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Consumer Day: Let students lead the way

Students are often passive, as they are often compelled to participate in the government-organised National Consumer Day. Little planning and no post-audit assessments contribute to their ineffectiveness.
Last Updated : 14 December 2023, 23:45 IST
Last Updated : 14 December 2023, 23:45 IST

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While we often blame political leaders for corruption and the various challenges we face, it’s essential to reflect on the role we, the people, have played in failing to take up our responsibility to live in a democracy and acknowledge our political culpability. Around December 24, when National Consumer Day (NCD) is observed, it becomes an appropriate time to promote responsible citizenship. This is because consumer rights and responsibilities significantly impact every facet of citizenship.

In the past, NCD events have ritualistically discussed the Consumer Protection Act and claimed that consumers should be treated as kings in the private sector and as masters in the public sector. However, the starkly different reality remains undiscussed, evident in the long list of consumer woes.

Students are often passive, as they are often compelled to participate in the government-organised National Consumer Day. Little planning and no post-audit assessments contribute to their ineffectiveness.

This year, let’s consider a more innovative approach: create opportunities for willing and concerned students to organise the National Consumer Day in their own way at their institutions. They should deleve into India’s consumer movement, the consumer protection act, working of Consumer Redressal Commissions, how consumers are often taken for a ride, how every government office treats citizens as servants when they are the real masters, how consumers themselves do not join together to stand for their rights, how citizens are ready to bribe willingly and fail to uphold the rule of law, how they silently put up with power interruptions, how citizens fail to keep cities and rural areas clean, how they make use of single use plastic even when they know it is banned, why we keep quiet when political parties buy votes through freebies, why do we have a low voting participation specially in areas where literate people live, etc. The list is long, and so are ways of devising ideas to increase people’s involvement and usher in a vibrant consumer movement.

Colleges should identify socially conscious teachers (at least 4% of the total number of teachers) who can motivate students (again, 4% of students) to engage in socially relevant projects. Research suggests that the active participation of around 3.5% of the whole population can successfully bring about revolutionary changes; hence the suggested 4%.

Planning is required to discuss unique ways each institute can celebrate NCD through a series of activities rather than following government instructions. These meetings will be more like brain-storming sessions than monologues. No need to limit the NCD celebration just for a day. In fact, it is more effective to do it over a week, around December 24.

Also, students should not be given any instructions and should be allowed to use their imagination. This is the most practical way of teaching them qualities such as leadership, creativity, team building, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and finally, responsible citizenship.

Let us recall the brilliant success of Greta Thunberg in promoting the fight against climate change by sitting in front of the Swedish Parliament for two years. She was just 16 when she started the movement.

A few Mysuru colleges that the author approached readily accepted this concept. One example is Vidyavardhak College of Engineering, which has already developed a series of programmes around consumer issues. NCD is an occasion to ‘nudge’ slumbering consumers to awaken and encourage them to demand their rights.

(The writer is the founder of Mysuru Grahakara Parishat)

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Published 14 December 2023, 23:45 IST

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