Day-long protest involves over 10 lakh employees of public and private banks, foreign, co-operative and rural banks. ATMs also likely to be nonfunctional
Bank employees will go ahead with their one-day strike on Friday, in protest against banking sector reforms, after another round of talks with the government failed to make any headway.
Ravindra Shetty, convenor of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), which has called the protest action, said today, "We are going ahead with the strike tomorrow. Yesterday, we had a meeting in Delhi, where the government did not give any favourable response to our demands. Instead it sent some junior officers to negotiate. The strike is on tomorrow."
More than 10 lakh employees and officers with public and private sector banks, foreign banks as well as co-operative and regional rural banks would join the strike called by UBFU, an umbrella organisation of nine all-India unions in the banking industry. ATMs are also likely to be nonfunctional.
The unions are opposed to privatisation of banks and banking sector reforms on the grounds that bank jobs are being outsourced. They have also demanded the scrapping of recommendations of the AK Khandelwal Committee which proposed sweeping changes in the functioning of public sector banks, particularly in the matter of recruitment and compensation. Other pending issues include pension and regulated working hours for officers.
The unions say that in the name of banking reforms the government is trying to reduce its equity share in public sector banks and allowing the increase of private capital in these banks.
The government is also pursuing a policy of consolidation and merger of public sector banks which is totally unwarranted and would in no way help to strengthen the banks.
The issues and complaints are listed in a 21-point charter that has been discussed at various levels, but without much success. There have been talks also with the financial services secretary and the chairman of the Indian Banks' Association.
Decision to accept college IDs by the Indian Railways for students came after persuasion by a passenger
Recently, Moneylife wrote about how 18-year-old Bhadresh Wamja's persistence led to mandatory stock disclosure for fair price in Gujarat (See: 18-year-old's persistence leads to mandatory stock disclosure for fair price shops in Gujarat). He is one of the many aam-admis, who, without any clout, have managed to bring around significant changes in absurd laws that affect our everyday lives.
One such crusader is Gopinath Prabhu, whose intervention on behalf of his fellow railway passengers have made the railway authorities amend their rules to include college IDs in the list of recognised ID proofs required for an e-ticket. Earlier, the railways specified only six government IDs, which most students did not posses and so were frequently harassed and fined for not carrying a valid ID proof against their e-tickets.
Thanks to Mr Prabhu's letters to IRCTC (the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation), the railways took notice of the harassment faced by students carrying e-tickets as a result of these unviable rules. After he wrote to the IRTC, the authorities included college IDs and nationalised bank pass books with a photograph in the list of acceptable IDs, which the students could easily produce.
"I wrote to IRCTC and marked a copy to railway ministers and asked them to suggest a way. How can any student travel on an e-ticket when it almost impossible to get the government IDs? Finally they relented and changed the rule to add up college/school IDs and passbooks of nationalised banks with photograph," Mr Prabhu said. The rule came into effect on 15 June 2010.
Mr Prabhu was travelling to Goa last year, and met a group of students from BITS (Pilani) who where on their way back to college after their holidays. All of these students carried e-tickets. As they were under-age, they did not possess a driving license, voter ID, PAN card or other government IDs. Soon, the ticket checker appeared.
"The TT went on imposing fines on them as they were rendered ticketless as they had none of the ID proofs mandated. This despite they showing their student ID cards, that too from a reputed institute," Mr Prabhu said. In his compartment was a student, who was fined Rs1,000, as he did not have a 'valid' ID with him and was deemed travelling without a ticket. Mr Prabhu and the other passengers requested the ticket checker to accept his college ID, but to no avail.
Then, Mr Prabhu convinced the TT that he would get a general ticket by that afternoon, which can be upgraded. But the TT instructed them to get down at the next station, queue up and then get the ticket from the counter-all within two minutes, the standard time for a train stoppage.
"I requested him to call the station and arrange for a general ticket and that I would pay a bit more for it. But he was too honest a man: he said it's not his job nor was he interested in making money," said Mr Prabhu. Till 8 pm, the student had to provide the excuse that he could not acquire a ticket due to time constraints, though he got down at every station. Finally, after an hour, a coffee vendor came to their rescue and got them a ticket which the TT upgraded.
Mr Prabhu wrote to the IRCTC and the minister then, asking them to provide a viable option for students. After three months, South Western Railway's assistant commercial manager replied to the letter, and said that the desired changes have been made.
"In addition to the existing five Identity cards, it has been decided that the following two proofs of Identity may also be accepted as proof for travelling on e-tickets w.e.f., 15.06.2010: (1) student identity card with photograph issued by recognised school/college for their students, and (2) nationalised bank pass book with photograph," the authorities' reply said.
Mr Prabhu believes that people should be proactive in such issues. "There are thousands of absurd rules like these. It just takes someone to raise it," he said. But, he is waiting to meet the TT again. He said, "I must thank the TTE who opened our eyes. I had promised him that the next time I met him he will see a changed rule."
At 8-9 knots, sailing time from Singapore to Mumbai would not exceed 10 days. The RAK Carrier, now sinking off Mumbai, took 40. Where was she in between?
Time was not too long ago, a ship would go adrift or get stranded in and around Mumbai Port about once every two years, and would then become the focus of all discussion at the Seaman's Club. Now it appears to be a weekly affair, like the "specials" on sale in the Irani Hotel next door, and everybody knows that the special is simply what was not moving so had to be flogged.
The RAK Carrier, an Indonesian flag bulk carrier, is one more example.
About 26 years old, with a history as long as that of any history-sheeter, she sailed out of Singapore on or around the 2nd of May 2011, ostensibly towards Indonesia to load coal for Dahej in Gujarat. She then reappeared off Singapore on the 20th of June 2011, ostensibly loaded, and then sat patiently outside Singapore till the 24th of June. She then sailed out towards India through the Malacca Straits, making good about 8-9 knots, giving an ETA (expected time of arrival) Dahej of 7th of July 2011.
So far so good, but then suddenly on the midnight of 24/25 June 2011, all position reporting seems to have stopped from her AIS (Automatic Identification Signal), including most surprisingly no reports when passing Colombo or making landfall off India, until she arrived off the Port of Mumbai almost a month behind schedule. Down by head, and certainly looking like she was about to go under, conveniently near the only port in India where rescue would not be too much of a problem.
For all we know, the Master decided to go on a short tour of the Indian Ocean through most of the month of July 2011, while the cargo receivers in Dahej waited patiently for their coal. Or something happened to the cargo en route, and after that, it became a very brilliant insurance claim. But why does a ship take almost 40 days to come from Singapore to Mumbai, is the question which people should be asking, and also doing a quick check on what's really in those cargo-holds.
Incidentally, the value of the cargo would have been many times the value of the ship, especially in these depressed days. And the coal would find ready buyers anywhere in the world. But that's unfair to the seafarers who probably fought bad monsoon seas before making it to off Mumbai, too.
However, it is not unknown for ships to go elsewhere, offload cargo, fill holds with ballast water, and then go under. Shipping records are full of such cases.
For example, in the days when trade with a particular African country was "banned", ships would often load oil for, say, West Europe. Along the way, the cargo would be quietly unloaded at a port in that African country, and then the ship and ship-owners would go through all sorts of manipulations to close the voyage. In one glorious case, when a particular ship—on her last legs anyway—was going to be scuttled, the ship sent out a sinking signal and asked for help, and the rescuers found everybody dressed in formals with their suitcases neatly packed.
We are not saying that the RAK Carrier is an elaborate insurance scam. Far from it.
We have said it before, and we say it again—it requires a very simple notice to mariners issued by the DG Shipping in Mumbai addressed to all ships globally when they come anywhere near Indian waters—especially those calling Indian ports. All ships coming into Indian territorial waters must establish identity and purposes. All overage ships (those over 15 years old as per marine conventions) must in addition also provide full details of any and every possible issue including cargo, insurance cover, class and adherence to every possible aspect that makes her seaworthy.
Why would the DG Shipping not do it? This is unknown, but in their 'PAVITra WISDOM', maybe they will do it now?
1) Information on RAK CARRIER movements sourced from:
2) Information on possible insurance issues—sourced from the grapevine.
(PS: In addition, I just saw some TV clips of the sailors from this ship. They seem to be interestingly very calm and collected. In addition, it appears as though they had the time to save and get along stuff like their laptops and stereos as well as all their documents. This is something strange, the Indian authorities need to hold these seafarers and question them to find out what happened).