What is the background of the Grahak Panchayat?
Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat was started in 1974. It started not merely as an institution but as a consumer movement to create a society free from exploitation. It was registered under Co-operative Societies Act in 1986.
In 1974, there was an acute shortage of goods of daily use and essential commodities. To ease and lessen the suffering of the consumers in getting essential commodities at reasonable prices, a group of young people started this movement. Initially, they formed a group of 25 families staying in proximity. About 500 such groups were formed. As a combined effort, material was purchased in wholesale as well as from manufacturers, which resulted in economy of prices. This material was handed over to the leader of the above-mentioned family group for subsequent distribution to its members. Later on, it was felt that the ordinary consumer in his individual capacity could not get justice in his day-to-day life. Hence, the organization now known as Grahak Panchayat was formed.
What does the Grahak Panchayat do?
The main objective of this organisation is to educate the people about their rights as consumers. It provides free counselling and legal-aid to people who are not satisfied with the quality of goods or services purcahsed by them or have suffered exploitation form the seller. The volunteers include retired people from various fields with knowledge and expertise. They teach, those aggrieved about their rights and ways in which they can get redressal. They help parties in reaching a compromise to aviod filing complaint in the consumer court. Every day of the week (except Wednesday) is fixed for a particular issue. For eg. issues related to banking and financial institutions are handled every Thursday. Likewise, days are fixed for problems related with agriculture, builders, PMC, MSEB etc. The Grahak Panchayat also holds seminars to generate awareness about consumer rights.
How many branches does it have?
Within a span of 30 years, 'Grahak Panchayat' has opened branches all over the country including Andaman. At present, they are running counselling centers where free advice is given to consumers.