|About Safety Watch | Mission | Objectives | Milestones | Activities | Events | Publication | Press Release|
|Participation in Seminars/Workshops | Information Dissemination and Outreach|
Safety is a fundamental right and an essential condition for sustainable development of society. The right to safety is important for safe and secure living. The right to safety means the right to be protected against products, services and technology, which are hazardous to health or life. Without any effective regulatory mechanisms, consumers suffer the most in terms of safety.
As a consumer protection organisation, CUTS is closely involved with issues related to consumer safety and actively working on that. Feeling the need for more focused action in the area of consumer safety, in 1993, CUTS established “Safety Watch” as an independent programme at its Calcutta Centre with the mission “to achieve the citizen's right to be protected against unsafe goods, services and environment, and to promote sustainable consumption and production and provoke questioning and action.” The stimulus behind the launch of Safety Watch was the Public Liability Insurance Act, which was enacted in 1989 to provide for compulsory liability insurance by hazardous industries. Added to this was the 1993 amendment to the Consumer Protection Act 1986, empowering consumers to file complaints against hazardous goods and seek their ban or withdrawal from the market.
To achieve the citizens’ right to be protected against unsafe goods, services and technology.
CUTS Safety Watch aims to work on safety issues to achieve the following objectives:
chocolates: a little caution could go a long way
leash for pandal rides, drivers
Behala Oil Tragedy
In 1987, more than 1600 people had fallen ill seriously and 18 died after consuming food cooked in rapeseed oil sold by a ration shop in Calcutta’s Behala area. The poison responsible for this tragedy was triorthocresyl phosphate (TCP), which is used as a plasticiser in the plastic industry. TCP was mixed with the oil to give it the flavour of mustard oil.
A “Class Action” petition filed by CUTS, under the Consumer Protection Act, before the National Commission, succeeded partially. The petition was filed against the West Bengal Food and Supplies Department and Health Department and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. The ration shop owners received life imprisonment.
National Road Safety Policy
Campaign on BVO
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) scandal is a story of how CUTS fought
against all possible odds to achieve for consumers their Right to Safety.
BVO is an additive, which is used in artificial citrus flavoured aerated
drinks to give it the cloudy look, so that consumers are fooled into
believing that it is the real thing.
When CUTS saw the attitude of the Government in this matter, it decided to take up the issue. After all efforts with the government having failed, in 1989 CUTS filed a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) under the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA). CUTS prayed that the ban on BVO should be enforced. The NCDRC showed its incapability to injunct or stop the use of BVO, and said it could only offer compensation to the consumer who suffers harm due to the consumption of the soft drinks containing BVO. Fortunately, it closed the complaint on the plea by the Ministry of Health that it will appoint an Expert Commission, to look into the matter within three months.
collected evidence from all over the world and placed it before the
Expert Commission. The Commission recommended to the government positively,
which finally decided to ban the use of BVO in all the soft drinks.
As a result of this, COPRA, 1986 was amended giving the consumer courts
the powers to ban marketing of any hazardous goods and also to ask for
its withdrawal from the market. This enabled the consumers to take action
against hazardous goods under the Right to Safety. No such law existed
Challenging Drug Misprescriptions
rational drug policy is an integral part of the health policy. Unfortunately,
nation wide survey by CUTS on the misprescprition by doctors in 1995
led to a campaign for advocacy of prescription audit system. Consumer
and health organisations in
Chemical Additive in LPG Harmful
In January 2002, due to a technical fault, mercaptan, a sulphur based chemical additive, which is used to detect the leakage of LPG had been added in excess. Though Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) insisted that the chemical has no negative health implications, medical practitioners contradicted their view. Ethyl mercaptan has been enlisted as a hazardous and toxic chemical under the Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning Preparedness and Response) Rules of 1996. Even short term exposure to it ‘may cause effects on the central nervous system, resulting in convulsions and respiratory failure.’
a consumer activist group CUTS Safety Watch tried to find out the actions
taken by IOC to protect their consumers from such hazardous chemical.
Talking to few IOC senior officials disclosed IOC’s total disregard
for consumer protection. It immediately made a press release on this
and sent to all the newspaper houses. Times of
Consumers Today: Where they Stand
For the last many years Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) is working actively to protect consumer interests in various ways viz., by organising training seminars/workshops for generating awareness among consumers, documenting relevant legal provisions and case studies to provoke consumers to fight for their rights.
In this endeavour, some of the important initiatives taken have culminated in the following studies published by CUTS.
The study “State of the Indian Consumer” stresses the need for awareness about consumer rights among the people and an involvement of the community in matters related consumer rights and protection. The study discusses the present status of consumer rights in India with respect to the eight consumer rights as enunciated in the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection 1985 and makes recommendations to overcome the lacunae.
The book “Is It Really Safe?”, the second in the series of publications on the theme of Caveat Emptor, meaning “Buyers Beware”, is a compilation of articles on different safety aspects of various products and services. The aim of the book is to make consumers aware about their safety-related rights so that they could push for improved legislations, standards and their implementation.
The Consumer Affairs Department, Government of West Bengal, are also intimately concerned with these issue for the people of West Bengal and had felt the need to give wide publicity to these issues and generate awareness.<<For more click here>>
World Health Day
Every year the World Health Organisation (WHO) hosts an event, usually on April 7 to celebrate the anniversary of its founding in 1946. Each year the event focuses on one health issue. It promotes awareness, understanding, discussion and debate about the issue and mobilises action to address the issues, through prevention or treatment.
World Health Day 2004 focuses on road traffic injuries and measures to prevent them. This year the slogan for the day is “Road Safety is No Accident.” Road safety does not happen accidentally, but requires deliberate effort by multi-stakeholders to make this world a safer place to live in.
There is an urgent need to address issues, such as, speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol, promoting the use of helmet, seat belts and other restraints, improving the design of roads and vehicles, enforcing road safety regulations, improving emergency medical services and other related issues.
In response to this growing concern about road traffic injuries, the WHO Director General has for the first time in the history of WHO devoted a WHD specifically to road safety. <<For more click here>>
Voluntary Consumer Action Network (V-CAN)
Voluntary Consumer Action Network (V-CAN) has resulted from the series
of Training Workshops for Young Consumer Leaders (TWYCL) organised by
CUTS and Consumer International (CI) to impart skills and create a second
line leadership in the consumer movement in
The organisers felt that while activists have the required information, they often lack the appropriate skills of advocacy and campaigning to strategies and bring about the crucial change. Four workshops were held on different aspects: campaigning; advocacy and media; strategic planning and stocktaking. V-CAN articulated its vision statement as 'Affordable and sustainable health for all', and its mission as ‘Equipping activists to empower people to achieve their right to health'.
Seminar on Medical Negligence
Although Consumer Protection Act is quite old but very few people have a clear idea about it. Also there is a misconception regarding the difference between mistake by a doctor and medical negligence. On March 15, 2002, Safety Watch organised a seminar titled “Medical Negligence and its Remedy in the light of Consumer Protection Act” to provide the common people a better idea about medical negligence and its remedies through Consumer Protection Act.
The objective of the programme was to generate awareness amongst the consumers about their rights and responsibilities and to motivate them about their rights so that they do not hesitate in seeking redressal wherever required. City-based experts on consumer rights issue, advocates, lawyers, medical practitioners, representatives from government bodies, consumer organisations, academicians, media and common people attended the seminar.
Management of Surface Water in West Bengal
The looming water crisis is one of the most critical challenges facing the world today. On World Water Day, March 22, 2002, Safety Watch organised a panel discussion at Calcutta Press Club titled “Management of Surface Water in West Bengal.” The objective of the discussion was to sensitise media on the above issue and to focus on the success and failures of management of surface water and the problems with underground water in West Bengal. Journalists from various media and NGOs working on environmental issues and academia participated in the above discussion.
According to state irrigation department, the per capita availability of water in West Bengal has gone down from 5,608 cubic metres in 1951 to 1,839 cubic metres in 2001. Arsenic contamination, a major problem in West Bengal, has been fuelled by declining levels of ground water. Recent soil tests in arsenic-affected blocks of North 24 Parganas have shown that around 6.4 tonnes of arsenic is being deposited in the farmlands in these areas. As a result, crops that are being grown here have shown a dangerous level of arsenic contamination in them. These facts were the main findings of the seminar.
Training Workshop on Food Safety
Safety Watch participated in a training workshop on “Food Safety and Its Effective Implementation” on February 21, 2002 held at Calcutta. This workshop was jointly organised by Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) and Confederation of Indian Food, Trade and Industry (CIFTI) in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
The objective of the workshop was to sensitise retailers and consumers on the existing laws on food safety, building a public participation on the implementation of the national laws, strengthening the Government mechanisms and protect the rights of consumers.
After a brainstorming session on Prevention on Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and the current Indian scenario, the participants from different NGOs, hotels, food inspectors, businessmen were divided into groups to find out some recommendations and action plan. CUTS Safety Watch was asked to represent its group and present the recommendations. PFA rules to be made reader friendly, introduction of safety symbol on packaged food, introduction of health and hygiene as a subject in school were some of the major recommendations.
Safety and Hygiene of Street Foods
CUTS Safety Watch participated in “Awareness Programme on Sanitation & Hygiene of Street Foods” at Auditorium of Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers on October 4, 2002. The seminar was organised by Association of Food Scientist Technology (AFST).
The objective of the seminar was awareness generation on the safety of street foods. Distinguished panelists presented at the seminar cited various examples of safety and hygiene of street foods and tried to find out ways to improve this. To give consumers a choice, certification of model shops by World Health Organisation were proposed.
CUTS Safety Watch participated in a discussion on “Medical negligence and its remedy” organised by Drug Action Forum, a reputed voluntary organisation based at Calcutta working on safety of patients. A larger convention in association with other consumer organisations working on this area has been planned in near future.
Consumer Awareness Seminar
CUTS Safety Watch attended a Consumer Awareness Seminar “West Bengal’s Stride towards Consumer Movement” on August 28, 2002 organised by Consumer & Investors’ Guidance Society (CIGS). The seminar was an excellent opportunity to meet other consumer organisations. Awareness is the key to success in consumer movement and no legislation will be effective unless the consumer is ready to bear the ordeal of pressing for his rights, was the main message delivered at the seminar.
National Consumers’ Congress 2003
During 8-9 November 2003, CUTS Safety Watch attended the National Consumers’ Congress 2003 organised by Visakha Consumers’ Council (VCC) to celebrate their 30th Anniversary. CUTS SAFETY watch presented a paper on “Consumer Safety” which was appreciated by the participants. The souvenir of VCC contains one safety article “Be cautious about irrational prescription” by Safety Watch and one write-up on BVO Campaign of CUTS campaigns
Information dissemination and outreach is one of the strong points of CUTS Safety Watch’s activities.
Safe Drinking Water
came out with a publication on safe drinking water “How Consumer Friendly
are the Water Supply Pipes?” which exposed the negligence of water
supply utilities, educated the consumers and provoked people to take
action. It also carried a special section on asbestos, as asbestos
pipes, though banned in many countries of the world, are still used
The monograph “Water: What are our Rights to it?” highlighted consumers’ right to safe water.
Articles on Safety
CUTS Safety Watch actively works to educate and empower people. With the aim to make common people aware of the safety issues, a fortnightly column on consumer safety was written regularly in The Times of India. Till now thirteen articles have been published. Issues covered were railway, car, joyride, toy, firecracker, escalator, cosmetic, vitamin, road safety and emergency services, hepatitis B vaccination, chocolate, blood and food.
The purpose of writing such articles was served when the concerned authority took positive step accordingly. Some are given below:
Escalators are safe only when you are cautious: In almost all the metro stations, signboards with the tips of using escalator safely can be found near the escalators.
Clinics cannot deny emergency services: The health department of West Bengal Government has made a regulation that neither government nor private hospital would be allowed to deny emergency cases.
City blood banks need modern gear: Central government in September 2002 clearly spelt out its directives on organising blood donation camps in future. As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, no private blood banks would be allowed to organise blood donation camps. Now onwards, only government blood banks and Red Cross would be allowed to organise such camps.
Apart from these, the Consumer Affairs Department, Government of West Bengal have put the safety articles by linking their website with our website.
publication is a compilation of the articles written on the subject
from time to time, with the aim of increasing consumers’ awareness
on safety aspects of various products and services. The book also
contains valuable comments/suggestions received from different consumer
organisations on the same. The book, written in a reader-friendly
language, also provides a synopsis of Indian rules and regulations
on safety issues.
its inception in 1983, CUTS has been working on consumer protection,
including consumer safety. However, feeling the need for more focused
action in the area of consumer safety, in 1993, CUTS established Safety
Watch as an independent programme at its Calcutta Resource Centre.
Copyright 2005 Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS),
D–217, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park, Jaipur 302 016, Rajasthan, India
Ph: 91.141.2282821, Fax: +91(0)141-228 2485