The government, flooded with complaints of cheating, over-pricing and sale of adulterated goods, has decided to form a task force to police major markets and shopping malls in the city.
The force, comprising 15 to 20 officials from the consumer affairs department and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, will visit the markets, check weighing machines and weights and the packaging and storing conditions of the goods. It will be empowered to take summary action against errant traders.
The special force will, to start with, cover the larger (and traditional) markets, and gradually extend its supervision to the newer departmental stores and shopping malls in the city.
“Our move is aimed at checking the practice of taking customers for a ride,” said consumer affairs department minister Naren De on Friday. “There are specific rules and regulations regarding weights and measures, as well as packaging, but a section of traders appear unwilling to follow them, resulting in the department being flooded with complaints,” he explained. “But enough is enough,” the minister added, promising to take firm action against the wrong-doers.
Legal metrology department officials, who look after matters relating to weights and measures, packing and pricing, echoed the minister, saying the complaints came by post, over telephone and even by e-mail.
“One Champak Bhattacharya from Elgin Road kept ringing us about a fish stall-owner at Jadubabur Bazar,” a senior official said. “The same allegation then came from a doctor of Chakraberia Road,” he added. A raid confirmed that the fish-seller was cheating his customers by using lighter weights. Two other fishmongers and seven vegetable vendors were also booked for similar offences, officials said.
An e-mail complaint from Jyotsna Das then led the department on the trail of a group of frauds, in the Maniktala and Ultadanga areas, who used to sell cosmetic items and fruit products without proper packaging or price tag.
A more recent raid by consumer affairs department officials on markets in Jadavpur, Gariahat, Lake, Lansdowne, Hatibagan, Maniktala, Salt Lake and Bhowanipore resulted in the seizure of at least 200 faulty weighing machines and a huge quantity of adulterated goods. The fines yielded over Rs 20 lakh.
“In Salt Lake alone, we have seized over 50 faulty weighing machines from the traders and a permanent office has been opened there,” an official said.
According to a rough estimate, consumers lose anything between Rs 8 lakh and Rs 10 lakh daily to over-pricing, faulty weighing machines and adulteration of food and other products.
The government has already banned the traditional weighing scales. “Traders will have to use either electronic weighing machines or iron scales and have been given three months to make the switchover,” said minister Naren De.