Tipping the balance

Customers in the rural confines of far-western region have been at the receiving end of the weighing machines because most of them in the villages are either faulty or weigh less than they ought to. This, however, does not mean their counterparts in the urban areas are safe from this exploitation either. The officers from the Department of Quality Control and Measurements visit the rural areas once a year but the sheer number of stalls and vendors that need to be checked in the cities are just too many for anyone to accomplish the tortuous task of monitoring them in person. While some of the faulty weighing equipment is a result of deliberate tampering, time, in the case of others, seems to have been the most unnoticed culprit. According to officials at the respective divisions, around 500 mg metal is lost from every 100 gm of the standard weight in a single year, tipping the scale in favour of the vendor and leaving the unsuspecting customer helpless in the process. And the said department has time and again been reduced to a mere spectator for lack of sufficient manpower to conduct surprise checks.

The cheating business does not stop at weights and balances. Taxi meters in the capital are another contraption that have been used frequently by the drivers to claim higher fares. In fact, meter tampering is so rampant that frequent cross checking and complaints by the clients now has the government pitched against fighting this irregularity through a new system of printing bills, which could be tallied against the standard fare that will be posted on hoardings in popular spots across the Valley. Although it is too early to know how well the new system will function, the lack of monitoring of bus fares, especially those plying long distances, means that the fares aren’t going to be any fairer, at least in the immediate future. Similarly, petroleum products are adulterated, and so are a range of food items. Frequent confiscation of spurious goods have not proved enough to stop the depleting quality of drugs in the market. The customers are made to pay under their noses in return for suspect goods and services. This must be stopped.

Formulating a strategy to tackle this problem with the range of local bodies and monitoring agencies would yield a solution. Sadly, the practice of buying their way-out by the culprit after bribing the officials has so far been the main stumbling block towards realisation of this goal. But an alert customer can also sometimes be the crusader against these malpractices by taking time to report them to the authorities. Establishing small quality control units across districts and conducting frequent surprise checks is most certainly a viable way-out.