Banking
Banks must follow rules for insurance policy: unions
Unions in the banking sector have cautioned their members to follow procedures while enrolling members under the government insurance schemes to be launched on May 9, said union officials.
 
Officials at some branches of nationalised banks told IANS that they were being pressured by the management to enrol account holders under the insurance schemes prior to its launch so as to show impressive numbers to the powers that be.
 
"Our top management has directed lower level officials to enrol customers under the insurance scheme by any means. So employees are filling up the forms in the names of customers," an official of a nationalised bank told IANS preferring anonymity for himself and his bank.
 
He said it is not known how the bank would proceed further on the issue.
 
"Whether the bank would debit the customer account's Rs.12 (for personal accident policy) and reverse the same if he objects to the debit is not known," he said.
 
The scheme clearly stipulates that express consent of the account holder is a must before enrolling him/her under the policy.
 
"In most branches the walk-in customer will be around 100-150 a day. But there are branches that claim collection of enrolment forms of around 300 in a day. This in normal course of business is not possible," he said.
 
"To satisfy myself, I had called around 150 customers to check out their views on their enrolment. While they agreed over phone and promised to come to the branch and sign the necessary papers the very next day, only one turned up as promised," he explained.
 
Thomas Franco, general secretary of the SBI Officer's Association, told IANS: "We are aware of the issue. The insurance scheme is good but the proper procedure is not being followed. We have asked our members to see the forms are duly filled so that no problem arises at a later date."
 
He said employees have been advised to get the Aadhar card details or any other proof with regards to the nominees.
 
As per the insurance scheme framework, an account holder aged between 18-70 would be provided a personal accident insurance cover (death, total disability) for Rs.200,000.
 
As a part of the enrolment form, an account holder also authorises the bank to debit his/her account each year by Rs.12 till contrary instruction is given.
 
The problem for the bankers would be high when there is a claim while the proposal form was not signed by the bank account holder.
 
"Going by the scheme of things, this may turn out to be a scam. There is no hurry in enrolling account holders. Banks can do this at their own pace rather than satisfying the egos of the powers that be," C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association (AIEBA), told IANS.
 
"In the name of people schemes, the banking industry has become an extension counter of the government. While talking of giving autonomy for banks, the government is pushing its programmes through the banks," he said.
 
"The scheme is a good one. It will increase insurance penetration. But due to the pressure from the management, it may actually end up in a mess giving a bad name to the government," one banker warned.

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Government sets up panel on minimum alternate tax
The government on Friday set up a high-level committee on minimum alternate tax (MAT) on foreign institutional investors (FIIs), following the passing of the Finance Bill, 2015-16, in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
 
Replying to the debate on the bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a high-level committee for looking into the controversial issue of levy of MAT on FIIs.
 
"I have received a large number of representations on MAT applicable to FIIs as well as a few other tax issues, which are essentially legacy issues, we have decided to refer to a committee headed by Justice A.P. Shah, the chairman of the Law Commission," Jaitley said.
 
"Recently, the affected parties moved the Supreme Court for an early hearing. On behalf of the government, it was conveyed to the court that the government had no objection to an early hearing."
 
"And we are also keen on a final settlement of the issue. It is expected that the Supreme Court will fix an early hearing," the finance minister added.
 
Jaitley had announced exempting FIIs from paying MAT on the capital gains earned by them, but soon after the Income tax department sent notices to at least 90 foreign portfolio investors (FPIs).
 
He has assured foreign investors that a very simplified income tax return form will soon replace the MAT.
 
With the uncertainty created by MAT, foreign investors sold around $630 million in Indian shares and bonds on Wednesday, marking the biggest single-day sales since January 2014.
 
As per preliminary depositary data, it was the biggest single day sell-off since foreign investors sold around a net $877 million on January 27, 2014, when emerging markets suffered from withdrawals sparked by fears of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates.
 
Shares and bonds have wiped out entire gains for the year over the past few weeks, with the Nifty down 11 percent since hitting a record high on March 4.
 
According to depository data last week, FIIs are set to break an 11-month streak of net inflows into the Indian debt market, having turned net sellers in April for the first time since April 2014.
 
Net outflows till April 27 have been Rs.817 crore - in the wake of recent tax notices demanding tax at 20 percent on interest income, as opposed to five percent without minimum alternate tax.
 
"I am considering a high-level committee to explore what can be done to resolve the past and move beyond it in a way that would provide real predictability and certainty to investors," Jaitley wrote last month in an opinion piece in the Financial Times.

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Feel sleepy at work? Blame it on depression, obesity
If you feel tired and drowsy the whole day even after a good night's sleep, it could be due to obesity and depression, a new research has found.
 
Obesity and depression -- not only lack of sleep -- are underlying causes for regular drowsiness, the findings showed.
 
"Obesity and weight gain predicted who was going to have daytime sleepiness," said Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine in the US.
 
"Moreover, weight loss predicted who was going to stop experiencing daytime sleepiness, reinforcing the causal relationship," Fernandez-Mendoza noted.
 
The association between body mass index and sleepiness was independent of sleep duration, meaning obese people may be tired during the day, no matter how much they sleep at night.
 
The primary underlying mechanism that makes obese people feel overly tired is likely low-grade chronic inflammation. Fat cells, particularly from abdominal fat, produce immune compounds called cytokines that promote sleepiness, among other effects.
 
The researchers measured self-reporting of excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) at baseline and again an average of 7.5 years later in 1,395 men and women.
 
Depressed individuals in the study also had high incidence of EDS. Physiologic sleep disturbances, including taking longer to fall asleep and waking up in the middle of the night, explained their daytime drowsiness.
 
Feeling overly tired during the day can reduce job productivity and increase errors and absenteeism and may lead to more serious issues like automobile accidents.
 
These findings could lead to more personalized sleep medicine for those with EDS.
 
The researchers published their findings in the journal Sleep.

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