My name is Swar. I am almost three years old in Bangalore. I am married. On 5th Feb evening, I put the daal on sim and went to get my usual 1/2 liter milk packet from the neighbourhood's Nandini Milk booth. The woman at the counter told me that there was no stock of it. She had only goodlife packets. I went back home to get some money and asked her to give me two packets and one set curd. The bill came to Rs. 42/- instead of Rs.37/-. I asked her the reason. She said that she was selling the milk at Rs. 14/- (MRP is Rs.12/-) and the curd at Rs.13/- (MRP is Rs.13/-) as the Cauvery Verdict had just been announced and there was tension in the city. I told her that the shop being an authorised retailer of KMF products, she couldn't overcharge her items and I, as a customer, could very well go and complain about it. She confidently told me to go and complain wherever I wanted to but she wouldn't give me the items at MRP. While I was having this argument with her, her husband came from behind and snatched the packets from me. He started screaming at me, pointed to his private parts and called me abusive names. This man was no stranger to me. We have been taking milk from him for the past one and a half years. His behaviour stunned me for a few seconds. I told him to mind his language and behave properly. At that, he hammered abuse after abuse on me. He informed me brazenly that he knew the politicians of the area and even if I called the Police Commissioner also, nothing would happen to him. His assistant at the shop also joined him and abused me for speaking in Hindi. A crowd gathered. A man came up to ask me about the 'galata'. I told him that the milk agent was overcharging and abusing me for refusing to pay him the extra money. At this, the agent took off on another abusive trip. He threatened me that he knew where I stayed and it wouldn't be good for me. The crowd watched. I decided it was no use trying to defend myself alone against the streams of abuses and the only thing I could do was to complain to the police and the KMF. When my husband came home, I told him about the incident. He went to talk to the agent about his misbehaviour. At the shop, he and his assistant manhandled him and threatened him that they would rape his wife (which is me) if she ever was seen in the area. They also told him that I was not a 'woman' but a cheap, loose character. With much arrogance, he also told my husband that he could use his mobile phone to call the Police Commissioner.
We called up the local police station. Two policemen on a cheetah came after 45 mins or so, by which time the agent had closed his shop and gone home. They told us to lodge a complaint at the station. We sat up the whole night, looking up for information on the net on how to go about filing an FIR against harassment and sexual threats to women. We read up on many cases and wrote our FIR. Next morning, we went to the police station. By afternoon, they filed the FIR. With the copy of the FIR and a complaint against overcharging/misbehaviour, I went to KMF. I first met the Marketing Manager who channeled the complaint to the right people. At his office, one his peons informed him that the month before, there had been a similar complaint of misbehaviour about this agent and some people had beaten him up too. After faxing my complaint to the Yelahanka office, I went to meet the Managing Director of KMF. I met two of his secretaries, both women, who advised me that I should pursue my case against this man. They have heard of many complaints against agents' misbehaviours but not a single person has lodged a formal complaint of it. I spoke to the MD for about 15 minutes or so, where he promised me that he would look into the matters. Then I went to the Consumer Forum at Cauvery Bhavan to lodge a consumer complaint against overcharging.
When the police went to take the spot mahajar, the agent went ballistic at them. He threatened them that he knew their Inspector.
Next morning, we were visited by an assistant manager of Nandini Milk. He also came the second time round to advise us to compromise and drop the consumer court case. We did a few rounds of the Police station to follow up on the case. We also took the help of two lawyers from Alternative Law Forum. Few days before the first Consumer Court Hearing, the agent came to the house with a few of his relatives. I wasn't at home. He met my husband and apologised profusely. His relatives claimed that he had some personal problems and due to the tension, misbehaved with me. He would tender a public apology and apologise at the police station also for his misbehaviour. He requested my husband to drop the police case against him. My husband told him that he needed to consult our lawyers and only I could decide whether to drop the case or not, not him. Next day, I was working at home alone. He came. I spoke to him from the window. I was scared to open the door. He asked for my husband, then apologised to me for his misbehaviour. I didn't have anything to tell him, so I closed the window. The third day, he followed us again when we came back from work. He took my husband's hand and requested him to drop the case. We told him that we have spoken to our lawyers and he needed to sign a statement at the police station. He said to me,"Very sorry, very sorry, mera dimaag pata nahin kya ho gaya that..." I still had nothing to say to him.
We are not dropping the consumer court case. My husband and I went for the first hearing. I was apprehensive about it. I had no evidences. The judges listened to me. First, they said that it was quite a bold move for a female consumer to approach the court and they really appreciated the efforts. Second, they admitted my complaint and gave me the next hearing for 26th March where I have to produce witnesses or affidavits.
There are a few women in my neighbourhood who have fought earlier with the same agent over overcharging. I will talk to them again. If not an appearance in court, then at least the affidavit.
Posted 7th March 2007