By Jai Anand:
Reaching the Mehrauli Consumer Redressal Forum was not an easy task. Had it not been for registering a complaint, I would not have even tried. Thankfully, courtesy my GPS brain and good negotiation skills, I managed to make it in an auto-rickshaw.
Strangely, there was no security check at the entrance. Though the signboard was located right above a door on the ground floor, the office was on the first floor. This set me solving a crystal maze and I found two allies doing the same.
To talk of interiors is a sore to senses. An untidy structure with an entrance around three foot-wide, the forum was flooded with people of all sorts. Language both parliamentary and unparliamentary was doing the rounds. The lobby to walk was so narrow that it gave the feeling of walking in the crowded bylanes of Lucknow.
To my surprise there was no helpdesk at the forum. The only way for a complainant to figure out how he/she can file a complaint was by asking other complainants/lawyers inside the forum.
The administration was shabby and there was no help available for the consumer. It was a real horror and for a while I even thought of giving up my complaint.
Somehow mustering courage, I went forward and asked a lawyer the process of filing a complaint. His response jolted me further. According to him I first needed to write an application and then get affidavits attested. Just to confirm, I asked another lawyer who added to my misery by stating that getting affidavits attested is a tough job and only a clerk can help.
The Bureaucratic Clerk
Being tall helped and I sighted a clerk at one corner. When I reached him he delivered another blow saying he could tell me the process only after 2:30 p.m. What was more humiliating was the fact that the same clerk was attending to others who had hired lawyers.
He was pretty gentle to them, helping them get affidavits attested, procuring documents and getting them dates. That left me with a sense that hiring a lawyer is the best way forward but on second thoughts isn’t the entire concept of consumer forums a waste if lawyers are needed for small cases like mine.
Mediation And Conciliation Center
I had come with a lot of hope, thinking that the consumer forum will come to my rescue against a leading education brand, only to feel disgusted after wasting hours. While I was wandering hopelessly in the lobby, a person inside a cabin called me and asked the details of my case. I narrated him the facts and for the first time since the morning got a satisfactory response.
He said his unit would help me out in resolving the matter. I was relieved. This was the Mediation and Conciliation center, another government body. Their mode of operations is quite simple. They listen to consumer complaints, ascertain the authenticity and then send a notice to the opposite party to appear at the center. The M&C tries to settle the case between the two parties out of court. Moreover, this is a free service and the affidavits that the aggrieved party provides need not be attested. The date of hearing is also given within a week or two.
The M&C center officials asked me to not worry as they had already cracked various similar cases in the favour of the consumer. They put my complaint in a file, scanned the proof of identity and address themselves, gave me a reference number and a date that was after 10 days. There were a few documents which I was not carrying. They asked me to mail the same across on an e-mail-id provided by them.
Just for the sake of experience, I visited Saini Enclave’s District Consumer Redressal Forum the following day and unsurprisingly, they also did not have a helpdesk. Thankfully I did not wait long enough to see whether there was an M&C center or not.
The government has put in place Consumer Forums to help the common man. However, one gets the impression that the whole process is not very consumer friendly.
File your consumer complaint here.