Branch managers find it easy to forward customer grievances to the nodal officer instead of addressing it at their level due to stiff internal auditing procedures. This is how a grievance becomes complaint, says Ashok Rawat, Hon Secretary of the All-India Bank Depositors' Association (Mumbai). Mr Rawat was one of the members of the Damodaran Committee appointed by the RBI to look into customer services in banks
Moneylife (ML): The 2006 Banking ombudsman scheme that was there in 2002 has now been replaced. Has the new scheme been effectively placed?
Ashok Rawat (AR): To some extent it has. It has widened the scheme of the compliance and it also gives an opportunity to the aggrieved bank customer to make an appeal to the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Thus, making an appeal to the deputy governor on the Ombudsman’s order is a positive step taken. The scheme is now comparatively cheaper than the earlier and is not as costly as the schemes that are there in other sectors.
One drawback is that majority of the Ombudsmen appointed are former bank officials. So there is a suspicion on to whether they would act neutrally. But at the same time, since banking is a special financial business, outsiders may not know the intricacies involved and the grievance a customer can have due to deficiency in the services. Bank officers, even retired-ones, are aware about such issues. In addition, since they are retired, there are fewer chances for them being biased toward banks.
It is important to note that the appellate body on the Ombudsman’s order is the deputy governor. This therefore balances the function of the Ombudsman.
Ombudsmen in some states like Madhya Pradesh are playing a very positive role. They are actively involved in spreading awareness among the rural people, interacting with them and learning about their difficulties, which otherwise the banks are expected to do.
ML: Did the Damodaran Committee have any recommendations for the Ombudsman’s office?
AR: Yes, the Damodaran Committee suggested having an internal Ombudsman. So if the recommendations of the committee are accepted, which are under the consideration of the RBI, there could be an internal Ombudsman at the bank level. Here the bank would have a choice of having an Ombudsman either from the bank or from outside. The neutrality factor of the Ombudsman (if from the bank) can be raised, but here again the appellate body would be the external Ombudsman office. Hence if too many appeals are made to the Ombudsman, then the concerned bank can be questioned. I personally feel that the deputy governor would still remain as final appellate body. Thus, until the scheme is not implemented we cannot comment on how it would perform.
ML: You were also member of the Damodaran Committee. Did you have an opportunity to check the effectiveness of the working of these committees?
AR: There may be some genuine mistakes which a bank manager is willing to correct. At this level it is not really a complaint, it is just a grievance which may occur because of the mass scale operations in the banking sector. But if the bank manager does not correct it, it becomes a complaint and goes to the nodal officer. If the nodal officer, too, fails to act upon then it becomes a dispute and goes to the Ombudsman.
So the banks’ policy should be ‘no complaints’. If this is implemented, then many of the grievances would be resolved at the bank manager level itself. Therefore, the board of directors (BoD) of the bank should take a decision to this effect. This would drastically reduce number of complaints going to nodal officer and above. It would also give some quality time to the nodal officer as well as to Ombudsman to address remaining complaints that reach them.
ML: Banks often go on increasing service charges. Is it something to worry for the customer? What is the stand of the banking association on this?
AR: We first need to understand why these charges are imposed. In 1998, when the banking sector was liberalised, it was said that the banks would have freedom to levy charges for any service. Then came the Banking Codes and Standard Board of India (BCSBI), a self regulatory body for bankers. And the banks needed to disclose change in charges in advance to the body and to the customers.
So for each service the banks give and levy, charges are known much in advance. If a bank is technology-oriented and has less staff, it may charge less to a customer who does banking without interacting with its staff and vice versa. In short, bankers who provide more services and others who provide only the basic services would altogether have different structure of charges.
If a particular service is costing some amount, the customer should pay that much. Unfortunately costing of services is not done today. In 2005-2006 there was a working group on Reasonableness of Bank Services. It recommended that the BoD should look into the costing of the services and ensure that the charges are reasonable. This recommendation was accepted by the RBI and was communicated to banks through guidelines. That was before 4-5 years ago.
Today nobody does that costing. So even in nationalised banks the charges are levied by comparing with what the State Bank of India (SBI) is charging. This is not at all advisable.
Since these charges are informed in advance there should not be many complaints. It should be noted that banks, which claim to provide a basket of services and fail to do so, also compensates for it. This should be one of the criteria a customer should take into consideration before choosing a bank.
ML: Are you satisfied with the working of the RBI Ombudsman? Do you recommend any changes?
AR: Yes, I think there is a need to…
a) widen the scope of functioning,
b) the BoD of banks should create awareness among its customers and a policy decision should be made to resolve the grievances at the branch office itself,
c) today for a customer it is very difficult to choose a bank on two grounds—one he is not aware of the costing and two only the RBI knows how secure a bank is. The customers do not know whether their savings are safe or not. So this secrecy needs to questioned,
d) the media should give more publicity on steps that an aggrieved customer should take before going to the Ombudsman. We have noticed that on many occasions, the nodal officer at the bank plays a very responsible role. This is because he knows that if too many complaints reach to the Ombudsman, the bank may be questioned.
However, what is deterrent and what has not come out even in the Damodaran Committee report is that there are internal auditors in each bank wherein some banks say that if there is some compensation given to the customer, the branch manager will have to justify it. The justification is because if the branch manager compensates the customer, it would reduce the bank’s profit. This is a deterrent for branch managers while dealing with grievances.
In such cases, the branch managers find it easy to forward complaints to the nodal officer instead of addressing it at their level. This is how a grievance becomes a complaint. So it is recommended that the branch manager should be given the responsibility to deal with it at the branch level itself.
Time has come to go back to our ancient methods of healing the sick and not curing his/her pathology. The wellness model needs to be popularised among the younger generation who are unfortunately sold to the western methods of junk food, chemicals-loaded soft drinks and some stimulants, in addition
“A fly may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still -- Dr Samuel Johnson
Healthcare, as it is called and advertised, is, in fact, an industry based on human misery and/or sickness. No industry wants its business to go down in the interest of its stake holders. Naturally, the establishment does not want sickness to disappear! Therefore, the so called healthcare has become a ‘health scare’ industry to get more business. Fear is the key to most, if not all, illnesses. By creating fear in the minds of the people, the industry is disease mongering. The daily media announcement of this or that new epidemic or disease has increased lately. That has very little scientific basis. Most of the data so advertised comes from sexed up and doctored data from reductionist cross sectional, epidemiological studies. The whole field is based on statistics. Epidemiologists are good at producing epidemics at any time based on industry's needs.
Why are we where we are today?
The history of the so called modern medicine is full of contradictions at every age. It all started as sorcery, mumbo-jumbo, and witch craft five thousand years ago on the banks of the River Nile. Then it travelled to Arabia which had at that time a more evolved and mature healing system from which modern medicine of those days got lots of benefit; Avicenna, or Ibn Siena, was the leader of that area who influenced modern medicine greatly. Then it came to Greece where it stayed for a long time. Asclepiads were very popular in Greece, especially around the Isle of Cos. It was in Greece that modern medicine of today had its influence from Indian Ayurveda, a system that was in vogue in India for “times out of mind” and was based on a very sound holistic scientific base, coming from the Vedic wisdom, thanks to the books and scholars brought to Alexandria by the returning Army of Alexander the Great.
Around the twelfth century, this system was accepted by the European Universities of those days as “science”. That is when modern medicine started to ride piggyback on the reductionist sciences of physics, chemistry and biology. The leading centre of excellence, the Mecca of medicine, was Vienna those days. The first ever textbook of modern medicine was written by Charles Schaarscmdist, a brilliant young Russian from Volga Valley, who excelled in his studies in Vienna to become a professor there at a very young age of twenty six. His book gives the best management methods for most of the major illnesses thus: which looks very modern even today, viz. 1) change of mode of living, 2) tranquillity of mind, and 3) drugs rarely, if ever. What a beautiful advice which would fit any good health care system even today!
The Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons came on the scene around the eighteenth century and are at the forefront of medicine and its research in the UK. The story on the other side of the Atlantic is more dramatic. Up until the beginning of the twentieth century there were many effective systems of medicine in practice. In fact, radioaestheisa, herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, magnet therapy, and chiropractic were all very popular along with the so called modern medicine. It was in the year 1899 that DP Palmer showed chiropractic to be based on sound science. By the end of the nineteenth century Americans discovered oil and paper money. Greed follows money everywhere. Three big oil companies came up both in New Jersey and Texas-Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan’s. They were competitors to start with but soon realised that forming a cartel would give them better leverage. Incidentally, they realised that the naphtha base has many chemicals that could be used as drugs!
They also realised that if they could control medical education in the USA they could hit it big and destroy all other systems prevalent then. They convinced the government to form a one-man commission to study medical education. Cunningly they got their own chela, Abraham Flexner, appointed as that one-man commission. In less than nine months Mr Flexner was able to inspect all the 144 odd medical schools! He declared that only those schools funded by the above cartel and doing research on pharmaceutical chemicals were scientific and the rest needed to be closed down, thus reducing the total number to about 47. This is the scientific basis of modern medicine even to this day! This brought down the doctor population also significantly thus enabling them to raise their fees and also be the tools in the hands of the cartel to further the latter's agenda. Usually the UK follows the American model these days, especially in medicine, although most of the original wisdom in western medicine came from Europe. This model did not succeed fully in the UK as the Royal Family did not agree to ban homeopathy as they all depended on that system. Homeopathy survived in Britain but is getting bad press these days with paid doctors bashing the system regularly with full page so called scientific arguments to demolish that wonderful system!
Christopher Toby was an influential senator at that time. His son Toby Jr came down with a peculiar cancer and the mainline (scientific) medical world declared him as almost dead giving up all hopes. Toby Jr would not take it lying down. He sought alternate systems and got completely cured. Senator Christopher Toby smelt a rat. He got the government to have a commission to see if alternate methods of medical care, prevalent in America up to the beginning of the twentieth century, were really bad or good. The commission was headed by Benedict Fitzgerald. The latter, after studying the system very thoroughly, wrote a very damning report showing that there is, in fact, a hidden conspiracy to kill the effective alternate systems by the above mentioned cartel to sell their chemicals!
The new science of medicine
Matter and energy being shown as two faces of the same coin, the human body becomes the human mind as an illusion. Human beings are being run by the universal consciousness through their individual consciousness, the mind. Reductionism, organ based specialisation, and the RCT based clinical drug trials lose their value with this new awareness. Whole Person Healing (WPH) is the future. Even the conventional western view is slowly but, firmly, veering round to that line of thinking. Sir Michel Rawlins, the present chief of NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence in the UK, recently opined that the RCTs, long considered to be the benchmark of good research, had been put on an undeservedly high pedestal. Further work in four leading Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Hamburg and Munich did show that the so called ‘Placebo Effect’ is more important than the drug given for any illness thus showing that the mind is the supreme commander in illness care. Placebo Effect has also been scientifically proven using fMRI to be due to the release of very powerful opiates from the forebrain.
Human cells, of which there are fifty trillion in all, are individuals capable of independent life on their own. Although they look different morphologically they all work identically in every organ. Organs based disease models lose their value in this background. The real human brain is in the cell membrane, called MemBrain by the leading cell biologist, Bruce Lipton, which is our connection with the external world or the universal consciousness. Even death and rebirth could be now scientifically explained! Our genome has only 25 thousand odd genes but our meta-genome has more than several trillion genes most of which belong to the trillions of germs that have come to stay with us over the millions of years that we lived as single cell organisms. The metagenome is unlikely to be fully cracked even if all the world laboratories work in that direction for the next one century!
Darwin’s theory seems to have been overtaken by Lamarck. We are the children of our environment rather than of our genes. There is no survival of the fittest. Life goes on only by co-operation and not by competition. In short, every illness seems to be based on the human mind, hereinafter called body mind, as there is no distinction between the two anyway! Even this world has been described by a John’s Hopkins physicist, Richard Conn Henry, as “immaterial-mental and spiritual”. For the novice there is a nice, simple book which gives the details of this new biology by Nobel Laureate, Albert-Szent Gyorgi—Sub molecular Biology. The main line hard core biologists think that their erstwhile genius of a teacher has gone nuts to write this book! That is the influence of the sickness industry which seems to have hit gold with genetic engineering and stem cell work etc although the patients as recipients of their efforts fail to get any benefit at the end of the day.
What is the future?
The new science of biology and medicine makes it easier for patients to have less expensive but more effective healing methods. The conventional disease model is outdated. We will have to go in for whole person healing. There have been attempts to authenticate cheaper healing methods using hard scientific yard sticks. Our group, The World Academy of Authentic Healing Sciences, is in the forefront in this area. We have a group of fifteen world-class scientists helping us to authenticate the healing methods even in other alternate systems of medicine. Future is for an integrated system which retains some of the corrective surgical methods from modern medicine along with selected emergency care methods. Preserving the health of the well should be the backbone of the future system. That was the core of Ayurveda—Swasthashya swaastha rakshitham—preserve the health of the well using immune boosters, the leading Light here is the sunlight itself. Now that we know that individual cells, which work identically are at the root of our illness and/or wellness we could take advantage of energy, known and/or occult to correct the defects. Our group has succeeded in getting any cell (tissue) damage corrected by using electromagnetic energy of a particular frequency with remarkable success. Other groups elsewhere are also working with many other simple, inexpensive methods to heal the sick. Of course, the multi trillion dollar sickness industry will try and sabotage the efforts for their survival. We have to work hard to show them how they could still do business in the new future healing arena by modifying their thinking and their dubious methods.
As these methods have come after the so-called modern medicine, I prefer to call the future healing methods as ‘Meta-medicine’, on the lines of meta-physics. Time has come to go back to our ancient methods of healing the sick and not curing his/her pathology. We have come one full circle. The wellness model needs to be popularised among the younger generation who are unfortunately sold to the western methods of junk food, chemicals loaded soft drinks and some stimulants in addition. This needs deschooling the whole society as they are, at the moment, oblivious to their surroundings that are being completely vitiated by vested interests for personal benefits.
Food is one’s medicine and medicine is one’s food is an old but, true adage. Indian food habits have been much healthier, certainly for Indians, but also for others. The agricultural methods need to be indigenised using organic farming. Drinking water and sanitation in our villages and city slums will have to be specially strengthened. The future healthcare system should be inclusive, taking even our poorest of the poor along with us. Today modern medicine could hardly reach less than 1% of the population. Medical education needs to have major radical surgery to make it need based for our country and relevant to our needs. Medical schools should lay stress on the scientifically authenticated healing methods of other systems as much as we do of western medicine.
Share our similarities, celebrate our differences—M Scott Peck
(Professor Dr BM Hegde was awarded a Padma Bhushan in 2010. Prof Dr Hegde has a string of degrees to his credit like MD, PhD, FRCP (Lond, Edin, Glasg, & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, Chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected])
With food inflation declining well below 1%, to the lowest level since April 2006, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “...fiscal year-end headline inflation around 6%... But it cannot be lower than 6% because inflationary pressure was higher in weeks before”
New Delhi: With food inflation declining well below 1%, to the lowest level since April 2006, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the overall inflation would drop to 6% by March end, reports PTI.
“If this trend continues then you will have (fiscal) year-end (headline) inflation around 6%... But it can not be lower than 6% because inflationary pressure was higher in weeks before,” Mr Mukherjee told reporters here.
His comments followed the latest data from the government that showed food inflation at 0.42% as on 17th December, the lowest in almost six years.
“If you confirm for longer period, the fall is sharp,” Mr Mukherjee said, while pointing to the data on rise in prices of food items.
Food inflation numbers have moderated every week since early November when it stood at double-digits.
The finance minister’s projection of 6% inflation by year-end is well below the 7% forecast made by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Headline inflation, which also factors in manufactured items, besides food and fuel, has been above 9% mark since December last year. It stood at 9.11% in November and RBI has projected it to fall to 7% by March 2012.
RBI has hiked interest rates 13 times since March 2010 to tame demand and curb inflation. At its Mid-Quarter Policy Review earlier this month, the RBI stopped further hikes and hinted that the rate may be cut in case inflation moderates.