In a free­wheel­ing con­ver­sa­tion, Ram Vi­las Paswan shares his Min­istry’s em­pha­sis on en­sur­ing con­sumer se­cu­rity while also dis­cussing the schemes that have been ini­ti­ated to pro­tect the in­ter­est of back­ward classes.

Tell us about the gov­ern­ment’s ini­tia­tives that will en­able con­sumers to har­ness the com­plete ben­e­fit of digi­ti­sa­tion and en­sure their pri­vacy.

The rights such as safety, in­for­ma­tion, choice, scope for lodg­ing com­plaints and griev­ance re­dres­sal are piv­otal to con­sumer pro­tec­tion. We are en­sur­ing that all con­sumers re­ceive the ben­e­fits they are deemed to and that they also re­ceive com­plete in­for­ma­tion on their ex­pen­di­tures, as is their right. The gov­ern­ment is on the right track in en­sur­ing that con­sumers re­ceive the full ben­e­fits of digi­ti­sa­tion, while also ini­ti­at­ing ad­e­quate safe­guards against the risks as­so­ci­ated with the dig­i­tal world. Both – dig­i­tal literacy and fi­nan­cial literacy – should go hand-in­hand, for a pros­per­ous cash­less econ­omy, as en­vi­sioned by the gov­ern­ment, where con­sumers are skilled enough to con­fi­dently use the dig­i­tal pay­ments sys­tem and avail var­i­ous fi­nan­cial prod­ucts.

What steps have been taken to safe­guard the in­ter­est of con­sumers?

The Min­istry’s Bureau of In­dian Stan­dards (BIS) is in the process of adopt­ing ISO Stan­dard – ISO 10008:2013 – as guide­lines for busi­ness-to-con­sumer elec­tronic com­merce trans­ac­tions (B2C ECT) and, also, for im­prov­ing the B2C ECT sys­tem within an or­gan­i­sa­tion. This will help in safe­guard­ing the in­ter­ests of con­sumers.

The re­vamped Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Bill is yet to re­ceive the Par­lia­ment’s nod. What are your com­ments?

The new Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Bill has been ap­proved by the Cab­i­net and it would be tabled at the next ses­sion of the Par­lia­ment. We have drafted the bill en­sur­ing that it re­dresses all griev­ances of the con­sumers. The ex­ist­ing Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act is 31-years old and the mar­ket sce­nario has sig­nif­i­cantly al­tered over the years. To­day is the age of tech­nol­ogy and ed­u­cat­ing the con­sumers and re­dress­ing their griev­ances in the dig­i­tal world is of prime im­por­tance.

What steps have you ini­ti­ated for the wel­fare of Dal­its?

The gov­ern­ment, which is led by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, is com­mit­ted to the holis­tic wel­fare of Dal­its. Sev­eral ini­tia­tives have been un­der­taken by the gov­ern­ment for the over­all up­lift­ment of peo­ple be­long­ing to the vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions of so­ci­ety. Schemes like Stand-up In­dia, schol­ar­ships for SC/ST stu­dents, pro­vid­ing 15 kg sub­sidised food­grains to Dalit stu­dents stay­ing in hos­tels, among many oth­ers, are proof that the gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to the wel­fare of Dal­its.

The Stand-up In­dia scheme was launched by the Prime Min­is­ter to pro­mote en­trepreneur­ship among women, sched­uled castes and tribes by en­abling them to se­cure loans with­out has­sle. This scheme has pro­vided mas­sive fuel to em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion.

Tells us more about the scheme to pro­vide sub­sidised food­grains to Dalit stu­dents stay­ing in hos­tels.

The Min­istry of Con­sumer Af­fairs, Food and Pub­lic Dis­tri­bu­tion has de­cided to pro­vide 15 kg of wheat and rice per month, to ap­prox­i­mately one crore stu­dents liv­ing in hos­tels, where at least two-thirds of stu­dents be­long to Sched­uled Caste, Sched­uled Tribes and Other Back­ward Classes. It’s a land­mark de­ci­sion as stu­dents be­long­ing to the weaker sec­tions of so­ci­ety are of­ten un­able to pur­chase costly food­grains for their daily meals. With this, stu­dents would now get grains at the BPL rate, which is Rs 4.15 per kg for wheat and Rs 5.65 per kg for rice.

The scheme is 100 per cent cen­tral­ly­funded and the states just need to pro­vide the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The Cen­tre would in­stantly al­lo­cate the fund or food­grains and en­able stu­dents to ac­cess their share. The min­istry has also asked all chief min­is­ters across states to sub­mit de­tails of Sc/st/back­ward stu­dents stay­ing in ei­ther SC/ST hos­tels or any other hos­tel in the state where they meet the cri­te­ria of two-thirds be­long­ing to back­ward classes.

RAM VI­LAS PASWAN Union Min­is­ter for Con­sumer Af­fairs & Food Min­is­ter

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