What schools must do to protect our children
Readers who suffer from asthma will empathise with this 10-year-old boy, more than others will. Having been a victim for over 40 years, this writer knows all the torture and anguish the malady brings. To explain it mildly, the attack brings on a deficit of air in the lungs. Breathing becomes difficult; it feels as if someone is sitting on your chest. Lack of oxygen makes concentration difficult and there are times when the victim dies. This is what happened to Ryan, a little boy schooling in Canada.
Ryan was severely asthmatic. During an attack, the bronchial pipes would narrow, making it difficult for Ryan to take in fresh air. The doctors advised him to carry a nasal spray, something like a deodorant can. Since asthma is commonly associated with allergies, the nasal spray would give the child instant relief; until the doctor arrived. The boy would find it easier to breathe until more effective medication could be administered.
This meant that Ryan had to carry the spray around with him at all times. Asthma attacks can come all of a sudden. Pollen, smells and even mental agitation can trigger the attacks.
This is where Ryan fell foul of the school. Since canisters, that are spray bottles, are considered possible concealed weapons that hide killer or stunning chemicals, most checkpoints do not allow them to be carried to public places. Ryan was asked not to take his spray bottle to class. He did as told.
Since the boy’s life depended on the spray, the school principal decided to keep the bottle in his office, to be used when required. It was a solution that apparently seemed OK.
One day, Ryan was hit suddenly, while in class. He found it hard to breathe. He gasped for breath. His friends carried him to the principal’s office to administer the inhalant. In that time, Ryan died.
Is the school responsible? After all, the arrangement was one that all sides agreed to. Yet, was this sufficient? Could not the spray have been kept closer? Could not the spray be checked and approved for carrying into the classroom? Did the authorities take medical opinion on this procedure and whether the journey from the classroom to the principal’s office allowed adequate time? It’s so easy to be wiser after the event.
In this case, the matter did not reach the courts. Ryan’s parents, though losing a precious child, thought it wiser to make this sad incident an example for the safety and lives of other children. They made the issue a national one and asked the legislators to evolve laws, measures and codes to prevent such occurrences in future. It was obviously too late for Ryan but, hopefully, not too late for hundreds of other kids.
Moneylife readers may think of this incident as one that is half a world away, not something that should really bother them. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Our own family doctor’s grand-daughter is one such child. On a school picnic to Lonavla, she was hit by a vehicle while crossing the road. She is physically and mentally impaired for the past two years; recovery is very slow and, most likely, will never be complete.
You be the judge.
Should or should not the school and the teacher be held liable? Negligence is lack of the duty of care. Do schools really plan excursions in advance, considering all the contingencies? Above all, is there any legislation in place? To begin with, should not the schools determine the maximum number of students per teacher’s responsibility? Are the children, and more so the teachers, properly trained for emergencies in advance? Distant picnics and excursions are eons away from the well-monitored confines of a school.
To all those with school-going kids, we beg that this be made a prime cause for concern. Parents-Teachers Associations must be asked to formulate conditions; later the same should be asked of the departments of education. Every child is precious.
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]
The key implication of this new CPI-based inflation targeting framework is that interest rates in India will remain higher for longer, says Nomura
The Urjit Patel Committee appointed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recommended that headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation should be the nominal anchor for monetary policy. The Committee says this is to revise and strengthen the monetary policy framework in India. Instead of the current multiple indicator approach, inflation should be the nominal anchor and this should be communicated without ambiguity, the Committee has said.
“The key implication of this new CPI-based inflation targeting framework is that interest rates in India will remain higher for longer,” says Nomura in a research report. "When inflation is above the nominal anchor, the real policy rate is expected, on average, to be positive," it said.
Nomura said, “Real policy rates in India are very negative and unless CPI inflation moderates, policy rates will move higher. While CPI inflation should moderate as vegetable prices ease, we expect headline CPI inflation to remain elevated at above 9% in 2014 as a result of the upswing in rural wages and elevated inflation expectations.”
Against this backdrop, Nomura sticks to its call of a cumulative 50bp hike in the repo rate in first half of 2014 including a 25bp hike at the 28th January monetary policy meeting.
The recommendations of the Urjit Patel Committee includes setting up of a five-member monetary policy committee (MPC) consisting of the RBI governor, deputy governor and executive director in charge of monetary policy and two external members chosen by the central bank. Each member will have one vote and the monetary policy outcome will be decided by majority vote. Further, the MPC will be accountable for any failure to establish and achieve the nominal anchor. Minutes of the proceedings of the MPC are to be released with a lag of two weeks. The RBI will also publish a bi-annual inflation report.
On inflation targets, the Urjit Patel Committee report has recommended that the ultimate target for CPI inflation should be set at 4% with a band of plus/ minus 2%. However, given the currently elevated inflation levels the committee recommends a transitional phase to the ultimate target zone, from the current level of 10% to 8% over a period not exceeding the next 12 months. Further, CPI inflation should reach 6% over a period not exceeding the next 24-month period before formally adopting the recommended target.
RBI needs to widen the scope of the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme to borrowers as well as they probably need more education than depositors to make banking systems stronger
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is planning to mobilise funding under its ‘Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme’ (Fund). The crux of the scheme is to educate depositors by utilising money in inoperative deposit accounts of bank depositors. The RBI press release says, ”The Fund will be created by taking over inoperative deposit accounts which have not been claimed or operated for a period of 10 years or more or any deposit or any amount remaining unclaimed for more than 10 years within a period of three months from the expiry of the period of 10 years. The Fund shall be utilised for promotion of depositors’ interest and for such other purposes which may be necessary for the promotion of depositors’ interests as specified by the Reserve Bank from time to time.”
It is important to note that the depositor will have the right to claim from her bank the deposit or operate her account after the expiry of 10 years, even after the unclaimed deposit funds have been transferred to the Fund. Bank would be liable to pay the deposit amount to the depositor and claim refund of such amount from the Fund.
There is no doubt that attempts should be made by the regulator to educate depositors but only educating depositors in not enough. There are other entities availing banking facilities, which needs to be brought under the scheme to make banking system stronger. RBI has mentioned that members of the public, banks, academia, industry and other stakeholders may send their comments on the scheme by email by 5 February 2014.
I wish to suggest the following to the RBI with respect to this fund:
1) Widen the scope of the fund and don’t just keep it confined to the depositors even if it is created with unused money of depositors in the bank account. The borrowers also need education and probably need education more than depositors to make banking systems stronger.
2) It would be a great idea to use these funds to provide more resources to Banking Ombudsman both in term of human resource and other supporting resources to ensure that depositors’ grievances are heard and managed in a better way. There is a need to increase the scope of coverage of banking ombudsman scheme.
3) As proposed by RBI, there will be a committee to monitor funds mobilised under the scheme. In the process of management of money mobilised under the scheme, the committee will register institutions, which in turn will be responsible for depositor’s education. The draft document says, “For the promotion of depositors’ interests, the Committee may register/recognise from time to time various institutions, organizations or associations, engaged in activities relating to depositor awareness and education, including those proposing to conduct programmes for depositors of banks, organizing seminars and symposia for depositors and undertaking projects and research activities relating to these areas”. While it is fair to do this, the RBI should ensure that there should be a banking partner for all such programmes and representatives of the banks should directly interact with the depositors.
4) The focus of these programmes should be in remote areas where depositors and other bank clients very rarely get an opportunity to get information and education on banking services.
5) As per the proposed Fund (scheme), Banks shall repay the customer/ depositor, along with interest if applicable whenever the depositor makes a claim of her money. There should be a time frame defined for this and it should not be more than a week.
6) Any deposit account opened and operated by senior citizens should be monitored separately for this scheme. Since senior citizens may get inconvenienced by transfer of money from their account even after 10 years, it is required that they should be served sufficient notice for cases where money is going to get moved out of their account.
7) The investor education program should not be mere pep-talk but should give depositors an opportunity to understand how to handle the issues that they may face in the process of using banking services.
8) Create a central repository of updated information on depositor’s right. The free online access should be available to the depositor including the bank where he holds account. This repository should also provide escalation matrix in a bank.
(Vivek Sharma has worked for 17 years in the stock market, debt market and banking. He is a post graduate in Economics and MBA in Finance. He writes on personal finance and economics and is invited as an expert on personal finance shows.)