“We are totally shocked at the behaviour of HSBC in its commercial dealings with a customer, who once happened to be its own employee,” the New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said wile giving the order
A Delhi-based consumer forum has imposed a fine of Rs5.5 lakh on banking major Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) for unfair trade practice of keeping its customer’s already settled loan account outstanding and charging interest from him.
The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum pulled up the bank saying that HSBC’s act was not only “motivated by commercial gains”, but also by a “malicious mind” to “settle scores” with the complainant, who was a former employee, for challenging his termination in a labour court.
“In our considered view, opposite party (HSBC) has not only been motivated for its commercial gains, but also by a malafide malicious mind to settle scores of litigation in labour court over his challenge of termination,” a bench presided by CK Chaturvedi said.
“We are totally shocked at the behaviour of HSBC in its commercial dealings with a customer, who once happened to be its own employee. Such attempts in unfair trade practices should be dealt with iron hands...
“We hold it guilty of atrociously and maliciously deficient in services to complainant and tormenting the complainant for reasons foreign to commercial dealings,” Chaturvedi said.
The forum directed the bank to refund the amount it had charged from Delhi resident Naduthodi Janardanan as interest by keeping his loan account open from 2001 to 2008 and also ordered HSBC to pay him Rs5.5 lakh as compensation and cost of litigation for the harassment caused to him.
In his complaint, Janardanan had alleged that HSBC kept his loan account outstanding despite having settled it after leaving the bank's employment.
Janardanan had also alleged that he was being targeted in this manner as he had challenged his termination in a labour court.
HSBC in its defence had refuted the allegations and contended that the complainant had not settled his loan and had instructed them to deduct payment towards it from his accounts with the bank.
The forum rejected the contention saying the bank acted “contrary to the instructions” of Janardanan.
The uproar over the IRS scandal last week reinforces the point that much of the heat is just the latest expression of Washington cynicism and its consequences -- that the talk show hosts and their fellow travellers, and the representatives and senators and officials in the executive branch, aren't really looking for answers here. They're just putting on a show
ProPublica’s job is to report the news rather than to make news ourselves, but sometimes we find an article of ours to be itself a subject of public debate. Last week was such a time, when two articles we had published back in December and January became the subject of significant attention in light of the uproar over Internal Revenue Service (IRS) oversight of the process for granting tax exemption to so-called “social welfare” groups under section 501(c)(4). We triggered that attention, with a third article we published on May 13, setting out everything we knew about the circumstances of our previous stories.
Largely ignored in a public outcry last week—radio rants, Twitter storms, congressional, presidential and prosecutorial posturing-- were the following:
Our pieces in December and January raised very serious questions about whether six different “dark money” political groups seeking tax exemption had made false statements on their applications. Those applications are signed under penalty of perjury . If any false statements were made knowingly, the groups— including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS —may have committed a crime. There is no indication, however, that either the IRS or the Department of Justice has done anything since January to investigate whether such crimes were indeed committed. The groups in question happen all to be conservative. Not one congressional Republican has, to my knowledge, expressed any concern about this possible criminality.
Even more remarkably, leading public figures have asserted as fact that they know how we came to receive nine documents in the mail—statements that appear to have little basis (and in some cases, no basis at all).
The former acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue said on May 17 that the agency’s inspector general had found that the disclosure to us was “inadvertent”—we had requested the applications, but they should not have been sent to us before they were approved. The IRS followed later the same day with a statement to the same effect—but then refused to answer questions about who had made the mistake, and why they should be believed when they denied having acted intentionally (and thus likely denied committing a crime).
What really seems to have happened at the IRS in Cincinnati, across the last three presidencies (a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat), and across two turns of the partisan screw in the House of Representatives, from Republicans to Democrats to Republicans again, is that the agency has been starved of resources, and badly mismanaged.
But while it took the IRS four long days to tell people about their conclusion of “inadvertence” and the same four days for ProPublica to report out the dysfunction , people like Rush Limbaugh, and their followers and fellow travelers on Twitter and in the fringe press, rushed headlong to judgment. Here’s what Limbaugh said about the mid-level federal employees at the IRS in Cincinnati on Tuesday: “The people at these government agencies have been stocked with leftists for decades now, and they’re all activists.” What evidence did he offer for this? None. How could he know that someone in a large bureaucracy, shuffling thousands of pieces of paper, didn’t make a mistake? He couldn’t, and he didn’t.
Well, you might say, that’s Limbaugh. But it wasn’t just Limbaugh. Stephen Moore writes for the Wall Street Journal (where I worked for 15 years, and where Mr. Rove also writes). Yet, he called the documents we were sent “ illegally leaked .” He knew nothing more than Limbaugh. “What is the motivation,” Moore asked, “for leaking these documents? The answer is that the left is trying to dry up the money of tea party and conservative groups by intimidating donors.” He noted that another group, in another case, had its donor list released. But in our case, there were no donor lists, and we had redacted the limited financial information on the forms we published. Moreover, these applications are completed with the expectation that they’ll eventually be made public—because they are when they are approved. Never mind all that; presumably no need to mention it.
And what of the investigators? Congressional committees leapt into action. The inspector general for the IRS had apparently already investigated. The President demanded another investigation; the Department of Justice said it had commenced a criminal inquiry.
Knowing that such is the way in Washington, we waited at ProPublica for someone to send us a subpoena, show up on our doorstep, or maybe just call. Nothing. Nothing since December 13, when we told the IRS we had these documents they weren’t supposed to have sent us—or since the next day, when we published that fact. Nothing before the inspector general reached his conclusion, nothing before the congressional hearings started televising their demands for answers and their righteous indignation, nothing since.
In point of fact, the investigators would have found out that we have nothing of value to them. But the fact that they didn’t even ask tells you a lot. And it reinforces the point that much of the heat generated last week on this subject is just the latest expression of Washington cynicism and its consequences—that the talk show hosts and their fellow travellers, and the representatives and senators and officials in the executive branch, aren’t really looking for answers here. They are just putting on a show.
By 2017, the demand for coal will reach a staggering 980 million tonnes whereas the supplies are expected to touch not more than 795 MT. There is, therefore, the urgent need to handle the issue in a war footing rather than admitting that there are delays due to factors of our own making—such as state government, ministerial and environmental clearances and so on
According to IA Khan, Planning Commission's Advisor on Energy, India is likely to have a shortage of 200 million tonnes (MT) of coal by the 12th Plan period, unless efforts are made to increase the indigenous production.
By 2017, the demand for coal will reach a staggering 980 MT whereas the supplies are expected to touch not more than 795 MT. We are overlooking one important aspect of growing affluence in the country which generates the demand for hundreds of consumer items that need power to use them.
There is, therefore, the urgent need to handle the issue in a war footing rather than admitting that there are delays due to factors of our own making—such as state government, ministerial and environmental clearances and so on. Land acquisition problems created by vested interests have also added to the growing number of problems that have retarded progress in this area.
First of all coal production is under the government monopoly in the form of Coal India. The ministry of coal wants to maintain its status and has issues with ministry of power and railways. The Indian Railways, for example, is unable to make available rakes, remove mined coal from pitheads, has problems with laying new rail lines and has inordinate delays in building “dedicated rail corridors”. The construction and the speed in doing all these activities leave much to be desired.
Coal India, for example, has subsidiaries that mine the coal at various locations. Since it has a great number of such units, for a preliminary study, let us take a look at Eastern Coalfields (ECL), formed in 1975, which inherited all the private sector coal mines of Raniganj coalfields, and mines non-coking coal.
According to its website, it operates 24 open cast mines while 81 are underground, employing 78,005 people including 7,094 women in its operations. Its proven coal reserves are 12 billion tonnes (BT) in West Bengal and 4 BT in Jharkhand, while the estimated reserves are at 47 BT. There is enough coal to meet our increasing demands.
While the current production is 30 MT (in the 2011-12 period), at the time of nationalization of Raniganj coalfields, the production was 21 MT in 1977.
This unit is under the able, technically qualified mining engineer Rakesh Sinha, its current CMD, who had joined Coal India in 1977, held various positions, before being ultimately transferred to Eastern Coalfields in 1989 and was appointed CMD in 2010.
Statistical data shows the progress that ECL has made under his leadership, no doubt, mentored by the holding company, Coal India, whose dynamic chairman S Narasing
Rao has taken keen interest in its progress.
ECL, like other subsidiaries of Coal India, knows that despite the good work put in by it, the company is unable to make great strides in the last few years simply because:
a) it is awaiting forestry clearance for more than five years
b) the demand expectations from project-affected persons have considerably increased.
Other issues, such as abandoning uneconomic mines, introduction of mechanized loading equipments, use of more modern and sophisticated equipments where possible, reduction in overall costs and improvements in safe mining techniques including training programmes are being done in a phased manner.
But what is the root cause for inordinate delays in the clearance from the ministry of environment and forests? Why should this be pending for five years? Moneylife has raised this issue earlier also and has repeatedly recommended the imperative need to have tripartite meetings of the ministries concerned to resolve the issues.
Simply passing the buck by constituting committees is not getting us anywhere.
The government must give an ultimatum to all concerned to resolve the issues or simply issue an ordinance and make it binding to put a stop to these inexcusable delays.
One other thought that has often crossed our minds. Instead of government going ahead with disinvestment programmes, why not simply de-nationalize these companies and let them run as profit oriented centres? Or, even before such a radical move is thought of, why not make these subsidiaries totally independent companies and given them a time-frame of a maximum of three years to achieve set goals of production?
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)