March 15 is celebrated as the World Consumer Rights Day throughout the world. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India observed this day by organizing a webinar on this year’s theme, ‘The Sustainable Consumer’. The webinar was organized in place of physical event keeping in mind the need for social distancing in the wake of COVID19 pandemic. This webinar was attended by about 300 consumer organizations, institutions and individuals from across the country. The webinar used the MyGov platform. This was the 7th edition of Samvad on this platform.
In separate video messages on the occasion, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister for Consumer Affairs and the Minister of State Shri Raosaheb Dadarao Danve appealed to the consumers from all over the country to reduce waste and adopt sustainable lifestyles.
The webinar was presided over by Secretary Consumer Affairs, Shri Pawan Agarwal. In his message on the occasion he said, “If consumers start making sustainable choices, it will drive and enable production to become sustainable. We need to ensure that both sustainable production and sustainable consumption support and feed into each other. Solving the environmental crisis cannot be done by pushing the producers alone, the role of the consumers is equally and more important in driving the market shifts.” He added that “the Ministry of Consumer Affairs would leverage power of consumer choice to create a market for sustainable products via the ‘Jago Grahak Jago’campaign.” He hoped that the campaign can create awareness and inspire people to start practicing sustainable behaviour while buying products, using products, consider repairing the product, and finally responsibly recycling the products.
The webinar focused on eight themes starting from food to fashion and included water, packaging, mobility, products and information asymmetry. Shri Pranshu Singhal, Founder, Karo Sambhav talked about driving sustainable consumption by inspiring consumers to adopt environmentally conscious choices in the purchase, use and end-of-life treatment of products. He added that “today consumers complain that there aren’t enough environmentally superior and sustainable products in the market and yet producers are unable to come up with such products as there is not enough consumer demand.”
Dr.Pulkit Mathur from Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi reminded us that the “principles of sustainable living happen to be deeply ingrained in Indian culture –the practice of passing down used clothes, second hand textbooks, bucket-baths rather than showers, sun- drying clothes, hand-washing dishes and the general aversion to wasting food, are just a few examples.” She added that “Even Mahatma Gandhi promoted sustainability, advocated moderation in eating habits and was a proponent of plant based foods and promoted a need based approach to consumption. India can actually lead the world in sustainable practices!”
Dr. Varsha Gupta, Professor NIFT, New Delhi discussed various strategies for adoption of sustainable fashion in highly consumerism driven environment through use of eco-friendly materials, conscious clothing, slow fashion, build-to-last, life cycle thinking, dematerialization etc. She also stressed upon the need to arrive at effective reuse and recycling strategies, through collaborative effort by all stakeholders like government, industry, academia and the consumer. A number of solutions suggested by her could open avenues of livelihood for the rural populace and the nation could benefit from the balanced urban-rural dynamics.
Advisor, National Water Mission, Shri Suneel Arora stressed upon reduction in use of RO, proper use of RO waste water for other non-potable purposes (if RO is used), use of aerators in water taps of wash basins and sinks to reduce wastage of water. Dr. Eram Rao from Bhaskaracharya College pointed out that dietary diversification both in the production as well as consumption of nutria-cereals such as Jowar, Bajra, Barley, corn, Pulses and legumes together with nuts and oilseeds is the need of the hour. She pointed out that this will foster the culture of sustainability with biodiversity in our country.
Summing up the discussions, Secretary, Consumer Affairs hoped that this webinar is the beginning of a new conversation in society that bring focus on ill-effects of unsustainable lifestyles which are taking a toll on the environment. He stated that the ongoing COVID19 pandemic shows how vulnerable we all are in front of nature. Therefore it is crucial for all of us as consumers to pause and reflect on the damage we are collectively causing to the planet. But, more importantly find solutions for sustainable living and act on them to find harmony with nature.”