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|January 15, 1999||
Consumer bodies seek excise relief for packaged goods
Consumer organisations have sought excise relief for packaged foods in the forthcoming budget in February. This will generate demand for such goods, makes them affordable besides countering the adulterated food stuffs, they told Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on Thursday.
Sinha said there was need to look into the question of reservation of items for the small scale sector, tax system, consumer courts and the Essential Commodities Act in order to satisfy the consumer needs.
Sinha met consumer organisations in New Delhi as part of the pre-budget discussions with various interest groups. He said economic liberalisation must be accompanied by a regulatory framework. This was not done earlier in respect of non-banking finance companies and consequently small investors were cheated.
The finance minister emphasised the need to empower consumers so that they get better quality products at the most competitive prices and have more choices.
The consumer organisations criticised the recent reduction of interest on small savings as this affects the small investors. They demanded reversal of the decision.
The government had justified decline of interest on small savings on the ground that this was in line with other market instruments and conditions.
The following points, suggestions and observations were made by the consumer organisations at the meeting:
Various departments have framed citizen charters. These charters have not been given adequate publicity. As a result, many of these charters are not being followed. As an instrument of mechanism to popularise these charters, the government could consider laying of these charters in Parliament along with the demands for grants of the ministries or departments.
Bank frauds should be checked, they said. Management colleges may be supported to start consumer awareness courses. Deposits in the companies may be secured against the properties of the board of directors. A fund may be created to pay the fees for the statutory auditors and they should be rotated.
Freeze all salaries and recruitment and reduce the size of government. Government borrowings should be only for productive purposes. Debt repayment should be speeded up. Consumerism should be checked, they opined.
Other points were that a mechanism should be devised so that reduction in excise duties could be passed on to consumers. A deposit insurance cover may be provided to small investors. Investment protection movement by regulating NBFCs is necessary. Some mechanism for gaining investors' confidence is essential, they emphasised.
Adulteration of loosely sold products such as tea, spices and sugar is a matter of concern and a serious health hazard. Therefore, demand for packaged goods by excise relief may be created. Special schemes may be formulated for consumer awareness in Jammu and Kashmir by providing budgetary support, they said.
Primary education and public distribution system should get greater emphasis in governmental policies. Government pays a huge subsidy on kerosene. Unfortunately kerosene is sold in black market by middlemen. Very little is available at the prescribed price, the consumer activists said.
Among the organisations which participated in the discussion were Consumer Unity and Trust Society, Federation of Consumer Organisations Tamil Nadu, Consumer Protection Council, Consumer Education and Research Centre, Consumer Coordination Council, Consumer Education Centre, Bomaby Grahak Panchayat, Jammu Consumer Council, Concert and Binty.
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