Market intervention again

KATHMANDU: The Department of Commerce (DoC) and the District Administration Office (DAO) Kathmandu are going to restart market monitoring and intervention from Sunday but consumer rights defenders aren’t setting much store by it. The giovernment had stopped the action for a week at the request of Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC).

There is no way that DoC or the DAOP can be trusted, said Consumer Rights Protection Forum (CRPF) general secretary Ram Chandra Simkhada. According to Simkhada, the action cannot

reach a logical end as the bureaucracy is corrupt and the political parties are influencing the regulatory authorities.

“It will be a classic of paper tigers baring

their fangs. For market intervention to take effect, it is essential for consumers to be at the forefront,” he said.

The CDO of Kathmandu had taken action against three warehouses belong to Kumud Dugar, Prakash Bansal and Prakash Agrawal on July 25 under the Black

Marketing and Certain Other Social Offences

Act 1978 but failed to establish a case.

Moreover, in sheer violation of the CDO’s order the businessmen did not present their customs, value added tax (VAT), and accounts documents to him. On July 29, the CDO had ordered the businessmen to prove their innocence within a week. The act has provision of punishment up to 10 years imprisonment and fine equal to the amount of the goods stored illegally.

Consumer activist Netra Dhital echoed Simkhada. “It is the symptom of a failed state where individuals are bigger than the law.” If we seriously examine the government’s efforts to curb the price hike it is plain to see that it is the businessmen who are running the state while the government is in a coma, he added. “It is high time that the government roused itself from the torpor,” he said.

DAO officials denied that they were in any way influenced by businessmen. “We have done the investigation as per law and at the directions of the government,” an officer engaged in the investigation said. However, he admitted that there was a lot of pressure from political leaders and senior bureaucrats. “We are feeling the weight of undue influence in doing our job,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Like big businessmen, the retailers are also reluctant to support the DoC’s campaign of price-list display(wholesale and retail). Today, two weeks after the sealing of five retail shops for not displaying price-list in shops, at least 90 per cent of retail shops are still not displaying price-list. “We will continue the price-list display campaign,” said DoC director Dr Khil Nath Baskota, adding, “Ours will be a friendly campaign.”

Previous experience has shown that without strong intervention, such campaigns will not be fruitful. Retail shops at New Baneshwor, where DoC had raided on

July 24, are displaying price-list but not so the shops in other areas. “Without strong action, the DoC price-list display campaign will not be a success,” said Dhital, “It is the reality.”

The Consumer Protection Act 1998 Section 12 has made legal provisions for price-list display, with punishment of two years imprisonment and/or fine not exceeding Rs 2,00,000 for those who violate the order.