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Prof. Bejon Kumar Misra: The Man Behind the ‘Jago Grahak Jago’ Initiative

CEOs Of The Year 2024

In the late seventies, business was driven by big monopolies with limited choice to the consumer; the market monopolies were just profitdriven entities that ignored consumer welfare and rights. There were no consumer rights and no respect for their respective choices or opinions.

To challenge this unfair business environment, a visionary leader emerged as a voice for every consumer. He questioned the unjust nature of such business monopolies and made the Indian landscape aware that consumers deserve to be treated fairly, ethically, and respectfully. He was the driving force behind the ’Jago Grahak Jago’ campaign promoted by Government of India and emphasized staying informed about our rights as consumers. He became a considerable force in bringing awareness about product safety, fair pricing and ethical practices by the famous Jago Grahak Jago initiative which needs no introduction at all!!

Yes, it is none other than Prof Bejon Kumar Misra who is the brain behind establishing several Organizations starting from Consumer Guidance Society of Jamshedpur in the year 1982 and then subsequently after moving to New Delhi in 1994 established Consumer Online Foundation in 2003. He mentors several Organizations like Hamara Consumer Dost Pvt. Ltd., Patient Safety And Access Initiative Of India Foundation, etc. At present, he is steering the wheels of several expert groups and committees constituted by Governments.

To honor his contributions to fixing how business practices impact customers’ lives, we sat down with Prof Misra to explore his journey and gain valuable insights from his inspiring journey. For us, this narrative is truly filled with ‘food for thought’ that we acquired in the illuminating conversation with him.

Prof Bejon shared some excerpts with us to be conveyed to our global audience to make them more aware of their consumer rights and his vision of bringing greather transparency between businesses and consumers. Noteworthy is the fact that Prof. Misra’s overall work was instrumental in transforming India’s consumer landscape.

The Genesis of Shifting the Power

Consumer advocacy has always been Prof. Misra’s focal point. His spectacular journey in line with this endeavor began in 1982 in Jamshedpur when he laid the groundwork for the Consumer Guidance Society of Jamshedpur. His vision behind the establishment was to raise his voice for the pressing need to raise consumer awareness in an era dominated by monopolies and a lack of consumer choice.

He explained, “The basic amenities like telephone connections and scooters required years of waiting even after making full upfront payments, leaving consumers with no leverage or options. Our organization aimed to empower consumers and challenge the status quo where sellers held all the power. Now the motive was to shift the power to the hands of the consumers.”

A Remarkable Transformation

In 1984, the regulations to favor monopolies were altered when the Indian government started to take steps toward consumer protection. This thought led to the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act in 1986 under the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi. This landmark legislation provided consumers with legal rights and established a redressal mechanism to ensure they received value for their money.

Here, Prof. Bejon was a guiding force who worked with the government and marked a significant shift from the era of ‘Inspector Raj’. This shift from strict regulations that favored monopolies, was characterized by a more consumer-centric approach.

Prof. Misra’s organization swiftly gained momentum, helping to create nationwide awareness about consumer rights. The Act ensured that consumers could seek compensation for deficient products or services, fostering a market where consumer satisfaction became paramount.

The economic reforms of the 1990s further dismantled monopolies, introduced regulatory bodies like the Telecom Regulatory Authority and the Insurance Regulatory Authority, and opened up the market to private and foreign investments, thereby increasing consumer choices.

In 1994, Prof. Misra relocated to Delhi to further his consumer advocacy efforts. He transitioned into a full-time activist, collaborating with the government to develop consumerfriendly policies. His efforts extended internationally, representing India in over 35 countries and advocating for the country’s potential as a significant economic market driven by an informed consumer base.

n 2003,Prof. Misra founded the Consumer Online Foundation in response to the global shift towards digital communication. The foundation aims to promote good governance through transparency, accountability, and consumer participation in policy-making.

Targeting the Revolution in Healthcare

Prof. Bejon Kumar Misra accentuates how important it is to strengthen primary healthcare in India to reduce the burden on tertiary-care hospitals. He remarks that the healthcare budget has historically been low but has increased to 2% of GDP due to advocacy efforts, intending to raise it to 5%.

Yes, the government is dedicated to improving primary healthcare through health and wellness centers. In view of this, equipping the population with free medicines and diagnostics is the core focus. He would now be stimulating the inclusion of universal health coverage where he stresses the need for mandatory health insurance provided by employers to their employees.

“In current times, a small percentage of the population has health insurance, and the aim is to expand coverage through Ayushman Bharat for the poor, and co-sharing health policies for the middle class,” he stated.

His promise to consumer advocacy persisted with the establishment of the Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation in 2010. He is adamant that this venture will make healthcare more affordable and also ensure quality in healthcare delivery. His heart goes out to the millions of Indians falling below the poverty line due to expensive medical costs.

As he shared with us, his efforts contributed to the development of initiatives like Ayushman Bharat, aiming to provide quality healthcare to all. Now, he would like to explore the horizons in partnership with the government to help consumers get improved access to their right to have better healthcare.

He discussed with us that he will be expanding awareness about the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme and improving healthcare infrastructure. For this, he added that building medical colleges and increasing the number of trained healthcare professionals needs to be done as soon as possible.

In talks with government officials, he mentioned that there would be a focus on traditional healthcare systems (Ayush), which have gained more attention and financial support since 2014. He mentioned that preventive care is highlighted as a crucial strategy, promoting awareness about nutrition, hygiene, and healthy lifestyles under initiatives like Swachh Bharat. He also said that R&D is a key component with significant investments in innovative products and clinical trials to address previously untreated or unrecognized rare diseases.

About PSAIIF

We wanted Prof Misra to share a brief on Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation (PSAIIF). He began the conversation with the tagline: An Aware Consumer is a Protected Consumer! JAGO GRAHAK JAGO! He then moved ahead with explaining that this venture is a coalition of consumer-focused organizations, patients, physicians, pharmacists, universities, industry, and other professional organizations.

The establishment is a justified platform devoted to defending patient rights and guaranteeing patient safety in the country. The overall mission speaks in favor of encouraging quality healthcare by enabling a secure healthcare backdrop that will directly enhance the outcomes in the industry. The company strives to partner with big healthcare providers to reduce the risks and hazards in line with the process of patient care.

Prof. Misra articulated that they are seriously concerned about the safety of prescription drugs. Many cases have come up in terms of false practices in the industry due to which many innocent lives have been lost already. His venture is persevering to protect consumers against unapproved, spurious, counterfeit, substandard, falsified, mishandled, or otherwise unsafe medicines and bring a wave of change.

Furthermore, PSAIIF also strives to increase awareness about the need and benefits of insurance. Insurance should be made mandatory for healthcare services as it prevents a person’s hard-earned money from being wasted on medical bills in case of emergencies. The team at PSAIIF constantly encourages consumers to choose the best-suited health insurance coverage. Not only this, there is a constant stride going on to propel the authorities to change the policies in favor of the patient’s interests.

Combating Unfair Business Practices

Prof. Bejon Kumar Misra elucidated that as an aware consumer, each of us needs to raise our voice against unfair practices, especially in healthcare. He shed light on the fact that all the funds recovered from businesses engaged in unfair practices are used for awareness campaigns like ‘Jago Grahak Jago’ to educate consumers on how to not get exploited by such entities.

He advices consumers to always demand quality and value for money, and report any malpractices at any cost because this is the way to lead this nation to greater heights. He also assured that under his stewardship, there would be collective action for justice and faster redressal of the consumer complaints.

Prof. Misra has been a catalyst in working with the government to implement new consumer protection policies that have changed lives at the ground level. He has strained every nerve to implement such laws that secure quality and fair practices without necessitating court intervention.

So far, his commendable exertions incorporate improving exchange and refund policies, ensuring immediate refunds for airline cancellations, and leveraging technology to help consumers make informed decisions. He also highlighted that his ultimate goal is to safeguard innocent consumers from fraud and unethical business practices. His focus on this endeavor will allow us all to get the best quality products and services prevail in the market without any deceitful practices.

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