A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People.
The symbol is a graphic statement which stands for international academic exchange and onwards search of knowledge for the betterment of human being.
The overlapping circular segments of the design denote global interaction, creating a flame emitting enlightenment, this flame emerges out of the traditional Indian 'diya' (lamp)-a source of Light, Understanding and Brotherhood.
The design is also representative of the rose-bud closely associated with the name of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.
JNU News is a bimonthly journal of Jawaharlal Nehru University. It serves to bridge the information gap and tries to initiate constant dialogue between various consitituents of the University community as well as with the rest of the academic world. Views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily of JNU News. All articles and reports published in it may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.
In conversation with….. An interview with Prof. Rama Baru, Chairperson, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health. School of Social Sciences
Bhoomika: Considering the fact that not many people are not aware about the discipline called Social Medicine, I think, the most apt opening question for this interview would be 'what is social medicine'?
Prof. Baru: The Centre was set up outside the confines of a medical college so that it could enrich itself through wider interaction with the various disciplines of natural and social sciences. Over the past 30 years, the Centre has acquired the rich experience of evolving problem-oriented interdisciplinary academic programmes in addition to building an active research base. At the same time, efforts have also been made at constructing institutional links with policy making.
Under the overall objective of creating academic programmes for making health services meaningful to the people of the country, the CSMCH set out its objective to understand the health problems and health needs of Indian people with a view to find workable solutions for them in the existing social structure and to examine the social structure itself to delineate the structural constraints which limit the scope of health interventions. The task obviously requires an inter-disciplinary approach involving disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, history, politics, demography, statistics and public administration, apart from the disciplines that are traditionally included in public health. It was for this reason that the Centre was located in the School of Social Sciences.
Bhoomika: How is this Centre equipped for such study?
Prof. Baru: This is a unique centre because it is located in the School of Social Sciences and not attached to a medical college as is the case with Preventive and Social Medicine departments. The mandate of the Centre was to focus on the health needs and problems of the poor and marginalized. Over the years the effort has been to build an interdisciplinary approach to studying health problems with a faculty that comprises of doctors and social scientists. There are two programmes that are offered by the Centre. The Masters in Public Health(MPH/PhD) that is open to doctors and nurses and Masters in Philosophy (MPhil/PhD) for social scientists.
Bhoomika: Does this Centre advise the government on policies related to health services in some way?
Prof. Baru: Over the years the faculty has been engaged with government programmes and policy making process. Several faculty members have played an advisory role on the task force groups of the National Rural Health Mission. To give you an idea of our faculty involvement, members of the faculty have been involved with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; Indian Council for Medical Research; Population Commission; National Institute of Medical Statistics; National Institute for Disaster Management; National Health System Research Centre; Ministry of Human Resource Development and also state governments.
Bhoomika: What are the general areas of research in this Centre?
Prof. Baru: Our students and faculty have been engaging with different fields of research. The broad themes that are being researched include health service systems research; social epidemiology; nutrition and health with a special focus on the vulnerable; population policies; women's health; environment and health including worker's health; democratisation and decentralisation as alternative strategies for the delivery of health care; urban health; health legislation; Bio-ethics; indigenous systems and primary health care; International trade, legislation and health.
New Deans/ Chairpersons
Prof. Indira Ghosh, reappointed as Dean, School of Computational and Integrative Sciences
Prof. Sudha Bhattacharya as Dean, School of Environmental Sciences
Prof. Parul Dave Mukherjee as Dean, School of Arts & Aesthetics
Prof. Krishnaswamy Nachimuthu as Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies
Prof. Birendra Nath Mallick, School of Life Sciences has been selected for the award of J.C.Bose Fellowship by Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology.
Prof. Saumitra Mukherjee, School of Environmental Sciences has been appointed from India as a member of Excellence in Geophysical Education Award Committee, AGU, USA.
Dr. Sanjay Bhardwaj, South Asian Studies, Centre for South Central Southeast Asian & South West Pacific Studies, School of International Studies has been selected as a recipient of 'the ASIA Fellows Awards 2010-11' under the fellowship program administered by the Asian Scholarship Foundation, Bangkok. This study is based on “Bangladeshi's Perspective on India: A study of water sharing issues since 1996” at Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Ms. Sipra Sagrika, Research Scholar, Centre for the Study of Social System, School of Social Sciences, represented India in the “Asian Citizens Assembly 2010,”Bengaluru. It comprised of Asian Youth Assembly, Asian Intergenerational Assembly and Silk Route Art and Culture Festival. It was an initiative of UN- Habitat, CCS-Peking University, VEDIKE and Global Citizens for Sustainable Development. She also presented her research paper titled “Towards a United, Peaceful and Sustainable Asia: The Needs and the Ways Forward.”
Summer Tennis Tournament
Sports Office organized a Summer Tennis Tournament on 24--26 May, 2010 at the University Tennis Courts. Competition was held in the following categories:
A total of 42 players took part in the competitions. Prizes were given away by the Dean of Students, Prof. V.K. Jain. Amongst others Prof. R. Prasad, Rector also graced the occasion on the finals.
Damayanti V. Tambay
Dy. Director, Physical Education
Yoga Wellness Series
JNU Yoga Kendra conducted 'Yoga Wellness Series' from 17 May to 30 June, 2010 at the Sports Stadium. There were many participants who attended different camps and appreciated the unique Yogic science. All the participants were from the JNU community only. The camps that were organized by the Yoga Kendra included:
(1) Wellness camp for women (2) Yoga awareness camp for children (3) Yoga and alternative therapy (4) Camp on relaxation (5) Camp on acupressure & (6) Camp on obesity.
At the end of each camp two prizes to most regular and disciplined participants and certificate of participation to all were distributed. It was a special experiment by Yoga Kendra which was much appreciated and well received.
Yoga Instructor Summer Trek 2010 at Dhumdharkandi Pass
The JNU Mountaineering Club conducted a 13 days Summer trek to Dhumdharkandi Pass at an altitude of 5300 mts in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand from May 28 to June 9, 2010, under the banner of JNU Sports Club. The group was led by Sushant Saini, Convener of JNUMC, assisted by Rishika Chauhan comprising of 12 participants/students from different schools. The participants were selected after a rigorous 15 days physical training conducted at the JNU sports stadium and a medical board arranged by the sports office.
The Dhumdharkandi pass is located around 70 kms from Gangotri in the picturesque Great Himalayan range and is characterised by frequent snowfalls. The trek began at Jhala, a beautiful village along Sian gad and goes through Tangun, Kyarkoti and Odar.
National seminar on “Role of Consumer Disputes Redressal System in India: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities”
A two day National seminar on “Role of Consumer Disputes Redressal System in India: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities” by Professor M.C. Paul, GAE, School of Social Sciences, JNU in co-operation with Professor Bupinder Zutshi, CSRD, SSS was organized. The Hon'ble Minister, Prof. K.V. Thomas, MOS, Consumer Affairs, consented to be the Chief Guest since the topic of the seminar was very close to his heart but could not do so. As he said, “nevertheless, in view of some unavoidable, unforeseen, urgent and important Parliamentary commitment I was unable to avail the opportunity”. All the participants were thankful to the Hon'ble Minister for his “best wishes and compliments for the successful conduct of the seminar”.
About 93 participants attended the National seminar for two days from all over the country belonging to faculty & students from IIPA, universities like Pondicherry, Delhi University, JNU, Government of India, Judiciary, Senior Advocates, NGOs/ VCOs, Mass Media. The participants included Justice J.D. Kapoor, former President of Delhi State Consumer Commission, Hon'ble Justice R.K. Batta, Member NCDRC, Shri Anupam Dasgupta, Hon'ble Member, NCDRC, Mrs. Rajyalaxmi Rao, former member of NCDRC, Dr. P.K. Agrawal, former Principal Secretary, Department Consumer Affairs, Government of West Bengal, Sri Debasis Bagchi, former Inspector General of Police, Dr. Prem Lata, Member West District Fora, Mr. P.A. Krishnamoorthy (GTZ), Patrick Von Braunmuhl, GTZ (Germany), Dr. Satya Sharma (Malaysia), Prof. Pranab Banerjee, Prof. Sheetal Kapoor, Prof. P. Moorthy, Prof. Meenu Agrawal, Advocate Rajeev Saxena, Advocate Apurva A. Dave, Prof. Savita Hanspal, Dr. S.K. Kejriwal, Dr. Ajay Kumar, Dr. O.P. Samy, Mr. Hitoshi Ota (Japan), Brig. Manaktala, Capt. Dasgupta, Col. Angad Singh, Col. Dua, Mr. Pankaj Singh, Advocate Biraja Mahapatra, Advocate Atulesh Kumar, Prof. Hari Dev Goyal, Prof. M.C. Paul et al and many students and faculty members and concerned Aam consumers.
Welcoming the participants Prof. M.C. Paul, the Co-ordinator of the National Seminar, underlined the fact that this seminar was organized as a mark of respect to the true spirit of “UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection (UNGCP)” issued 25 years ago in 1985. It was nonetheless a bold step that made some of the world leaders to take initiative in regards to the enactment of special Act to protect consumer rights from the free market activities. This year marked the Silver Jubilee for issuance of the UN Guidelines. This National seminar was a humble attempt to pay a tribute to that spirit of the UN Guidelines. Based on the UN guidelines, the Government of India had taken the right initiative in the Parliament and enacted a landmark Act called The Consumer Rights Protection Act of 1986. The basic purpose of this welfare Act is to exclusively protect the consumers from the various types of market exploitation.
Prof. M.C. Paul also expressed his extreme happiness on receiving an overwhelming response from all the participants gathered in this seminar. It proved that Consumer Rights issues were important even in this global era when marketers of all kinds of products and services are on the prowl alluring the gullible consumers in different ways, often without much respect for the consumer rights. He, further pointed out that "the market exploitation is rampant and the unsuspecting consumers often fall trapped in the fine lines of deals offered by the marketers. This is particularly true for the people belonging to lower socioeconomic strata of our multi-lingual and multi-cultural society who are not even aware of consumer rights given in the Consumer Protection Act, and how to protect them. Even among the educated sections the awareness level is not high. This is pathetic when several dubious marketers do not have much regard for consumer rights unlike in the developed countries. Secondly, when the informed-consumers approach Consumer Fora for redressal of disputes as a last resort as per the Consumer Protection Act, they expect delivery of quick justice on merit because it is a critical component of consumer rights protection. But the frustrating experiences the consumers undergo in the Fora do not augur well; this is in spite of many success stories in its credit. This is probably due to several inherent weaknesses. For example, in the absence of adequate knowledge and skills of consumer jurisprudence, many administrators of justice inappropriately dispense justice and thereby undermine the spirit of CP Act. If this is the story then something must be wrong somewhere and that's why the 3-tier Fora is not always in a position to serve its role effectively. The consumer Fora has tremendous responsibilities to uphold the spirit of the Act. It becomes more frustrating when the consumer victims approach the justice delivery system with good spirit but fail to get appropriate justice. It is in this scenario that they suffer the double victimization syndrome: once in the market and, second in the hands of the fora. I strongly feel that consumer complainants have every right to get proper justice since they are also consumers of justice. When cases of consumer disputes are delayed and/or are not adjudicated properly on merit, it unfortunately makes them hesitant to approach the fora. This is not that some good things are not happening, but some good things have also gone wrong at many places. We know that the 3-tier Consumer Disputes Redressal system is supposed to take pro-consumer approach and adjudicate the matter on merit".
This seminar was organized to understand the various issues, challenges and opportunities of Consumer Disputes Redressal system in India; and how best we can find answers to some of these vexing questions so that the agonies of the consumer victims are minimized, if not eradicated. Prof. Paul said that there were many questions that needed collective thinking and wisdom to find answers to many problems and challenges the consumers face day-in and day-out in market situations where the growing market violations are encountered. He also felt that many diverse issues and challenges demanded fresh thinking and flexible approach, and for this there is a need for sincere debate and serious discussion by the participants.
He also reminded that "Since 1991, with the market liberalization policy of the government, thousands of profit-hungry marketers including the dubious/ unscrupulous ones have been entering the market arena who hardly care even to recognize, forget about respecting the 'upobhokta adhikar' (the consumer rights). Therefore, under this circumstance, whether consumer is the 'King' or a slave of the market is a BIG question. The unsuspecting and gullible consumers and particularly, those belonging to under-privileged and poorest sections of our society with low purchasing power are the worst victims of unbridled market injustice and exploitation. It seems our 'consumer rights are under siege".
He further added that "the scenario gets uglier and pathetic when millions of our diverse consumers of our multilingual and multicultural nation are not even aware of Upobhokta Adhikar rightfully given by an Act of Parliament. The 'jago grahak jago' slogan incurring billions could hardly empower the consumers to save them from the continuous market injustice and exploitation. I believe we also need to forcefully make the 'Vyaparis also Jago' with a slogan like: 'Jago Vyapari Jago' to respect consumers' rights. Otherwise the business people will have the last laugh and go on doing 'business' as it is!! We also know millions of educated sections are not aware of their rights; how to protect; and where to go for redressal when their rights are violated in the market. Of course, for many people, ignorance becomes bliss. Some may perceive it as a sheer fate when they get cheated, or a part of karmaphal (to pay a price for past misdeed). It is this perception that empowers the business class to pro-actively violate the law of the land. I don't have any panacea but I am sure in one thing that with our collective will and wisdom, we may at least come out with certain remedies to protect our rights as consumers against the dubious but powerful marketers. We require a new mindset and an out-of-box thinking and whenever necessary involving the civil society in a big way to check the menace of market injustice. We need to walk together as partners to change the present, to move to the future and reach out to the people who need it. I believe the challenges of consumer rights violations can be addressed only when we try to think differently together and voice our concerns to the authorities with constructive suggestions to appropriately amend the CPA, if required. Along with policies we also require honest efforts to implement these. Of course it is not a one way road. In other words, policy reform alone cannot be the only solution unless it is seen to work on the ground".
Thereafter, the Keynote Address was delivered by Justice J.D. Kapoor, Former President, Delhi State Consumer Commission. Justice Kapoor has been in the forefront of consumer rights protection championing the cause of consumers. He delivered a very enlightening and engrossing speech covering many issues and challenges faced by the Consumer Disputes Redressal system in India. He has practical judical experience over the years while solving umpteen number of cases, including the complex ones, and delivering with a zeal pro-consumer judgments by rightly interpreting the C.P. Act of 1986 to not only protect consumer rights but also strengthen them.
He began his address with the statement that “An enlightened person is the empowered person”. He said that India was first and foremost country to enact such a comprehensive Act called the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. He underlined that it was a good endeavour to provide full protection to the consumers, but he was not satisfied with the way consumer courts are functioning. "Judicial process is getting complex leading to harassment and suffering; the consumer victims don't feel encouraged to go to the court. Thousand and thousands of cases are pending for the last 15 years and because of this consumers are increasingly losing faith in quasi-judicial mechanism". He was also not happy with the way laws are being interpreted. He said before giving any judgment, each and every section of the law should be considered with elaborated meaning to effectively use for delivering judgment and thereby protecting consumer rights, and every kind of injury such as physical, mental, psychological etc. faced by the consumer should be accounted and compensated.
Prof. B.B. Bhattacharya, Vice-Chancellor of JNU, in his address as chairperson congratulated Prof. Paul and expressed happiness for holding the seminar at a crucial juncture of India's neo-liberal agenda-based business activities. He showed his concern for the difficulties consumers face in the market places. He highlighted how unscrupulous traders day-in and day-out were indulging in malpractices causing tremendous harm to aam consumers. He further expressed his unhappiness on the misleading advertisement of 'Jago Grahak Jago' which "is not cutting much ice". He stated that several of his studies done as an Expert in several Committees as well as his experience show how the benefit/relief in terms of Sales tax/Excise tax relief is supposed to be percolated down to the end users extended by the government in the Budgets, for the consumers are often disregarded by the businessmen or the producers. All the tax benefits are rather taken away by the business people. He went on to add that "Indian market economy is becoming more exploitative; no doubt under globalization they offer wider choices but do not always ensure what they propagate, and they show reluctance to protect consumer rights".
He was also unhappy with the way the advertisement strategies increasingly adopted are actually misleading the consumers due to which many vulnerable consumers fall into their trap, and they throw many challenges to consumers in the market to protect their rights. "It is here the role of Consumer Fora finds it centrality and is vital. But unfortunately the quasi-judicial bodies like consumer fora are not in a position to expeditiously reduce the sufferings of consumers due to certain inherent weaknesses and challenges of piling up of cases with the rising awareness level of the consumers. One of the challenges is delay in disposing of cases. It is a major challenge. Opening Mediation Cell with the help of qualified mediators can definitely be a way-out under the present circumstances to help the aam consumers. We need to take this issue up for further deliberations and discourse".
Nevertheless, he strongly felt that the consumer rights education and awareness movements are the need of the hour. Earlier Prof. Bhattacharya had suggested that there was a great role of NGOs, academicians, and civil society to generate awareness and knowledge by organizing awareness drive, undertaking interdisciplinary studies, by initiating academic course, organize seminars like this respectively so as to make the society and the people aware about the violations of consumer rights and how to safeguard them.
Last but not the least, the Vote of Thanks was extended by Dr. B. Zutshi. Thereafter the Technical sessions took off and were conducted by experts, academicians, several legal experts including the Judicial officers from NCDRC who conducted Panel discussion on 13 March for the benefit of participants who had several questions to field to get answers from each one of them.
In fact, the seminar participants discussed and debated on a host of issues related to consumer rights protection in India and the role of Consumer Disputes Redressal System; how the world's best Consumer Disputes Redressal System in our country is gradually becoming ineffective/dysfunctional and thereby losing aam consumers' confidence. All these lively discussions and discourses in a friendly atmosphere made them come out with some pragmatic recommendations for the government as well as for the quasi-judicial bodies like Consumer Fora, State Commission, NCDRC, Central and State governments, if necessary, by amending the unique Consumer Protection Act, 1986, to attain its very object and keeping its spirit intact.