For over three decades, consumer rights activist T. Sadagopan has been helping residents of Pattabiram, and also those from other parts of Chennai. During the COVID-19 crisis, his phone continues to ring with SOS calls
A few days ago, T. Sadagopan received an SOS call from a family seeking immediate medical help for an ailing 82-year-old lady who fainted which suggested an emergency situation, and this long-time resident of Pattabiram responded by calling health officials at the Avadi Corporation and got her shifted to a government health centre nearby.
Following treatment, she returned home, but her condition suddenly took a turn for the worse the very next day, and she passed on. Her two grandchildren called Sadagopan again and sought his help in ensuring a decent burial for their grandmother. Sadagopan pressed familiar numbers in his mobile, and the old lady was cremated at the Corporation-run crematorium in Thirumullaivoyal.
There is never an idle moment for Sadagopan’s phone, as he is a go-to person for not only residents in his locality, but also for many from across Chennai, and some from other districts.
He advises them on consumer matters, particularly those relating to public utility services such as electricity, water supply, local bodies and consumer forums.
During the lockdown, he is receiving a tranche of calls about overpricing of essential commodities especially vegetables and milk. He would guide the caller by providing them with the numbers given by respective government departments for making such complaints.
“I get many complaints not only from within Chennai but also from various southern districts on how to seek redressal of consumer grievances. I get their complete details and the issue involved and guide them accordingly,” says Sadagopan, who is 60 years old.
A printer by profession, he became a full-time consumer activist in 1989. After the formation of Tamil Nadu Consumer Protection Centre, Sadagopan has been providing free guidance on consumer protection and law against unfair trade practices and about the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
An invitee to various quarterly meetings organised by Collectorates, Corporations including Chennai and Avadi Corporations, Tangedco, MTC and State Highways and district consumer forums, he gets firsthand information about various public issues, including civic issues.
During the lockdown, residents bring issues related to certain fallouts of the measure, and Sadagopan helps residents take their grievances directly to government departments and agencies. Besides, during the lockdown, Sadagopan has himself taken up many public issues in the neighbourhood and elsewhere.
For example, last month when the local PDS outlet (ration shop) decided to provide commodities including rice to cardholders on first-come-first-serve basis due to delay in distribution of tokens to cardholders at their houses, Sadagopan objected to it and took the issue to the senior officials of the Civil Supplies Department as having such a system would lead to unnecessary gathering of residents resulting in a chaos that would not help social distancing one bit.
Acting on his complaint, tokens were distributed to more than 1,400 cardholders in the neighbourhood with cardholders in each street and they were informed of the specific day when they could collect their free rations.
Every day, on an average, Sadagopan gets around 15 phone calls relating to various consumer rights. Most of the residents are guided to register their complaints through email with the respective government department.
For those residents, especially those from rural areas, who can’t draft a complaint, Sadagopan even has it drafted. Availability of agricultural products including fertilisers and seeds are among the major issues raised by farmers from the districts during the lockdown.
Sadagopan can be contacted at: [email protected] and 9444220440.
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