Srinagar: The government’s proposal to split the Department of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA) into two directorates has not materilised for the past six years.
The announcement to split the department was made in 2015 by the then FCSCA minister during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led coalition government in J&K.
The proposal was prepared to provide better services to the people in J&K as it was observed that the department majorly remains occupied with the distribution of ration while the consumer complaints go unheard in J&K.
Keeping in view the flow of consumer complaints regarding the inflation and food quality in the market, it was proposed that the FCSCA department would be split into separate Consumers Affairs Department and Public Distribution Department, which would have separate directors.
“It was proposed that the government will have separate administrative units for the two departments in the future. But there was no headway in it for reasons unknown,” an official of the FCSCA Department said.
The proposal has been shelved at a time when consumer complaints continue to pour in against inflation and hoarding by the retailers in Kashmir.
Greater Kashmir carried a series of stories highlighting the plight of consumers due to inflation and hoarding and in most cases their grievances remain unheard.
“The basic problem in controlling inflation is lack of manpower in the department particularly in the enforcement wing due to which there is no proper check or control on the inflation and consumer complaints continue to pour in,” a top official of the department said.
He said that the officials of the FCSCA Department at district levels were not fully empowered due to which the inflation and hoarding continue in all districts.
“Officers of other departments have more powers as per their designation but the officers of FCSCA are not empowered to that extent. A municipality inspector has more powers than the Tehsil Supply Officer (TSO) of the FCSCA Department. This is true with other positions too,” the official said.
He said that the proposal to split the FCSCA into two directorates had mentioned that the Legal Meteorology Department (LMD) would be merged with the Consumer Affairs Directorate.
“It was proposed that Controller LMD will be Director Consumer Affairs,” the official said.
He said a file was prepared for the move but the process was shelved soon after the PDP-led coalition government collapsed.
“All other states have separate directors for food distribution and consumer affairs but only J&K is lagging in this,” he said.
Director FCSCA Department, Kashmir, Abdul Salam Mir expressed ignorance about any proposal of splitting the department into two separate directorates.
“I was never told about this development in the department. I will still see if any proposal was moved for it,” he said.
Union Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Sudhanshu Pandey recently convened a meeting that was attended by Secretary FCSCA Department, J&K, Zubair Ahmad.
“In the meeting, Secretary FCSCA informed the Union Secretary that redress of consumer affairs was a top priority for the department which needs to be addressed as early as possible,” an official privy to the meeting said.
He said that the Union Secretary informed the meeting that consumer redress would be finalised by the end of this year.
“The Union Secretary hinted that the office of Assistant Director FCSCA will act as the court to hear the consumer cases,” the official said.
Notably, no consumer courts have been set up in Kashmir for consumers to file their complaints and to hear their grievances.