NGOs and Consumer Organizations in India: Definition and Role!

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) are those organizations which aim at promoting the welfare of the people, and are non-profit making. They have voluntary decision-making structure, and are free from the interference of the government. They may be fully or partially financed by the government or any other agency.

Non-government organisations dealing with the consumers’ grievances are also known as consumer organisations or associations. The first association to be set up was the Indian Association of Consumers. In 1963, the National Consumer Association was set up.

It was a wing of a social organisation, the Bharat Sevak Samaj. The main aims of this NGO were to study the trend of prices in the market and publish them for the information of consumers and to agitate against the malpractices of traders.

Food crisis gave rise to rampant black-marketing in the 1960s. In 1964, the National Consumer Association started the movement against the price rise caused due to the drought of the 1960s. It held meetings to protest against the price rise and formed social squads to keep a watch on the price trends in different cities of India. Slowly and gradually, several other associations were organised to seek redressal for consumers’ grievances.

Role of Consumer Organizations and NGOs:

In India, several NGOs and consumer organisations have come up. Some of the prominent organisations are as under:

(i) Voice, New Delhi.

(ii) Common Cause, New Delhi.

(iii) Consumer Guidance Society of India, Mumbai.

(iv) Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat, Mumbai.

(v) Karnataka Consumer Service Society, Bangalore.

(vi) Consumers Association, Kolkata.

Most of these organisations are NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) which have been created for the protection of consumers.

They play the following roles:

(i) They organise campaigns on various consumer issues to create social awareness.

(ii) They organise training programmes for the consumers and make them conscious of their rights and modes of redressal of their grievances.

(iii) They bring out periodicals and other publications to enlighten the consumers about various consumer related developments. For instance, VOICE publishes a bimonthly magazine called “Consumer Voice” which covers a wide variety of subjects of importance for the consumers.

(iv) They provide free legal advice to their members on matters of consumer interest and help them to take up their grievances with the District Forum, State Commission and National Commission set up under the Consumer Protection Act.

(v) They interact with businessmen and Chambers of Commerce and Industry for ensuring a better deal for consumers.

(vi) They launch Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on important consumer issues. Public Interest Litigation means a legal action initiated in a court of law regarding a matter of general public interest such as ban on a product injurious to public health.