Why does media not report that Scams slow down economic growth?
- �Sir, �����������This is with reference to the editorial titled "It's Raining Scams" in TOI Daily of� 15.02.2013, and it is appreciated that the scams in the government operations are reported in the media with such an intensity and these do reach some conclusion. It is helping reformation of democratic governance of the country. But it is half-hearted because media is not at all reporting the scams committed by the trade and industry simply for the reasons that the media is owned by the business barons who would not like to jeopardise� their income from advertisements.�In the seminar on Role of Media & Consumer Protection held on 03.12.2012 in the Press Club, New Delhi, I would like to recall the forthright admission by the correspondents that consumer related issues carrying anything against the business community could not be reported because of the fear of backlash from the business houses of all socio-economic status in the form of withdrawing advertisements causing loss of revenue. In turn, the correspondents do not want to jeopardise their livelihood by losing jobs said holding breath to themselves. Besides, there were expressions of the political backlash as well.
The scams 'performed' by the business, trade particularly, on the consumers are aplenty. Take the example of charging of tax on sales (Sales Tax) in its earlier avatar and now the VAT. Trade is violently collecting taxes on sales to consumers when it is not due and it is running into trillions of rupees. How when under VAT the tax is chargeable on 'set off' value the trade is openly charging VAT on MRP without giving the benefit of the set off value - on an average giving 80% of the VAT value advantage to the retailer on Tax Invoice. . How it is happening before the glaring eyes of trade and taxes departments of the states, because the retail tax invoices are not in the reckoning while assessing the tax - simply, because the assessment is done on the basis of 'tax returns' where cash invoices issued to the consumers are not at all counted. Does it not make a news to be carried in the media.
Earlier before VAT, in cases where the taxes were liveable at First Point of Sales, the retailers at the last mile of the sale would charge Sales Tax on MRP without mentioning in the cash memo. The game was the same - the cash memo was not required in the assessment of the tax. Take the example of the chemists who, prior to VAT, used to charge in the name of Local Taxes Extra on MRP without mentioning in the cash memo. The retailer-chemist could easily get away with it because the cash memo with local taxes extra was not required for submission because the ST had already been deposited at the First Point of Sales, resultant, the tax was not at all deposited in the state exchequer thereby unduly enriching the chemists at the cost of consumers. In the case of medicines, medical equipment (tubing, butterflies, syringes, etc. etc.) when the government levied Sales Tax on the First Point of Sales was not without reason - the intention being to keep the medical expenses as low as possible. Has the media ever imagined the extant of the scam of this nature committed by the business community on the poor consumers and in turn on the state exchequer?
Look at this picture: The cash memos so issued by the chemists-trade in the country are used by the consumers for claiming various kinds of reimbursements - for medical reimbursements,�insurance claims, expenses on variety of purchases, et al. What a chain of reactions the scams have created. Can the media claim ignorance of this nature?
Here, I am inclined to quote the reputed journalist among consumer activists, Sucheta Dalal, in Moneylife on 11.02.2013, "SEBI vs Investors - SEBI, the market watchdog, displays frigid apathy in addressing investors’ complaints. It pays no attention to serious allegations and gives little time to the investor associations it has accredited. When questions are asked, it covers up information and protects everyone but the common investor it was created to protect. Whose side is it really on,+ asks Sucheta Dalal. A reading of this will vouch that it does make a news for the media to carry with the same intensity as the scams involving government.Today, I am, as a consumer activist, worried about the cross media ownership. I can see the major players of print, television, cable tv, DTH, et al, seeking expansion of their business interests in these segments as the major players of print, television and radio sectors� seeking expansion of their business interests in various segments of the print and broadcasting sectors leading to horizontal integration of media entities as has also been reported by TRAI. I wonder if the media will be active in taking up the cause of protecting consumer interests in such a situation with the same intensity.
Media cannot deny the fact that it does not know about the trillions of consumers' money is lying unclaimed and un-refunded with various organisations and or departments of the governments at the Centre and the� States for decades. Is it not a scam of another magnitude that needs to be drummed up in the rising crescendo. Media knows that a Bill was drafted for consolidated such an amount into a Consumer Welfare Fund way back in 2010� but is lying unattended in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, thanks to the bureaucratic hurdles and the media negligence - because it is consumers' money and not that of the business houses.The emphasis is that give the scams in the private sector the same intensive publicity as it gives to the ones in the government. I wonder if this message will be carried in the media at all.�G C Mathur
Convenor-Trustee Treasurer, Binty.
(A Voluntary Consumer Organistion)
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