The nation lost one of the fierce consumer activists and we at Consumer VOICE lost our first VOICE!
Roopa was the first editor of the Consumer VOICE Magazine and she held the fort for almost two decades. She passed away peacefully at her residence on February 10, 2018. She was diagnosed with last stage of lung cancer. The end came after brief hospitalization. She is survived by her daughter Ananya Vajpeyi.
Roopa’s Association with Consumer VOICE and the journey there on
Roopa was Professor of English at Kamala Nehru College. Her husband Kailash Vajpeyi, a poet and a scholar, was a Professor of Hindi at Motilal Nehru College at Delhi University. My association with Kailash grew when I was founding VOICE in 1983. VOICE was founded with some of my students and teacher colleagues after I joined as Lecturer in Commerce at Delhi School of Economics in 1982. Though I had known Kailash Vajpeyi before founding of VOICE, he encouraged me to work in consumer education. His wife Roopa Vajpeyi jumped in the activity by agreeing to write consumer affairs related stories on a page in ‘University Today’ once a month.
VOICE was a voluntary group of students and teachers who met on the campus periodically. This monthly page became the sole expression of ideas on our views on consumer issues of the time. It continued for many years with the cooperation of C. S. Kalra who was its publisher and taught Economics at Motilal Nehru College. VOICE was yet an unincorporated association and was registered as a charitable trust only in 1986. Roopa Vajpeyi came to be associated with our first comparative test on Colour TVs which was published as English and Hindi booklet in 1993. It was priced at Rs. 25 which was sold out soon.
An English bimonthly “Consumers VOICE “ was published soon after VOICE got its first grant from Consumers Union of New York in 1996 and an office was rented in a Lajpat Nagar basement. Roopa ji volunteered as its editor and continued to bring out these issues. VOICE Society was incorporated in 1997 as publisher of this magazine. After a grant to promote the magazine, in 2002 the office was shifted to a larger office at Jungpura. The Hindi bimonthly magazine was also launched and the English magazine was converted to a monthly under Roopaji’s editorship. She fiercely defended her editorial turf and was successful in resisting commercial pressure to bias stories in favour of leading brands in the comparative product tests.
Mention may also be made of her role in launch of the VOICE website as well and its promotion in 2006 when an expert was sent by ConsumentenBond in Holland to VOICE for training . She also led the publication of of ‘Ankit Vani’ in multiple Indian languages. She also represented VOICE at a number of events in India and abroad at many conferences, symposiums and workshops.
Her other notable contributions included the setting up of Consumer Clubs in schools and colleges. The evidence of this work is the Consumer Club at Kamla Nehru College which is functioning till date. She made her mark as an eminent consumer advocate, journalist and educator both within the university and outside through activist and voluntary organisations like VOICE and its peer institutions.
Her forte was creation of each story in the magazine based on technical subjects like lab tests of a wide range of consumer products. In order to show her how to create a consumer magazine VOICE arranged for her to spend a month interned at the Editorial Dept of ‘Which’ consumer magazine published in London. She stayed at the home of VOICE’s friend Anna Fielder in London and learnt the ropes of magazines publishing . On her return she used the experience in developing Consumer VOICE Magazine which was soon to become a monthly.
Under her Editorship the Hindi magazine was also upgraded in to a monthly magazine. She managed the job quite well month after month. By 2012 the office had shifted to Lajpat Nagar and soon after Roopa ji relinquished her role as Editor.
Her vast network of contacts and collaborations that she fostered over 2 decades in India and internationally; the many many young people she nurtured, mentored and trained; her absolute passion and unstinting commitment towards VOICE and consumer rights; her work with the ministries of consumer affairs, environment, science and technology, women and children's welfare, the Delhi government, and such a huge range of other Indian and international organisations; her unique and infectious energy and enthusiasm at every task that she undertook over and above her job description at VOICE.
After relinquishing her role as Editor she continued as Vice Chairperson of VOICE Society and Director on the Board of VOICE till she died. She has left a void which may not be filled. However, Consumer Magazine continues its mission to educate and inform Indian consumers. Its management has launched the digitisation of the magazine and plans to launch several regional language versions in near future. Roopa Vajpeyi has become a part of the tradition of Consumer VOICE. She will be remembered for it. May her soul rest in peace.
Prof. Sri Ram Khanna
Founder and Member Trustee