Govt to set mandatory standards for products and services in health, food sectors

The government will soon enforce mandatory quality standards prescribed for products and services across sectors, including health and food, as part of the initiatives for the protection of the interests of consumers.

Precious metal like gold and silvers shall have to wear hallmarking for the larger interests of consumers. New Bureau of Indian Standards Act has been enacted for this purpose and rules are being framed, Ram Vilas Paswan, minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution Ram Vilas Paswan said while addressing the Regional Editors' Conference in Chandigarh today.

Paswan said his ministry is also working on new Consumer Protection Act, which will have more teeth to protect the interests of consumer. An authority has been proposed under the Act to take suo motto action if product and services are not up to the standard.

The minister said charging over MRP is unfair trade practice and expressed hope that the new Consumer Protection Act will effectively check that.

Regarding misleading advertisements, Paswan said effective provisions have been proposed in the new Consumer Protection Act. The Act will enable people to file complains in consumer courts online from any place in the country and it will ensure time bound admission of their complaints in the courts.

Highlighting reforms initiated in the public distribution system, Paswan said so far 100 per cent digitization of ration card has been completed and about 70 per cent cards have been linked with Aadhar cards to make the system more transparent and leak proof. The union minister said that more than 810 million people are getting subsidised foodgrains, ie, wheat at Rs2/kg wheat and rice at Rs3/kg under the National Food Security Act and very soon beneficiaries from across the nation except Tamil Nadu will get foodgrains as Kerala has also agreed to implement the Act next month.

On government's efforts to check prices of essential commodities, especially pulses, Paswan said that incentives given to farmers will increase the availability of the produce soon. He said besides increasing MSP for pulses, government agencies are making direct procurement of pulses from the farmers at market prices for the buffer stocks of 20 lakh tonnes. The states are being provided pulses at subsidies rates from this stock, the minister said.

Paswan, however, asserted that consumer awareness is of paramount importance for safeguarding their interests, and appealed media to play an active role in this regard.