BANGALORE: The Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (KSCDRC) has recorded a surge in the number of cases against companies supplying bottled water.
The contamination revolves around bottled water found with worms, pieces of plastic and even dirt. A few offices that order packaged water located in Electronics City have filed Public Interest Litigation requesting strict checks and better standards and many individual complainants have filed individual cases too.
“We order water in bulk at our office in Malleswaram. We have been noticing the falling standards of drinking water and a few days ago, we found worms in the bottled water. On a closer probe, we found that the company supplying water has been using fake stickers and misusing the ISI mark,” said Roshan M, an entrepreneur.
Mainly, big and small companies that order water for daily consumption face this problem as they order bottles from franchises.
“We order about 50 bottles everyday for our employees and a few additional ones for board meetings. In the last one month, we have returned many bottles because of the predominant contamination. Last week, we found two packets of gutka in the water and when we complained, the supplier told us that he was merely a franchise and did not know where the bottles have been manufactured,” said K R Sujesh, a software employee.
While many are not aware of the ways in which complaints can be filed, the KSCDRC explained, “There are five offices in the city that look at consumer complaints. There are many complaints that keep coming in. Depending on the claims that the consumer wants to charge the company responsible with, the complaints are distributed,” said Nagalakshmi, Assistant Registrar.
Advocate Kalyan Krishna, who handles Consumer Court cases, however, clarified, “When an individual consumer finds such a problem, they can file a complaint at the Disputes Redressal Commission which looks into personal grievances and helps consumers claim damages. If a group wants to complain, they usually file a public interest litigation (PIL) to bring in certain standards. Through the judiciary, these complaints are linked to the legislative system. Once that is done, various ministries are involved, including finance and ISI mark to ensure quality checks are done.”
A closer look at the problem reveals that the presence of many bottled water companies in the country itself is illegal to start with.
“There are about 55,000 companies in the country that are illegally extracting water from the groundwater table for production and packaging. According to the Article 13 (a) of the Constitution and the Supreme Court ruling in October 2009, no company can extract water and commercialise it. The core of the problem lies in the fact that there are no laws governing companies aiming at producing bottled water,” explained A R Shivakumar, Principal Investigator and Scientist, Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology.