April 22, 2002
Consumer Activists For Fight Against Female Foeticide
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – Consumer experts have condemned female foeticide as a ‘social evil’ and misuse of technology and sought to involve women against doctors and others who engage in anti-consumer conduct.
Participants at a three-day workshop that ended in New Delhi last evening also recommended women taking leadership in fighting against consumer interest violations by banks, airlines, communications, food and other industries and vendors.
They also came down heavily on an increasing tendency among doctors to resort to too many referrals which end up costing– and sometimes confusing– the patient, organisers said.
On foeticide, the participants strongly condemned such ”unprecedented” practice of sex-determination tests ”taking place… in some parts of the country,” a spokesman for Civic Rights Society, a lawyers group which organised the event, said.
Experts reported that the use of ”mobile machines” in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh despite an eight-year-old law against using diagnostic methods to determine the sex of the foetus– the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994– was promoting a new social evil, spokesman S Kumar said.
They said that to know the sex of an unborn child with a view to destroying the female child was a social evil linked to the evil of dowry.
“It was strongly felt that the doctors were also to be blamed in this practice as it is they who were instrumental in misusing the medical technology,” Kumar said.
The workshop inaugurated by British High Commissioner Rob Young was aimed at training women leaders to defend consumer rights. It heard judges, lawyers and medical and other experts’ call for empowering women in the area of consumer rights.
Although India has among the largest numbers of consumers in the world and a law has been enacted and even a Ministry appointed for their protection, speakers bemoaned that exercise of consumer rights in the country is still in infancy.
They said that given the levels of illiteracy, poverty and ignorance, Indian consumers continued to suffer exploitation– women, who do much of the buying of daily household necessities, silently bearing the brunt of it.
Senior Supreme Court Judge G B Pattanaik, noting that women were ”intimately associated” with 90 per cent of products and services and knew their quality and worth, held it was appropriate that women lead the fight for consumer rights.
He said this was especially so given the prevalence in India of such factors as the limited purchasing power, the perennial shortage of goods and an economic planning guided by principle of social justice.
Delhi High Court Chief Justice S B Sinha said women’s special role was recognised even under the Consumer Protection Act which provided ”that one of the Judges in the Consumer Forum should be a woman.”
Justice Sinha said, ”That provision has been made evidently with a view that the lady-judge would understand the day-to-day problems of household purchase whether product or service.”
With medical profession having been brought under the Act, women who– together with children– are a major health care consumer must develop awareness of quality, safety and cost of services they get, he said, adding that women could also help ensure food safety and avoid health hazards.
The participants deprecated doctors’ tendency to take recourse to increasing referral service subjecting patients to heavy costs, some of which could perhaps be avoided if doctors updated their knowledge and skills, the organisers said.
They said one speaker narrated how two different doctors gave two different opinions on the same ailment.
Earlier, in his inaugural address, the British Diplomat noted that women as consumers were the most vulnerable, but hastened to add that opportunities were growing for them to assert themselves.
Consumer movement across the globe has citizens influencing decisions once considered not their concern, such as adding a terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport or dumping an oil platform in the North Sea, he said.
The participants also voiced themselves against frequent strikes afflicting various industry and service sectors and sought steps for protection of consumer interests against these.
UNI MJ MM GR1016
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