Airbags don’t even address the least of India’s road safety issues
There have been extensive media reports, recently, about cars, like the Datsun GO and Maruti Swift sold in India and other models like the VW Polo, in the past. Almost all of these were certified unsafe because they did not have airbags and, therefore, failed the crash tests conducted. Whether these reports have impacted sales or improved safety is another issue.
What this has resulted in for sure, though, is a diktat that, from October 2015 all cars will be fitted with at least two airbags. Seen in isolation, this is a commendable step, long overdue and cannot be faulted. It is also probably the easiest way out, by saddling the consumer with added costs, which may not work anyway, unless the basic habit of wearing seatbelts is inculcated.
An airbag that activates itself, if the driver or passenger in the seat is not wearing a seatbelt, is more dangerous than a gun fired at close range. An airbag that activates itself due to an inherent fault is even more dangerous. An airbag that does not activate itself when required lulls people into a false sense of security. And an airbag, activated or not, is an additional expense which needs to be factored in with the realisation that disconnecting an airbag is as simple as removing a fuse, in many cases.
However, to avoid missing the woods for the trees, the fact remains that many other safety-related issues on Indian roads remain unresolved. Here is a list of a few of them and notes on why they are not going to be addressed in a cogent manner in the near future:
1) The biggest danger to all stakeholders on Indian roads has to be the vast variety of ‘authorities’, from the ministry downwards, who are involved in the truckloads of documentation that only increases their income, both dry and wet, and ability to breed corruption, while totally destroying whatever little headway road safety legislation tries to make. I have been visiting regional transport offices (RTOs) all over the country from 1974 onwards, when I first turned 18, and can confidently say that corruption has outgrown the cost of living in the intervening years. This, to be truthful, is the biggest reason for lack of safety on our roads.
2) The second biggest danger to road-users has to be the flawed system of road design, engineering, construction and implementation all over India. Barring exceptions like the roads built by the Border Roads Organisation and some specific new roads, pretty much every other kilometre of roads, highways, bridges and tarmacs in India adds to worsening road safety to a point where it is increasingly safer to use trains or airplanes.
3) The third element in the issue of lack of road safety has to be the people out on the roads, who are supposed to be keeping an eye on issues impacting road safety. Instead of ensuring that roads are safer, they are increasingly busy in checking whether motor vehicles are carrying valid PUC (pollution under control) certificates or insurance certificates—issues that can easily be checked using modern technology. In 40 years of driving, for example, I have yet to be checked even once for whether or not the brakes in my motor vehicle are working.
4) The fourth important factor is the lack of equity on our roads. Some road-users, especially people from those segments of society who are supposed to govern the country and keep it safe for citizens, are of the opinion that they are above the laws pertaining to road safety and are, therefore, exempted from any form of adherence to laws on the road.
This is also the segment which is growing the fastest and also driving the biggest cars on our roads, as well as getting away with murder.
I do not expect any of these real reasons for lack of road safety to be addressed in the near future. What I do foresee, however, is that the ‘system’, as we know it, will come down even harder on the middle-class; a whole new bunch of documents will need to be carried and displayed at every small barrier in town.
Roads in India will only be safer when they become an electoral issue impacting the swing. We are some distance away from that, for now.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)
The accused were booked following an order from the Sessions Court order which directed the ACB to probe the alleged irregularities in Slum Rehabilitation Authority -SRA project in suburban Bandra
Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has filed a first information report (FIR) against principle secretaries of the state's housing and woman and child development departments, HDIL Group chairman and the company's ten directors in connection with alleged irregularities in Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) project in suburban Bandra.
The accused were booked following a Sessions Court order, which directed the ACB to probe the matter brought before it by a complainant.
The FIR was filed on Tuesday against Principle Secretary (Housing) Debashish Chakrabarty, Principal Secretary (Woman and Child Development) Ujjwal Uke, HDIL Group Chairman and the company's 10 directors.
They have been charged under relevant IPC sections including 166 (public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person), 167 (public servant framing incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security, will, etc), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and sections pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act.
According to ACB's Assistant Police Commissioner Rajesh Bagalkote, the complainant owned a commercial space at the Motilal Nehru Nagar in suburban Bandra.
The complainant alleged that the area had been redeveloped under SRA scheme by real estate and construction company HDIL in 2005-2006, but he was not allotted a shop after he was deliberately declared ineligible, police said.
"However, those who are ineligible were provided shops in the redeveloped area. It was also discovered that more than allotted area had been used for the redevelopment project. All these illegal activities were carried out allegedly in connivance with government officials, including Chakrabarty and Uke, who were executive officers in SRA. Various documents were allegedly forged for the purpose," Bagalkote said.
The victim approached the court following which Special Sessions Judge SV Ranpise ordered ACB to probe the complaint and take appropriate action against the persons concerned.
Following the court order, the FIR was registered against Chakrabarty, Uke, HDIL's Wadhwan, the then additional collector in suburbs, office-bearers of Motilal Nehru Nagar Cooperative Housing Society and 10 directors of the HDIL for their alleged role in the irregularities in allotment of the space.
Company's "interest free" financing hides important information from consumers
Bob’s Discount Furniture needs to come clean about the “interest free” financing it heavily promotes to consumers before inviting them in commercials to “come on down.”
Consumers are being set up to fail with minimum monthly payments that fall short of paying off the purchase in time and subsequent hidden interest charges that are not readily disclosed in the company’s advertising of its so-called “gimmick-free” financing, a TINA.org investigation has found.
TINA.org has called on state officials to take action against these deceptive practices and the Department of Consumer Protection confirmed it has opened an investigation.
Chief among our findings:
Bob’s fails to adequately disclose to consumers the need to make more than the minimum payment appearing on their monthly statements to pay off the balance in full within the required time period in order to avoid interest charges.
Bob’s does not make clear to consumers that the interest will be back-charged from the date of purchase if they don’t pay off their entire balance in time.
A high interest rate (27.99 percent) that’s not readily apparent.
TINA.org first started investigating Bob’s financing last year after a reader alerted us to her experience with hidden interest charges. Since then, TINA.org has received several more complaints about the company’s 6- and 12-month payment plans that are offered through Wells Fargo.
In response, TINA.org contacted Bob’s again, but the Connecticut-based company, which has 58 stores in 11 states from Maine to Virginia, failed to take adequate measures to respond to readers’ complaints that they had been left with a large bill for interest they never expected to have to pay.
When contacting Bob’s about the issue this fall, John Sullivan, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the company, told TINA.org that all consumers at the point of purchase receive a flier that discloses the stipulation regarding the back-charged interest.
But our own first-hand research at three separate Bob’s stores found that none of the staff handed out any such fliers.
The findings and Bob’s insufficient response led TINA.org to file a complaint with Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein requesting the state take action to end the company’s deceptive practices.
‘I would have paid in cash’
One Bob’s customer, Amalio Salerno, who contacted TINA.org in November, said he was billed more than $600 in back-charged interest 12 months after a salesperson in the company’s Newington store persuaded him to sign up for the financing plan.
Salerno said he was prepared to pay in cash for the furniture but the sales representative talked him into signing up for the monthly payment plan.
“They talked me into the financing crap,” Salerno said. “If they would have said nothing about the financing, I would have paid in cash.”
He said his unpaid balance at the time he received the statement containing the surprising $600 interest charge was only about $200.
Salerno said there was no indication whatsoever that he’d be back-charged from the date he purchased a living room set, bed and mattress, much less at a 27.99 percent interest rate — a figure TINA.org also found to be hidden from consumers.
‘A gimmick in itself’
Salerno also said he didn’t realize until about his fifth monthly statement that the amount listed was just a minimum payment and not the full amount he needed to make to pay off the entire account in time to avoid being saddled with back-charged interest.
“That was a gimmick in itself,” Salerno said. “You think you pay the minimum and you’re all set. They told me I had 12 months to pay it off; they said nothing about a minimum payment.”
After he realized the minimum payments wouldn’t pay off the purchase, Salerno said he increased his monthly payment and planned to pay off the balance in time. But the statement with the back-charged interest arrived less than 12 months after he received his first statement last December, Salerno said.
Salerno’s experience was echoed by several other customers who contacted TINA.org.
Salerno said Bob’s and Wells Fargo eventually agreed to split the $600 interest charge but only after he threatened to bring the issue to the attorney general.
Inside the showroom
This fall, TINA.org reporters visited three Bob’s stores in Connecticut to investigate how the company’s interest-free financing was presented to consumers. Our investigation corroborated consumer complaints that important terms and conditions of the financing were not adequately disclosed at the point of purchase.
In fact, there were large variations from store to store about the plans. The number, type and placement of signs about the plan differed from store to store and none readily revealed all the terms.
In Bob’s Orange store, there were no signs about the plan on the main floor other than a small photo of a piggy bank that said, “KEEP YOUR MONEY IN YOUR PIGGY BANK…
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BOB’S INTEREST FREE FINANCE,” with no explanation of what that entailed.
In the Niantic store, sales representatives wore tags on their lapels asking consumers to inquire about the gimmick-free financing plans, thus leaving it to the staff to adequately explain the details of the plans if consumers did inquire.
But a saleswoman in Orange who brought up financing as soon as TINA.org staff stepped in the store and started looking at furniture, said that not all sales representatives fill their customers in on all the details.
And salespeople at all three stores acknowledged the possibility that customers could be deceived. “You got to pay it out by 12 months or that’s how they get you,” a salesperson at the Bob’s in Niantic told TINA.org reporters who posed as customers.
Bonnie Patten, executive director of TINA.org, called on state officials to take action.
“It is completely deceptive for Bob’s to market its financing as gimmick- and interest-free without simultaneously explaining to customers all the ways in which consumers can be saddled with 28 percent interest from the time of purchase,” Patten said.