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Noting that the Centre has taken a number of initiatives for the protection of consumers' interests, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said services and products in the health and food sectors would have to follow mandatory quality standards soon. Precious metals like gold and silver would have to bear a hallmark for the larger interests of consumers, he added. The New Bureau of Indian Standards Act has been enacted for the purpose and the rules were being framed, said the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution while addressing the Regional Editors' Conference organised by the Press Information Bureau (PIB). The two-day conference concluded here today. Paswan said his ministry was working on the new Consumer Protection Act which will have "more teeth". An authority has been proposed under the new act to take 'suo motu' action if products and services were not up to the standard, he said. The minister said charging over the maximum retail price (MRP) was an "unfair trade practice" and expressed hope that the new statute will check that effectively. Regarding misleading advertisements, Paswan said effective provisions have been proposed in the new statute. The new act will enable the people to file complaints before consumer courts online and it will ensure a time-bound admission of the same, he said. Highlighting the reforms initiated in the Public Distribution System (PDS), Paswan claimed that 100 per cent digitisation of ration cards was completed and about 70 per cent of the cards were linked with Aadhaar cards to make the system more transparent and leak-proof. The Union minister said currently, over 81 crore people were getting subsidised foodgrains -- Rs 2/kg wheat and Rs 3/kg rice -- under the National Food Security Act and very soon, beneficiaries from across the country, except Tamil Nadu, will get them as Kerala too has agreed to implement the act from November. Referring to the Centre's efforts to check the prices of essential commodities, especially pulses, Paswan claimed that incentives given to the farmers will increase the availability of pulses soon. He said, besides increasing the minimum support price (MSP) for pulses, government agencies were procuring the produces directly from the farmers at the market price for a buffer stock of 20 lakh MT. The states were being provided pulses at subsidised rates from the stock, he said. Paswan said consumer awareness was of paramount importance for safeguarding their interests and appealed to the media to play an active role in this regard.
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