HISTORY OF FEDCOT THROUGH THE YEARS
FEDCOT for which foundation was laid on 1990 was revitalised subsequently in a crucial meeting held in Meenakshi Mission Hospital, Madurai. Started with just 18 consumer council, it went all out to encompass smaller units. FEDCOT has changed by leaps and bounds and gained popularity. More than 350 member council have entered in its fold and its range includes the union Territory of Pondicherry also.
In December 1991 an important Executive Committee meeting was held ,The meeting decided to conduct regional training camps in these places in Tamilnadu, indicated below are the year wise progress registered by FEDCOT
The first regional training session was conducted in L.R.S.A at Chengalpattu. It focused on consumer awareness and the methods to handle complaints.
The second regional training was conducted in Gandhigram Rural University at Gandhigram Dindugul District.
The third regional training was conducted in chettipalayam ,Ciombatore Ford Foundation representative Hon’ble Maya Dharuwala participated in it as a special guest and promised financial help for the growth of FEDCOT. through Tamilnadu was not their target state ,she made efforts in increase the role of women in consumer movement.
A training programme was organised in Paramakudi for the benefit of consumer leaders who could not participate in three training sessions.
The first state level conference was held in St.Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapalli. about 2,500 delegates from different parts of Tamilnadu participated in the deliberations Seminars were conducted in different halls on various topics. Honourable Minister for Consumer Protection Government of Tamilnadu presided over the conference and prised the activities of FEDCOT. FEDCOT grew into a people’s movement as it concentrated on consumer problems.
State Food Secretary and Special Commissioner, Government of Tamilnadu participated in the conference, Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, graced the event and gave a special address it was a historical event in the annals of consumer movement and it was a turning point for FEDCOT too and there was no looking back for the organisation since then.
Consumer protection training for women was organised in Kancheepuram, Madurai, Puthukkottai and Nagapattinam .
Awareness programme about public distribution system (PDS) was organised for members FEDCOT and Life insurance Corporation together had training programmes to reform public distribution system. On an experimental basis model training sessions were conducted.LIC brought out a small publication with the title, “Awareness Brings Benefits”.
Training in standards, quality and quality determination was organised in Chennai in September and October. This helped the members to go for legal battles in consumer courts. Deputy Director-General from Quality Control Organization played a major role in planning and executive the training programme.
The executive committee meeting held in December at Rajapalyam decided to have women representatives from each district. it was decided to call women as special invitees from 1 April 1994 to march 1995.
FEDCOT started publishing FEDCOT seithigal monthly with Mr.Albert Fernado as Editor.
Consumer protection training was conducted for teachers of the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. The university had introduced consumer protection as a new subject in the curriculum.
For 125 members of Coimbatore District Literacy Movement. Consumer awareness training camp was organised in March.
The year saw a spectacular State conference for women. The second State conference of FEDCOT was held in Madurai from 15 to 18 February. About 2,500 representatives from different parts of Tamilnadu and other States attended the conference. The unique future of the event was, about 13,600 collage and school students (from women’s college) came in peaceful procession to the conference venue, without disturbing vehicular traffic en route. Students filled the streets carrying banners and placards and consumers proclaiming consumer rights.
President, National Consumer Disputes Redressel Commission the apex body of the three tier redressel set-up and Joint Secretary of the Central Food Distribution Ministry of Consumer Protection and Public Distribution were special guests at the conference. Seminars were conducted on topics like “Women and Public Distribution” “Rural women and their duties”, etc. On all the four days conference news bulletin was published daily with the help of Dinamalar Daily.
FEDCOT become an executive committee member of the scheme. “Powerful Rural Consumer in Asia”, under the aegis of International Organization of Consumer Unions (IOCU) Now Consumer International (or CI in short) Regional office, Asia and pacific (ROAP). Thanks to the General Secretary, FEDCOT members visited countries like Malaysia and Singapore and exchanged their views and experiences with consumer groups. FEDCOT Members learnt that Malaysian consumer organizations were part of the International Consumer Forum also.
Consumer International which was keenly watching FEDCOT activities, especially in rural areas, provided membership status to FEDCOT in September 1994. The Chairman and General Secretary of FEDCOT participated in the 14 All-World Consumer International Conferences held in Paris. FEDCOT’S historic women’s Conference video was screened in Paris Conference which was greeted with acclamation.
Against unfair and restricted trade practices, a movement was organised throughout the state. Some trade unions came forward to correct their mistakes, Against some organizations legal cases were filled in the consumer disputes redressel forums. FEDCOT won several cases and lost a few on technical grounds. FEDCOT won the case against Dinamalar against its unfair trade practice after a long legal battle in Madurai District Forum but lost it in the State Commission.
With the financial help from Ford Foundation the building of office complex taken up Women Trainers were selected and they were given training.
Special training camps were conducted region-wise for women. In backward districts and northern districts, special consumer awareness camps were conducted to provide impetus for consumer movement. Officials of National Service Scheme in Tamilnadu universities were given training in consumer awareness on two occasions.
To eliminate unfair trade practise legal education training was arranged. Special training camps for women were arranged in eight places.
Seminars on health and hygiene and proper perspective of healthy life was conducted with the help of Asian. Community Health Action Network (ACHAN) and Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAU).
To effect combined procurement and distribution for joint consumer action a training camp was conducted on Gandhigram in co-operation with the Mumbai Grahak panchayat.
A three stage training in healthy life was conducted for young leaders of consumer movement. The training also focused on the propaganda relating to medical problems.
Consumer international selected “Un Guidelines on Consumer Protection “as its theme for the World Consumers Right Day 1995.
World consumer day kit include one book on FEDCOT which was prepared by FEDCOT Chairman and the Executive Trustee of GAG.
In 18 Districts of Tamilnadu, FEDCOT convened district level conferences to highlight the tenth anniversary of the UN Guidelines on Consumer protection.
A special committee on plain language communication (plancom) was formed in FEDCOT, This was the result of chairman’s visit to the UK. The purpose of the “plancom”was to simplify the language found in Agreement papers and help the people who enter into agreement. Plancom conducted 3 workshops of which two were at Madras and one at Coimbatore.
As a result of FEDCOT’S presentation at Alacrity Housing Limited with Cutts, they had come forward to rewrite their documents on a consultancy basis.
Health related activities
FEDCOT made efforts to establish contact between FEDCOT and the Voluntary Health Association of India, New Delhi. The Head of the policy Unit of VHAI, helped FEDCOT get the support of organizations like the Asian community health action network (ACHAN) and prepare. Both of them from Chennai.
A two-days consultation was organised in Madras by FEDCOT jointly with VHAI,ACHAN an PREPARE, on 18 19 February 1995.
“HIVOS” and “Action Aid”(Financial Organizations) started functioning jointly with FEDCOT Prof Xavier started functioning as Full-Time training director. In directorate of training, planning assistants were appointed. Training for new members and budding consumer activists was conducted in this period.
FEDCOT Played a definite role in bringing medical profession under consumer protection laws.
Public interest litigations were filled in Supreme Court in this period. For example under Jawahar Rozgar Yojana and integrated Rural Development Programmes, large scale corruption took place in the construction of cremation sheds, a big scandal popularity known as “Cremation Shed Scam” On the basis of information received from Madurai Consumer Council a case was filed.
In order to draw the attention of the government over the problem of power consumer FEDCOT members undertook a token dharna at the district head quarters in the state by covering their eyes with block cloth.
On the eve of elections for the state assembly, propaganda meetings, voters awareness campaign, “All candidates on the same daise “meeting were conducted to ensure free, fair and honest election.
FEDCOT won the central Governments prestigious Best Consumer Council Award for 1994. A cash prize of Rs.50,000 was also given to FEDCOT. This amount is kept in permanent reserve fund and the interest from its utilised for giving the Best Member Council Award.
Mrs.Lucy Xavier of Dindugul council received the first national award for 1994.for her good work.
National Award for young consumer leader was awarded to M.Kavitha of Madras Consumer Council.
The General Secretary participated in the sixth international conferences on consumer acts held at Kolalampur, Malaysia on 5,6,7 May 1997.
Treasurer, FEDCOT was elected to the syndicate of CCC.
The Third state conference was conducted in Chennai on 14 to 16 March 1997. The following ten books were released in the conference :
- Drinking Water and Water Diseases.
- Domestic Electrical appliances protection.
- Consumer Guide.
- Children are also Consumers.
- Indirect effects of Advertisements.
- What is Guarantee?
- Patents and Their Legal Rights.
- Consumer Movements and Trade Practices.
- Awareness Brings Profit.
- Consumer Movement, Government and UNO
A state- level seminar on Public Distribution – Food Security and social welfare was organised in Chennai. The concern of FEDCOT in Public Distribution was indicated by this seminar.
Training in right to get information was conducted in Madurai for women co-ordinators.
Training was organised for the consumer cultural group. Consumer propaganda songs were newly written and made popular.
Chairman participated in the international seminar on “Asian Economic Crises” , this seminar in Penag, Malaysia discussed the impact of globalisation and trade liberalisation on the economies of the Asian countries and the measures to overcome them.
A hunker strike was organised in Chennai by FEDCOT to appeal to the Government to fill the vacancies in consumer redressel forums, to regulate hospital management and the right to information. Besides FEDCOT office-bearers, women participated in large number in the hunker strike.
FEDCOT was registered under income- Tax Act in the period. It also get Income-Tax exemption.
FEDCOT received the FCRA registration number from the Home Ministry. It enhanced the status of FEDCOT.
The Chairman of FEDCOT participated in a meeting of consumer forum representatives specially convened by the Union finance Minister in discuss the Budget for 1999-2000.
Chairman FEDCOT participated in the Consumer International Asia Pacific Region Conference in Penag, Malaysia The theme of the conference was food security and FEDCOT’S Chairman read a paper on “Women and Food Security”.
Tamilnadu Government’s public document on fair price shop was published with the help of district administration by the Treasurer. The contents of this document were made known to the people though a planned set of activities.
FEDCOT prepared and published eight training manuals. They were on.
Environment, Healthy Life, Women’s Consumer welfare promotion, Training Food, Consumer Leaders Training, Agriculture and Laws.
FEDCOT’S English quarterly entitled FEDCOT News bulletin was started with its executive editor.
During this period an important landmark was made in FEDCOT’S history when FEDCOT’s representatives participated in a large number in the National Consumer Conference held in Delhi. FEDCOT strongly emphasised its viewpoint that globalisation should be welcomed with caution.
FEDCOT displayed 50 consumer information charts prepared with the financial assistance of Tamilnadu Government and displayed in Delhi Conference. Union Minister of Consumer Department inaugurated the exhibition and appreciated the well-organised activities of FEDCOT. ZEE TV covered the exhibition and interviewed the training director consumer representatives from all over India visited FEDCOT’S Exhibition and discussed the techniques used in preparing the exhibits.
In-Depth training camps were organized for the benefit of the members of the various department of FEDCOT to impart special skill and knowledge in areas like public health, Food, Environment, Women’s Welfare and public utility.
Owing to the efforts of the public utility directorate a field research of central bus station was undertaken in district headquarters throughout Tamilnadu. On behalf of the General Secretary .Chennai Zonal Co-ordinator planned and Co-ordinated all the work for this field research. The Liaison Officer played an important role in this field study.
The First thing taken up in the New Year was to evaluate the goals and functioning of FEDCOT by HIVOS. On behalf of HIVOS Mrs.Anuradha Rao evaluate the performance of FEDCOT. After a deep study of the records and documents, exchanging views with office bearers and clarifying doubts HIVOS submitted its report which was a milestone in the history of FEDCOT as the appraisal highlighted the significance, value and quality of the dynamic mass-based consumer movement initiated and sustained by it.
The forth State Conference of FEDCOT was conducted at Salem for three days from 23 February, An exhibition on consumer awareness was arranged, President, Salem District Consumer Grievance Redressel Forum Inaugurated it.
Salem District Collector initiated discussions on the second day of the conferences and eulogised FEDCOT’S valuable activities. He elaborated on how it could build a people’s movements and how it fearlessly fought against various injustices and wrongs in the society.
For Consumer activities a mega training was arranged on the occasion. It discussed various issues arising from globalisation as follows.
- Globalisation - Food Security and Social Justice
- Globalisation - Agriculture and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Education and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Children’s Right and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Public Utility Services and Social justice
Former General Secretary of FEDCOT, released the souvenir brought out on the occasion.
N.C.A.S Pune, in his address pointed out the evil effects of inviting multinational corporations which had the effect of enslaving the Indians.
On the third day of the conference the following issues were discussed in various groups simultaneously :
- Globalisation – Welfare and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Women’s Rights and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Local Autonomy and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Standard of Living and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Judiciary and Social Justice
- Globalisation – Human Rights and Social justice
In the seminar, the effects of globalisation on economics, world political changes, cultural degradation, social degeneration, deteriorating health, environment pollution sham working of democracies, human right violations and Indians losing their living rights were discussed in an open, honest and straight forwarded way, FEDCOT Chairman, presided over the valedictory function of the conference. The resolutions of the conference were read by the General Secretary, the mayor of Salem Municipal Corporation, Supported the activities of FEDCOT and offered his felicitations. Tamilnadu Govt’s special Commissioner for consumer protection released a book brought out by the training directorate entitled Consumer information 1000.
The first copy was given to former Food Secretary, Government of India; He gave special address on the occasion.
More than 3,000 Consumers participated in the conference. Cultural programme on consumer awareness and a mock court attracted the attention of the participants FEDCOT Groups were trained in planning and preparing schemes for receipt of funds from the Government.
Training and Consumer awareness camps were conducted in this period for school children as part of FEDCOT’S plan to give them consumer education throughout Tamilnadu, Each school was encouraged to start its own consumer club FEDCOT volunteered to help them, with the financial assistance of the Tamilnadu Government’s Food and Consumer Protection Department, District information centres were established.
A one day state level seminar was organised in Queen Mary’s Collage on 20 January 2001.The seminar discussed the impact of genetic modification in plants affecting food security and agriculture. Minister for Food and public distribution participated in the inaugural function. Special Commissioner for Food and Consumer Protection participated in the valedictory function. Consumer forum representatives, Members of FEDCOT’S Food and agriculture Directorate and students of Queen Mary’s Collage participated in , and benefited from the seminar.
FEDCOT General secretary participated in the world consumer conference held in Durban in South Africa from 13 to 17 November 2000. It is a matter of pride that at the international level no other country has an organization like FDCOT . serving the rural people. In the Asia - pacific regional Meeting Dr.Sothi Rachagan, director paid encomiums to the exemplary work of FEDCOT. during the period consumers encountered an interesting problem. BSNL suddenly sent an order to telephone users directing them to pay five months rent instead of the existing two months rent. Hosur SIPCOT consumer council after taking several steps requested FEDCOT to file a public interest litigation on the Madras High Court. FEDCOT moved the High Court which issued a stay order WP 10332 to 10334/2001 against the unilateral decision of BSNL. At the instance of the Union Minister for Communications, BSNL retraced its steps by cancelling the impugned order. In the National Human Rights Seminar held in Pune, Maharastra, FEDCOT Standards Director Participated.
2001 – 2002
FEDCOT towards Quality- Life was the slogan coined for this year. Chairman FEDCOT, was appointed by the Govt of India as a member of the southern Regional Consultative committee of the southern Railway, FEDCOT Treasurer participated in the World trade seminar held Delhi Organised by CUTS Jaipur, This Seminar had as its theme, “World Trade Organization (WTO) and South Asia – Lessons and New ideas ’’ This seminar discussed the trade relations between South Asia Countries and the lessons for India from World trade Organization. It is to be noted that FEDCOT emphasised the need for India’s Infrastructure development, economic development and opportunities for fulfilling people’s consumption needs.
Agriculture Seminar in Thailand
Agriculture seminar was held in Bangkok, Thailand on behalf of CI-ROAP General Secretary, FEDCOT explained to the participants the welfare of our farmers and the degenerating Indian Agriculture due to liberalisation.
The first national Seminar on the role of competition, investment and regulation on economic development was held in Jaipur on behalf of CUTS-Jaipur the training director of FEDCOT, Participated in it. He was the official mouthpiece of the organization and through his explanatory speech the activities of FEDCOT were made known to the hole country.
Hunger Strike in Delhi
Consumer activists from FEDCOT marched towards Delhi and went on a hunger strike in front of the parliament on 19 November 2001 to focus people’s attention on “Reservation for Women” and need enacting amendments to CPA 1986.
Fight Against Corruption
FEDCOT arranged a seminar in Bala vidya mandir which discussed the corruption rampant all over the world. It also discussed the large scale adulteration in commodities. These two evils must be under control, otherwise the welfare schemes of the government will not be beneficial to the people. C.I’S Asia-Pacific regional director Dr.Sothi Rachagan and deputy director were special guests in the seminar. Dr.Sothi Rachagan called the consumer organization to come together and fight against the twin evils of corruption and adulteration.
FEDCOT towards Quality Life
To give a new thrust to FEDCOT, and to prepare a perspective plan for future, a training camp for organization development was arranged in Thiruvananthapuram. The members of Management Committee and directors of different directorates of FEDCOT participated in the camp.
FEDCOT’s Historic propaganda journey
FEDCOT and CI-ROAP’s joint cultural mobile campaign journey on “Food Security” started in Chennai and culminated in Chennai after covering 23 districts in two week time. ‘Food for All and Always’, was the slogan. The pictorial display was able to highlight the problems of the common man with the human understanding. The journey covered 1879 kilometres through 22 district. The organisers met 5050 school and college students, visited 55 schools, met 30,000 people and distributed handbills, seminars, dramas, charts, book were the media used throughout the journey. Colourful posters were used to drive home the importance of mother’s milk. The achievement of the journey was that FEDCOT gained a permanent place in the minds of the people. Slogans used in the journey were throughout provoking and created awareness among the people. The success of the journey was due to the hard work of training directorate. Management committee, cultural groups, consumer groups, District co-ordinators and directors.
Awareness Through TV and Radio
In order to take the FEDCOT Activities to the people FEDCOT participated in TV and radio programmes. FEDCOT Chairman and joint secretary participated in TV programme which emphasised the importance of Food security and created awareness among people. FEDCOT demonstrated that communication channels could be used to awaken people to their responsibilities to face Day-to-Day basic problems. To create awareness among people through communication media CD’s were prepared by FEDCOT and sent to consumer groups. Topics covered in the CD are:
- Hallo Consumers
- Free or Cheating
- Cool Drinks or Poison Drink
- Dangerous Beauty
- Beware of Duplicates
- Grass for Strong, Bill for Consumers
- Is Life Consumption?
If 2001-2002 was a year of hectic activities, the challenges before 2002-2003 were much greater. FEDCOT not only creators awareness among consumers but plays an educative role in the university bodies. FEDCOT Chairman was appointed Chairman of the Post Graduated Board of Studies of the Bharathidasan University. FEDCOT’s role in solving consumer problem is widely appreciated. In recognition of this the FEDCOT Chairman was appointed member of the Tamilnadu Electricity Regulatory Commission.
Visit of members of Penang Consumer Council to India
A three member team of Penang Consumer Council visited Tamilnadu on 6 December 2002. The team consisted of Mr.M.V.Subbarao as president. Mrs.Saraswathi Devi and Mrs.Susila Nagappan were the other two members. The team was given a grand welcome in chairman’s office. Mr.N.V.Subbarao explained the activities of the Malaysian Consumer council. He appreciated the role of FEDCOT in Tamilnadu. The visiting team and FEDCOT officials expressed that such visits would serve as bridge between the peoples of two countries.
Visit of the London University Environmental
Scientist FEDCOT’s involvement problems is indicated by the connection between London University and FEDCOT. A grand welcome was accorded to the scientists of the London University and Director of the Greenpeace organization. They visited the SIPCOT area in Cuddalore to study the Environmental pollutions caused by SIPCOT industries, Samples of effluent discharge, from SIPCOT were collected and sent to London University through FEDCOT.
2002 - 2003
Asian Social Forum at Hyderabad
Asian social forum meeting was held in Hyderabad from 2 to 7 January 2003 About 10,000 delegates including 1,500 foreign representatives participated in the forum. From the FEDCOT side, General Secretary, took part in the deliberations. The forum discussed the following issues : The adverse impact of globalisation the adverse impact of World bank projects. World trade Organization’s Conditions. About 150 exhibition stalls were arranged by service organizations and financial institutions. FEDCOT, in collaboration with Greenpeace International, made a documentary about the environmental problems caused by Cuddalore SIPCOT. The film was given the title “Death of a Community Foretold” the problems were fully grasped by the Asian Social forum”.
Visit of Germen Consumer Council Chairman
Mr.Rolf, Chairman of the Germen Consumer Council and Mrs.Gladises of the Netherland’s visited Madurai and Exchanged information with the office bearers of FEDCOT. Mr.Rolf Explained the activities of the consumer council in Germany, He appreciated the extensive activities of FEDCOT. Mr.Rolf said that he would explore the possibilities of financial help to FEDCOT from Germany for FEDCOT’s activities and training programmes.
Seminar on Private Hospitals Regulatory Laws
A seminar on private hospital regulatory laws was held in Chennai on 25 march 2003. The seminar had three different sittings. Topics discussed in the seminar were
- Government Hospitals Infrastructure Facilities.
- Private Hospitals Infrastructure Facilities.
- Hospital Regulatory Laws.
Medical Science experts, consumer council heads, Government officials, former General Secretary of FEDCOT participated in the seminar and gave their valuable opinions. In one voice all the participants of the seminar emphasised the point the regulatory laws were necessary for better management of private hospitals. Health Director of FEDCOT pointed out the dangers of pseudo – doctors in the society . He informed the participants that FEDCOT had conducted several studies of this menace and FEDCOT would be filling public interest litigations in the High Court.
FEDCOT in environmental protection
FEDCOT played a significant role in stopping the establishment by Chemplast Sanmar. A Rs. 500 core plastic industry, that was to have come in Cuddlore SIPCOT second expansion programme with the help of the world bank. Novel method of the protests were adopted by FEDCOT to highlight the dangers of environmental pollution in the villages around Cuddalore The district collecter of Cuddalore had a meeting with the members of public to know their views on the project, FEDCOT Greenpeace, Cop watch and other public interest organizations participated in the meeting and expressed their protests. As a result of the efforts of FEDCOT and other organization Chemplast Sanmar and the World Bank have up the project.
FEDCOT in Cable TV Network Regulatory Laws
FEDCOT was appointed member in the national Council for regulatory action against Cable TV network. The first meeting of this council was held on 7 February 2003 in New Delhi under the Chairmanship of Mr.Rakesh Mohan, the Secretary of the telecom and information ministry, FEDCOT training director Prof.S.Peer Mohamed participated in the meeting and emphasised the necessity to have uniform rate for Cable TV. Operation and better quality in the programmes telecast.