Vision & Mission
Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) is a non-profit, non-political and professional organisation that works towards protecting citizens' rights in consumer and environmental issues and promoting good governance processes including transparency, accountability and participatory decision-making.
A brief history
CAG came into existence on 7 October 1985 as a non-profit, non-political, non-religious, voluntary and professional citizens’ group based in Chennai, India. S. Govind Swaminadhan, legal practitioner and former Advocate General of the State of Tamil Nadu, was the founding trustee. Other early trustees included S. Guhan (former Finance Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu), S.L.Rao (former Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission), Shyamala Nataraj (development journalist with the South India Aids Action Program) and Sriram Panchu (Senior Advocate).
The Group was originally christened the Consumer Action Group. The main thrust of CAG’s work for the first decade was consumer protection. CAG’s contributions towards this field of work has been recognised by the Government of India with the National Award for Consumer Protection in 1989 (Second Prize) and 1991 (First Prize).
Subsequently, into our second decade, in addition to consumer protection, issues affecting the common man such as extreme pollution, lack of access to information, poor quality health care, unsafe food and nutrition and inadequate civic amenities emerged as work priorities. To keep up with this expansion of areas of work, (and with now defining the ‘consumer’ as the ‘citizen-consumer’), the group was re-christened the Citizen consumer and civic Action Group.
Our main objectives
The main objectives of our work are:
- To consolidate the commanding position of citizen-consumers in the working of the economic system
- To protect and promote citizen-consumer interest and satisfaction
- To make citizen-consumers aware of their rights and responsibilities
- To secure the effective use of the legal process to remedy public grievances
- To seek improvement in the areas of public health and safety, services, public utilities and the environment
- To create and mobilize public opinion to enhance public participation in governance
How we work
CAG’s work is firstly well-founded in research; we do this as we watch the implementation of existing policies or analysing the soundness of emerging policies, all the while engaging with grassroot groups and the common man.
CAG employs a wide variety of means to achieve its goals, but particularly distinguishes itself with the depth of its rigorous studies and research. These determine the organization’s strategy on any issue, whether it is advocacy, campaigning, or litigation. Many of our studies had/have immediate impacts, such as a survey on bus transport around difficulty in identification of buses, which led to the government mandating uniform and consistent bus colors; a study on the impact of junk food in schools and submitted to the government which resulted in the civil supplies and Consumer Protection Department sending a circular to all schools asking to stop selling junk food, amongst many, many others; a study on how electricity bills can be used as a tool for improving governance. Towards this end we developed a model electricity bill.
CAG’s participation in the policy space includes analytic and advisory roles. For example, CAG’s critique of the Chennai’s Second Master Plan (draft) led to CAG being invited to sit on the committee to look into suggestions/objections received from the public on sectors such as environmental protection and development. Our longstanding advocacy in the field of solid waste management resulted in the Tamil Nadu state government announcing a state-wide single use plastic ban. CAG was instrumental in the establishment of a fully functional Electricity Regulatory Committee in the state. Following this we were invited to be part of the State Advisory Committee. Our audits of bio medical waste management in government healthcare institutions led to CAG being invited to the State Level Advisory Committee on Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) in Tamil Nadu.
CAG holds membership in several other key committees - among them are the Consumer Advocacy Group within the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India; State Level Monitoring Committee on Direct Selling; COPOLCO Committee on Consumer Policy-Bureau of Indian Standards; Consumers' International; and the Advisory Committee, Appellate Desk of Telecommunication Service Providers.
CAG is also a member of the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum; and the Code Review Panel, TANGEDCO; the Chennai Transport for All committee; a member of the consultation committee advising on Front of Pack Labelling (FoPL); the Central Advisory Committee, Food Safety and Standards Authority, India; and of the State Level Monitoring Committee on Food Security under the National Food Security Act.
Each of these memberships helps CAG make meaningful interventions in international and national forums, stay abreast of policy changes, and make timely recommendations as policy shifts are considered by respective government departments.
The main thrust of CAG’s work is centered around empowering the citizen-consumer to claim her rights, while embracing her responsibilities. Here are a few key examples: CAG has organised several consumer guidance seminars on topics of consumer interest such as insurance, financial services, unfair trade practices, consumer protection etc. CAG has successfully run campaigns that promote sustainable consumption – growing organic food, promoting energy conservation, building energy efficient, green buildings, de-centralised waste management that starts at home etc.; we have tirelessly worked with educating communities on the environmental impact assessment processes, hand holding them throughout the process, thus ensuring that communities participate effectively in public hearings; we have worked to build sustainable and resilient coastal communities through a participatory approach and capacity development of major stakeholders. Much of our current work in the space of environment and climate action revolves around the clear dangers presented by climate change, and our responses to adapt to and mitigate these.
CAG’s patient engagement on several issues like consumer protection, urban planning, electricity governance, water management, protection of natural resources, public health, etc, sometimes over decades, has led to continued and sustained impacts. While much of our work is based in Tamil Nadu, as and when the need arises, especially for policy level interventions , we engage with the Centre.
Why work with CAG?
Over the three decades of our work, CAG has kept pace with new challenges arising; right from basic problems relating to defective goods and services, to investor protection, power and telecom sector reforms, monitoring the growth of e-commerce, urban governance and solid waste management. We have thus enabled critical interventions to protect consumer rights, our natural environment, the quality of people’s lives and have otherwise served to function as an effective citizens’ monitoring group.
If you face a consumer problem relating to the quality of a product or service and the fairness of cost; or
You are concerned about quality of life issues in Chennai – the noise, the lack of cleanliness in public areas, inadequate drainage, traffic congestion, bad roads, lack of planning, absence of lung spaces, misuse of open spaces and the destruction of the environment; or
You want to work on issues relating to transparency, fairness and efficiency in government functioning; or
You are concerned about the ineffective and unfair operation of the market economy, and want to work on issues relating to excessive consumption and misleading information; or
You are looking for a group of professional, well-informed, organised and committed individuals to address these and related public interest issues, then you need to contact CAG.
At CAG, we have always believed that collective voice reaches farther than the voice of an individual. For sustainable, holistic solutions, organisations such as ours co-ordinate and voice the grievances of the public, bringing about changes in governance, transparency and accountability in the interest of the common man.
For more information, please contact us at email@example.com.