The Citizen Consumer Clubs functioning in schools and colleges are yielding expected results

Imagine a Class VI student of a Corporation School arguing for her right to get her worn out notebook exchanged for a new one? Or a IX Standard boy fighting for his right to have unadulterated coffee powder? Or a housewife demanding a bill from the shopkeeper for the grocery items purchased.

If protagonist Surya in the film "Tamizhan" goes about creating awareness among the masses, making them learn and understand the laws, insisting that it is the duty of every individual to know the Indian legal system, then the umpteen Citizen Consumer Clubs (CCC) functioning in schools and colleges are surely following him, albeit in a tone and manner milder to the Tamil film hero.

"If you do not dispute a wrong action, automatically it becomes right. Is it humane to allow somebody to swallow poison because it resembles milk? If you see something wrong, fight it out," thunders M. Shanmugapriya of Mangayarkarasi College of Arts and Science.

Motto

With the motto – Aware, Alert, Act — members of CCC through their schedule of activities determinedly work at making the consumer the king. "The club helps us to know how traders cheat common man with freebies, how they hike a hidden cost, and how can one approach the consumer court. If the clubs take more classes on consumer laws, it would yield best results in future, Ms. Shanmugapriya says.

"To fight it out, you need to know the laws and the course of action. Nobody can dare to stop you from getting your dues," she adds.

"The CCC teaches us how to protest, protect our rights besides putting things in right place," says R. Manikandan a Corporation School student.

Young crusaders

"The crusaders are at their mission of learning and soon they will be out on the streets fighting on behalf of the common man. And justice will prevail," hopes S. Murugiah, District Supply Officer and Consumer Protection Officer. He adds that "the CCCs are catching them young and are sure to create an impact on the impressionable minds."

The CCC is a response to the initiative of the Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department to help the formation of such forums in educational institutions, both in schools and colleges, to create awareness on the necessity to buy quality products and sensitise people against unfair trade practices.

"The Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department extend the technical advice to the schools and colleges to start the clubs as part of their extra curricular activities," Mr. Murugiah says.

The government extends financial assistance of Rs.10,000 per year to each club. Of which a maximum of 20 per cent is sanctioned to co-ordinating agency (voluntary consumer organisation) while the remaining amount is for the club to meet its expenses.

Under the first and second phases of the scheme between 2005-2006 and 2007- 2008, the CCCs were started in hundreds of educational institutions throughout the State. But only in 2007, the CCCs were started in Madurai. With 50 students being the minimum requirement for setting up a club, there are about 2,750 students from 35 schools and 20 colleges today. Each club has a student co-ordinator and a teacher co-ordinator, who organizes regular meetings and awareness programmes, says C. Packialakshmi, secretary, Women’s Consumer Protection Association, co-ordinator of CCCs for educational institutions and the district representative of the State Consumer Protection Council.

She says: "How many times have we let things go just like that just because we believe that nothing can be done or it is too inconsequential to waste time on it? This is a wrong attitude. The amount or the work involved may be too trivial but injustice done to the individual matters the most. The CCCs insist on this aspect."

Basically, she says, students have an urge to see a corruption-free, terrorism-free and all vice-free country. CCC is binding their patriotism so that it will not get loosened when they grow up.

Ms. Packialakshmi says that the CCCs impart practical training for students in protection of consumer rights and welfare through audio visual ads, posters, lectures and street plays. The clubs also arrange debates, declamation, essay and letter writing, and quiz programmes that enable the students to learn on their own.

Any sincere citizen who wants to see India as a corruption-free country should educate their self and their neighbours about consumer awareness and rights, and the CCCs are doing it at their pace.