Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly 17 February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

People power

We should, I guess, never forget to thank God for his little mercies. Thank you for the cyclone. Not because of the rain as it made little difference to the disastrous situation of our reservoirs. But it made talk about the weather, the rainfall and the price of vegetables urgent. And in the process, it has allowed us to move away from our pet obsession: the Best Loser System and the electoral reforms that seem never to be.

Now we have to come face to face with a stark reality and ask ourselves the question: why is it that despite such heavy rain, which this time, did not miss Mare- aux- Vacoas, the reservoir is still so short on water. Part of the answer comes in the dossier we have devoted to this issue in today’s edition: according to Bhishek Narain of the CWA, who bases himself on several studies carried out, we find that at one time out of 200 consumers, a staggering 109 – more than half – were engaged in water theft! And we are not talking about poor people stealing a few thousand cubic metres to attend to their basic necessities. We are talking about large- scale larceny which cuts across all social classes and includes factories, restaurants and agricultural planters.

In any other country, the discovery that more than half one’s citizens are engaged in daylight robbery would sufficiently shock it into taking some action and being generous in dishing out punishment to deter anybody thinking of doing the same. Our apathy however is so generalized that we seem to take it in our stride.

It makes us oblivious to the actual power that we, as consumers, wield. Think about it. We choose which businesses to give our hard- earned rupees to, and buy products from, everyday.

Let’s take one example: a few years ago, a well- known restaurant was found to be involved in a large scale theft of … electricity.

I don’t know what punishment was meted out to the owner but it could not have been more than a few pennies’ fine and a thank you note for settling it. Worse, as consumers, we rewarded the thief by going to the same restaurant as if it was alright for a guy to dip his hand in our pockets and steal something which belongs to us while charging us full price for using it. Imagine what would have happened if customers decided to boycott businesses found to be in such blatant violation of the law. What a deterrent that would be to any future businessman thinking of cutting corners to save a few rupees if he found out that he may be able to sidestep the law, but he still would suffer in terms of his profit. This way, we would not have to rely exclusively on the authorities who have thus far proven ineffectual in cleaning this Augean stable. Our everyday decisions on what and where to buy would be a small step in making the situation better. And it’s something that each and every one of us is capable of doing should we put our minds to it.

It’s time for us to realize that our real strength as consumers will only come when we stop being content to remain apathetic spectators.

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