“We are becoming pro-consumer”
Interview with Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India
“A customer is the most important visitor to our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
—Mahatma Gandhi in a speech in South Africa in the late 19th century
A heavyweight with a formidable track record at the top levels of Indian politics, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan has been tasked with a challenging portfolio—Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. His job is to ensure that the tormented customer’s trust in the free-market economy in restored. It is a market where with the daily advent of new brands and slick marketing, consumer complaints are constantly on the rise. Mr Paswan needs to ensure that Mahatma Gandhi’s noble words on the importance of the customer are practiced each day this country. In previous Governments, Mr Paswan held key federal ministerial positions in Labour and Welfare, Railways, Communication and Information Technology, Coal and Mines, Chemicals and Fertilizers, and Steel. A Member of Parliament for 38 years, Mr Paswan has been elected to the Lok Sabha eight times, and nominated to the Rajya Sabha once. In the 2014 elections, he entered the Lok Sabha for the eighth time from Hajipur, a largely Dalit constituency he has made very much his own. He spoke to India Empire’s Editor Sayantan Chakravarty at his Krishi Bhavan office in Lutyen’s New Delhi
You have said in the past that the NDA Government is committed to upholding and protecting the welfare of consumers, particularly rural consumers, women and children. What measures have you taken in this direction?
The Consumer Protection Act came about in 1986. In the last 29 years, things have changed completely. E-commerce has come into play in a major way, and consumer awareness has increased. But the old law is still in place. Keeping in tune with the times, we introduced a new bill in Parliament, known as the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015. It has been passed by both Houses, and will soon become an Act. This will help address a range of issues related to the segment you mentioned, and assuage several grievances.