Mumbai Metropolitan Region is keeping the consumer forums busy with a significant rise on complaints that pertain to consumer rights violations. Mumbai being the commercial capital of India is also a witness to the rising consumerism and a proportionate increase on consumer grievances or complaints. But has the systematic arrangement of the District Consumer Forum been able to meet the expectations of an average consumer? A pendency of 1508 cases at Consumer Forum Mumbai gives us an idea about the present state of affairs. After 25 years of functioning, the Consumer Forums are still finding it hard to show an impressive disposal of files. One of the RTI applications reveals that the Consumer Forum Mumbai comes 2nd highest on the backlog list as Thane tops the list with 1721 cases. The statistics further reveal that on a given day the consumer forum at Mumbai Metropolitan Area receives 42 complaints but the disposal rate comes close to just a fraction of this.
One of the most conspicuous reasons is the lack of manpower in most of the consumer forums. The inadequacy on manpower has resulted in vacant seats and less judgments being made a day. The problem has persisted for long and still there has not been a single appointment of members on the vacant seats. Similar concerns have been raised by other experts too as 34 president posts and 53 member seats lie vacant among 40 consumer forums in Maharashtra region. The lack of manpower is affecting the functioning of the district forums that some have completely stopped working. The delay on processing complaints puts a burden on the existing infrastructure and further complicates the problem.
The consumer forums are also finding this hard to address the technicalities as the complaint filing process is itself very complex and tedious. The aggrieved customers are often not sure of whom to contact and how to report an incidence. The infrastructural problems too constrain the normal functioning of a consumer forum. The District Consumer Forum at Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi gives a glimpse of the scarcity of the resources. The space is crowded, files are lying stacked on the rooftop and the complainants need to keep standing as the benches are being used to stock the files. At the time of hearing the court-room seems pretty much like a fish market as the parties have to shout to gain attention on the magistrate. Unlike New Delhi which has 12 consumer forums, Mumbai has just 4 of them. This also explains the work load that the consumer forum Mumbai carries.
Much for the silver-lining, the consumer forums are now being provided with mediation centres at each of the districts. The mediation centres stand to share the existing work load and to reduce the number of pending cases at the district forums. The increasing awareness among the consumer about the procedural requirements has also helped in bringing down the systemic delays. But, the fact remains that there is still a lot that needs to be remedied.
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