palliative care for elders, in need of such care.
- Make access to age-friendly environment and housing a reality within easy reach of all elders, whether rich or poor or middle class.
Is it justified to tax pension, Mr Finance Minister?
Consumers India appealed to the Finance Minister to revamp the present system of taxation of senior citizens and make their life easier by exempting them from the liability of paying income tax and filing returns if they do not have income other than pension and interest on fixed deposits. The study titled 'Is it justified to tax pension and interest on fixed deposits of senior citizens?' carried out by Gunjan Jain and Gaurav Kumar Singh, both BA LLB students at DS National Law University, Visakhapatnam during internship with Consumers India has provided valuable inputs for this campaign. The write up has also found its place of pride in the magazine 'Dignity Dailogue' (February 2014 issue).
Revamp the present system of Health Insurance of senior citizens
Consumers India appealed to Finance Minister and others to revamp the present system of health insurance of senior citizens with a view to make it a viable option for the health care of our senior citizens. The study titled 'Health Insurance of Senior Citizens in India - in Theory and Practice' carried out by Vatsala Pant and Sanchit Thukral, both students of Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in Delhi University during internship with Consumers India has provided valuable inputs for this campaign.
The interns had interviewed senior citizens from all walks of life - businessmen, engineers, publishers, service men, MNC employees, agriculturists etc. Sadly, none of them expressed satisfaction with their Health Insurance! Reluctance to provide health insurance cover for people above the age of 60 years, not covering pre-existing diseases, not covering OPD treatment and undue delay in settling claims are some of the problems faced by all seniors!
Justice for All……Just Now
Why this Cry???
With over 3.2 crore pending cases, quest for justice consumes a life-time. Our prisons are overflowing with 3.8 lakh prisoners. Majority of them (2.6 lakh) are under trial!
Consumer Forums, which were set up to provide speedy justice to consumers, are no better with 3.53 lakh plus cases pending in consumer forums across country! Barely 10% cases are decided within the mandated period of 90 days!
The campaign was kicked off with a talk on the subject 'United we seek Justice for All…Just Now!' in India Habitat Centre on 18th April, 2013. The distinguished speakers were Mr Justice S N Dhingra, Member, Competition Commission of India (Former Judge, High Court of Delhi) and Dr Jayashree Gupta, President, Consumers India.
Justice Dhingra, the judge who had ordered gallows for Afzal Guru in 2002 as a POTA Judge, was frank enough to say that the seeds of injustice are sown ever since the child is ready for admission to a nursery class in a school. Hefty donations for admission in any public school worth the name is the order of the day! How can we expect a child to learn lessons of justice, when his admission into the school itself was in violation of justice!
Increasing corruption and professional affinities and alliances that we build as we go forward, actually push us back in delivery of justice. While all services, including the service rendered by medical doctors, are covered under Consumer Protection Act, lawyers have been excluded from its ambit! This clearly illustrates the common practice of 'Show me the man, I will show you the rule!'
Courts are being seen as the first resort, instead of being the last resort in quest of justice due to poor service delivery by concerned agencies. Even the various regulatory agencies, set up by the government with the noble intention of safeguarding interests of consumers, are indifferent towards their mandate. Arteries of our courts are clogging mainly due to inaction on the part of regulatory agencies!
Consumers India has appealed to Prime Minister, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and others to review the overall functioning of Regulatory Agencies like Medical Council of India (MCI), National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), Food Safety Standards Authority of India, TRAI, IRDA, SEBI etc and subject them to a rigorous 'Consumer Satisfaction Test' to determine whether they have been able to rise to the expectations of consumers.
Junk the Junk Food & Live Healthy
Thanks to junk food, around 170 million school-aged children are overweight or obese worldwide.
Drastic changes in life style are needed to prevent onslaught of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age!
The campaign was kicked off with a Panel Discussion on 'Junk the Junk Food & Live Healthy' in India Habitat Centre on 16th May, 2013, when Dr Shikha Sharma, Managing Director, Nutri-Health Systems Pvt. Ltd and Dr Mira Shiva from Initiative for Health & Equity in Society (IHES) shared their concern about health hazards posed by increasing consumption of junk food.
This subject fascinated several students, who, during internship with Consumers India, studied subjects like 'The Truth about Burgers, Pizzas and Potato Fries', 'The Truth about Carbonated Drinks and Packaged Fruit Juices', 'The Truth about Energy Drinks' etc.
Do you know???
43% of added sugars in our diets come from sweetened beverages? Can you imagine that one can of soft drink averages eight teaspoons of sugar? In the process of manufacturing of fruit juices all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients are destroyed. A 200ml pack of fruit juice contains around 200kcal whereas natural fruit juice does not even contain 50kcal!
Mixing Energy Drinks with alcohol is more dangerous than drinking alcohol alone because energy drinks have about three times as much caffeine as cola, making them extremely stimulating. Stimulants present in energy drinks like ginseng and taurine, when consumed with alcohol, a depressant send mixed messages to your nervous system which can badly impair judgment, even lead to cardiac problems.
A normal outing at McDonalds which usually involves munching on an order of French fries, a burger and sipping on a coke will set you back by around 1100 calories! Now go for a second serving of any single item on the menu and you are saddled with a calorie count that's close to 1500 calories. Severe lack of nutrition, coupled with high chemical, high sodium and high preservative content makes it quite an 'Unhappy Meal'!
How safe is Municipal Water?
Access to safe drinking water is a human right, which has been guaranteed to us by our constitution. It is unfortunate that even today water-borne diseases like Diarrhea are causing more than 1600 deaths every day in India.
The study titled 'How safe is our Municipal water? Is Government silently promoting packaged water industry?' by S/Shri Aman Pandey and Pragalbh Bhardwaj, law students during internship with Consumers India provided valuable inputs for this campaign. The major findings emanating from the study were brought to the notice of Prime Minister as also National Human Rights Commission with an appeal to restore confidence of consumers in the water supplied by municipal authorities so that unnecessary use of bottled water is avoided for the health and well-being of our mother earth. Some of the key concerns are:
- Between 2002 and 2012, the Indian bottled water market grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 25 per cent - the highest in the world. India is one of the top 10 largest bottled water consumers in the world. The overall packaged bottled water industry in India, which is at around Rs 10,000 crore now, is expected to grow to Rs 36,000 crore by 2020! This rapid growth of bottled water industry speaks volumes regarding the quality of water being supplied by the municipal authorities!
- Out of 258 water samples tested by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation across its six zones, 50% have turned out to be unsafe. In Narela, 100% samples were not fit for drinking while 85% of samples taken in Civil Lines Zone had turned out to be unsafe. In water samples picked up from 20 slums in southwest and west Delhi, high levels of e-coli contamination have been detected in most samples!
- Tap water needs no packaging while bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. And while most of this plastic can be recycled, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away, endangering our soil and marine life.
- According to Food and Water Watch, 47 million gallons of oil per year is consumed to produce the plastic used in water bottles. And that does not include the jet fuel and gasoline required to transport bottles - sometimes even halfway around the world! By purchasing bottled water, we are indirectly raising the price of gasoline and contributing to Global Warming and climate change.
Ministry of Urban Development, while agreeing with the issues raised by Consumers India, stated in their response dated 2nd September, 2013 that Water Supply is a State subject. Consumers India has, therefore, taken up this issue with Chief Ministers of major States.
Fix our phone rights, Mr Prime Minister!
On the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day (15th March, 2014), Consumers India has invited attention of the authorities to concerns regarding the year's global theme 'Fix our phone rights!' A study by a group of students led by Srishti Agarwal (Lady Shri Ram College-DU) during internship with Consumers India has found that Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCC) are received by 81.5% people every day in one or the other form. Registering with National Customer Preference Register (NCPR) is of little help! Value Added Services (VAS) such as Hello Tunes, horoscope, internet packs etc are activated without the explicit consent of the user.
The service provider is interested solely in making profit by charging the customer for services they don't want. Among various service providers, Reliance is on top of the ladder with 77.78% of customers complaining about it, followed by Airtel (58.7%).
When will you save our teens from Energy Drinks, Mr Prime Minister!
Energy drinks are being promoted through misleading ads like "It gives you wings", "Wake up", "Win from within" etc. Much needed warning regarding the adverse effects of high caffeine levels, grave side effects of mixing alcohol with energy drinks etc are missing! A group of students led by Amit Kumar, a B Tech (Chemical Engineering) student of IIT Delhi had studied 'The Truth about Energy Drinks', during internship with Consumers India. The findings emanating from the study have been shared with Prime Minister and others with the appeal to ensure that health and well-being of consumers, particularly at impressionable teenage is not compromised under any circumstances. Brief details in this regard are given below :-
- The caffeine content of energy drinks is high, in the range of 80–300 mg per 16-oz serving. Consumption of caffeine above 200mg may cause side effects like sleeplessness, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, and most commonly the jitters. They also contain high level of sugar, which may temporarily inhibit our body's ability to burn lard.
- The ginseng content in energy drinks typically ranges between 8 mg and 400 mg in 16 ounces. It is understood that WHO had cautioned the regulatory authorities to curb the non-medicinal use of Ginseng due to its serious side effects. However, it continues being promoted openly in India through misleading advertising, as an ingredient of several products including energy drinks!
- Many of the ingredients like vitamins, L-carnitine ginkgo biloba, acai berry, milk thistle, inositol, antioxidants(vitamin C) are in such small quantity that they would be of hardly any benefit to consumers.
- Mixing Energy Drinks with alcohol is dangerous, more dangerous than drinking alcohol alone because energy drinks have about three times as much caffeine as cola, making them extremely stimulating. Stimulants present in energy drinks like ginseng and taurine, when consumed with alcohol, a depressant send mixed messages to your nervous system which can badly impair judgment, even lead to cardiac problems!
Save us from Health Hazards Associated with Mobile Phones, Mr Prime Minister
Major findings emanating from the panel discussion on 'Mobile Phones, Radiations and Health', held on 22nd August, 2014 in which Key Note Presentation was made by Dr Manoj Sharma (Professor of Radiation Oncology, Maulana Azad Medical College & Associated Hospitals), as also the study on 'HEALTH HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH MOBILE TOWERS', carried out by students led by Ritika Jain (B Tech, Biotechnology, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi) during internship with Consumers India have been shared with Prime Minister and others with an appeal to ensure effective steps to safeguard the health and well-being of consumers from the health hazards associated with mobile phones and transmission towers.
Here are some eye-openers:
Mobile phones emit electro-magnetic (EM) energy waves, which is a form of non-ionizing radiation associated with biological hazards. This could cause headaches, memory loss & sleeplessness, low sperm count, cancer & birth defects and heart conditions. Children have the potential to be at greater risk than adults for developing brain cancer from cell phones.
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
Preliminary results from a recent study showed that when people used a cell phone for 50 minutes, brain tissues on the same side of the head as the phone's antenna metabolized more glucose than did tissues on the opposite side of the brain.
Cancer should be declared a Notifiable Disease and life style details inclusive of mobile phone usage be included in National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) data collection format with a view to build reliable data in this regard. There is need to carry out multi-centric studies on Indian population.
Take care of your health by minimising use of mobile phones, avoiding its use in car or on low battery or when signals are low.
Clean India Campaign
Consumers India has raised following concerns relating to waste disposal and clean environment on the basis of series of studies undertaken by students from reputed institutions during Internship with Consumers India.
Solid Waste Needs Better Management :-The organic domestic waste poses a serious threat to human health since it ferments, creating conditions favourable to the survival and growth of microbial pathogens. Solid waste can result in various types of infectious and chronic diseases with the waste workers and the rag pickers being the most vulnerable. Cities, particularly metropolitan cities are staring at an acute waste disposal crisis, calling for immediate action. In Delhi, for example, the daily generation of garbage is expected to rise from the current level of 9200 tons or 2300 truckloads to 19,100 tons or 4775 truckloads by 2024. With landfills becoming 'stinking mountains', urgent remedial measures are required. Even today, heaps of waste with rising stench is a common sight at most of Dhalaos in our National Capital!
Plastic Bags –A Bigger Threat than Atom Bomb :-"Our next generation faces a threat greater than atom bombs" were the words of Supreme Court Justices in May 2012. A plastic bag might take anywhere from 10 to 100 years to start decomposing if exposed to sun, but its environmental legacy lasts forever. They are highly toxic, contain cadmium or lead- based chemicals that leach into vegetables, meat and food and harm our health. When burnt they release cancer-causing gases.
Save us from Medical Waste :-Hospital wastes are causing widespread damage to human health and environment due to spread of infection and disease through vectors, unauthorized recycling of disposable items, reaction due to use of discarded medicines, indiscriminate disposal of incinerator ash/ residues and percolation of radioactive drugs into the soil and ground water, to name a few.
Save us from Electronic Wast :-Electronic wastes are causing widespread damage to human health and environment due to the use of toxic and hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic goods. Cadmium from one mobile phone battery is enough to pollute 600 m3 of water. We are adding to the problem by throwing our mobile, charger or CFL, in dustbin or selling them to kabadiwala! RWAs have to come forward and provide drop-boxes within easy reach of every one.
Reduce Plastic Bottles by Restoring Confidence in Municipal Water :-It is unfortunate that even today water-borne diseases like Diarrhea are causing more than 1600 deaths every day in India. Even in the national capital city of Delhi, out of 258 water samples tested by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation across its six zones, 50% turned out to be unsafe. No wonder, the Indian bottled water market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 25 per cent - the highest in the world! Tap water needs no packaging while bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, endangering our soil and marine life. According to Food and Water Watch, 47 million gallons of oil per year is consumed to produce the plastic used in water bottles. And that does not include the jet fuel and gasoline required to transport bottles - sometimes even halfway around the world! By purchasing bottled water, we are indirectly raising the price of gasoline and contributing to Global Warming and climate change.