Citizens' Issues
Don't burden discoms with free or cheaper electricity, says Scindia

If state government is not able to compensate for some free power given to one section, they ask the discoms to hike the tariff for another segment to compensate for the subsidy burden, says the minister

Union power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has lambasted at state government who are doling out free or cheaper electricity and asked them to bear the cost of such subsidies instead of burdening power distribution companies (discoms).


“I have no problem if a State Government wants to give subsidy, or even free power," Schindia said, adding that "free power must be given not on the balance sheet of the discom but on the balance sheet of the state government”.


While Scindia did not specifically name any state, the Governments have announced plans for or are already providing electricity free of cost or at lower rates to certain sections of the society, such as farmers.


“The states say they will give free power, but the losses suffered by the discoms are not bridged from the State government’s coffers and in the end it is the discom that suffers. This is the problem.”


The Minister’s comments come at a time when financial position of most of the discoms is in bad shape and the Centre’s Rs1.9 lakh crore debt restructuring package for these entities is facing roadblocks due to certain reservations expressed by some states.


Pay to prescribe? Two dozen doctors named in Novartis kickback case

The drug maker denies wrongdoing, but the Justice Department and a whistleblower say Novartis used cash and meals to get doctors to prescribe its drugs

On Jan. 23, 2008, the pharmaceutical company Novartis threw a party at a restaurant on Long Island. The party, which cost $1,250, was ostensibly for doctors to learn about cardiovascular drugs made by the company, with Novartis sales representatives present as well.

But no doctors ever came, according to a whistleblower lawsuit against Novartis that was unsealed last week. Instead, nine sales reps ran up the tab, and the company wrote an honorarium check to Dr. Robert Nissan, a Long Island family practitioner who wasn’t present, the lawsuit alleges.

The party, the lawsuit maintains, was one of “countless” events held by Novartis over a decade that were designed to direct kickbacks — cash, meals and favors to relatives — to doctors who prescribed the company’s drugs.

Last week, the Department of Justice joined the whistleblower lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2011 by Oswald Bilotta, a former Novartis sales representative on Long Island. “Novartis corrupted the prescription drug dispensing process with multi-million dollar ‘incentive programs’ that targeted doctors who, in exchange for illegal kickbacks, steered patients toward its drugs,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

Novartis has disputed the government’s allegations of wrongdoing; Nissan did not return several requests for comment.

Whether such payments by drug companies to physicians are kickbacks or a legitimate marketing and educational practice is a recurring controversy — as ProPublica has extensively reported. Our Dollars for Docs database [3] tracks $2 billion in payments to doctors from 15 drug companies, including Novartis. All but one have settled government lawsuits [4] alleging improper marketing practices.

A number of the doctors named in the Novartis case have received substantial sums since 2009, Dollars for Docs shows, including one physician who was paid more than $150,000 combined from six different drug companies.

Historically, the doctors cited in cases alleging improper marketing have not faced consequences. A ProPublica investigation in 2011 found that none of more than 75 doctors named in lawsuits since 2008 had been sanctioned, despite charges of fraud or conduct that put patients at risk.

Generally, payments like those in Dollars for Docs made for speaking, consulting, travel, meals and other promotional purposes are legal.

Novartis has only publicly reported payments since 2010, when the company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid $422.5 million to settle charges it had illegally promoted Trileptal, an anti-seizure drug, and had paid kickbacks for prescribing its drugs. Aside from the misdemeanor plea, Novartis denied wrongdoing.

The latest lawsuit is one of two filed last week by the Justice Department against Novartis in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The company is also accused of paying kickbacks to pharmacies to promote Myfortic, a drug that suppresses the immune system. Novartis — which is bound by a corporate integrity agreement from its 2010 settlement — has disputed the allegations in both cases.

“We disagree with the way the government is characterizing our conduct in both of these matters and we stand behind our Compliance program,” Andre Wyss, the head of Novartis’s U.S. operations, said in a statement.

The whistleblower lawsuit alleges that Lotrel, a blood-pressure medication with sales of nearly $1.3 billion in 2006, “became a big seller for NOVARTIS because it paid physicians to write Lotrel prescriptions.” Novartis sales reps allegedly rewarded doctors with cash or gift checks and recruited them to attend “Clinical Learning Days” with honoraria of $250 to $500 a pop.

The meetings could be as short as half an hour, the whistleblower suit alleges, and doctors would be paid even if they didn’t show up. “So long as a physician was writing Lotrel prescriptions,” it says, “he or she could expect to be paid.”

Thousands of doctors took part in the alleged kickback scheme, according to the whistleblower lawsuit. But the case singles out 24 Long Island doctors and nurses, including Nissan. Nissan and two other physicians — Edward Condon, who specializes in internal medicine, and Mark Jagust, a family practitioner — “each received tens of thousands of dollars” from Novartis, according to the lawsuit.

Novartis also hired Ross Fishberger — the son of Kenneth Fishberger, another one of the doctors named — as a sales representative “in order to assure that Dr. Fishberger continued to prescribe” Lotrel and other Novartis drugs, according to the lawsuit. Novartis also allegedly employed Condon’s wife and daughter-in-law as sales reps.

Reached by ProPublica, Condon said he had no knowledge of the lawsuit, and hung up when asked more detailed questions. Jagust and the elder Fishberger did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Ross Fishberger declined to comment when reached by ProPublica.

Dollars for Docs shows that drug companies have made payments to many of the 24 doctors named in the whistleblower lawsuit since 2009.

Condon received at least $156,094 in meals, travel, speaking fees and other expenses from six companies, including Novartis. Another doctor, Michael Shanik of Smithtown, N.Y., was paid at least $97,754 from six companies, including more than $30,000 from Novartis.

Robert Mormando, an internal medicine specialist in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., who was also named in the case, told ProPublica he hadn’t taken any kickbacks and didn’t know of Long Island doctors who had.

“I would say it’s up for interpretation whether paying someone to be part of a speaking program” constitutes a kickback, he said. “I’m not aware of any doctors who have taken it to that level.”

Mormando said he had been a paid speaker for Novartis on three occasions a number of years ago and estimated he had earned between $1,200 and $1,500. According to Dollars for Docs, he was paid at least $9,958 from nine pharmaceutical companies since 2009, only $19 of which came from Novartis.

Another of the named doctors, Howard Hertz of Babylon, N.Y., also denied taking kickbacks in a brief interview. Hertz was paid at least $9,888 since 2010 from five drug companies, including $4,110 from Novartis, according to Dollars for Docs.

The main plank of the Justice Department’s lawsuit is the federal anti-kickback statute, which makes it illegal for drug companies to pay doctors with the intent of getting them to prescribe a particular drug or to reward them for doing so.

Kevin Outterson, a professor at Boston University Law School who has studied health care fraud, said it can difficult to prove intent in pursuing kickback cases.

“What it boils down to is they need smoking gun evidence,” he said.

But Outterson said he thought the Justice Department had a strong case. “It goes directly to the culture of wining and dining and having lavish entertainment and educational events in order to induce prescription writing,” he said.




Vineeth A Kumar

4 years ago

The figures shown here are applicable to an environment of monopoly patent regulated market.

For example, Lipitor, the blockbuster brand from Pfizer's R&D molecule Atorvastatin prescribed usually for a longer period of time to treat high cholesterol. This molecule comes under a group Statins, off course there are many statins in the monopolistic western markets, all of them computer manipulated designs (molecules). Hence, its not a brand war, but, a molecular war, sharing of knowledge goes along with the "the kickbacks". To offset the cost of R&D and marketing expenses, inflates the MRP beyond the reach of Humankind.
Now, lets look at the Indian Market: there are so many brands of Atorvastatin marketed by almost all Large/Mid/Small cap companies...the MRP starts from the lowest: Blue Cross @ 1.90/Tab/10 mg and there are brands with MRP of 12/Tab/10 mg (quality wise all the brands are exceptional. There are few Doctors who are patient oriented and not for sale. But majority of the Doc's Rx brands with very high MRP. The same logic applies for 97% of Drugs marketed in India. Why do they insist of costly Rx than win-win economical brands...Answer is simple-the Docs are pampered with all sorts of fact these Doctors are the Sales Rep for the company.
Cost of Manufacturing from quality raw materials to finished product per tab per 10 mg (bulk of 200 boxes) is as low as Rs. 0.43/tab. EVEN IF YOU SELL AT AN MRP OF Re. 1.00 is more than double the cost....but 97% of Indian companies sell at a MRP of more than Rs. 2.00 to Rs. 12/13 etc..
As far as I'm concerned, this is an ongoing SCAM or MOTHER of all SCAMS, more than 60 years of systematically, looting the poor patient already in pain to ensure that the Bi Boys wallet weight increases every month...
You want evidence? Can provide as many as you want...


I do not belong to this Industry right now, nor do I have any interest in Highlighting Liponorm of Blue Cross to be the most economical & Total Quality Products...hearsay, Ozone might come out with Re.1/=...


4 years ago

It is shame for this noble profession : medical profession, consisting of Doctors.Humanitarian approach is missing. Most of them are out only to make money.

HSBC, three DSAs fined Rs50,000 by consumer forum for harassment through telemarketing

Despite raising the issue of unwanted marketing calls to the HSBC’s highest authorities in India, Sinha continued to be harassed by telecallers on behalf of the lender. Finally, after over four years, a consumer forum found the Bank and its agents guilty and asked them to pay Rs50,000

During 2007-2008, Delhi-based Ashutosh Sinha suffered from innumerable telemarketing calls by direct selling agents (DSAs) of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). Incidentally, it was the same lender, who rejected Sinha’s application for a credit card and then wanted to sell him ‘other products’.

After repeatedly writing to all concerned officials from HSBC, Sinha even raised the issue before the Bank’s India chief, Naina Lal Kidwai (current president of FICCI). Unfortunately, despite her promises, Sinha continued to receive the unsolicited commercial communication or marketing calls from HSBC. Finally, in 2008, he approached a consumer forum, which last month upheld his appeal and fined HSBC and its three DSAs.

In its order, the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, said, “We are of the opinion that some unsolicited calls have been given to the Complainant by which the right of privacy of the Complainant was violated and the Complainant suffered inconvenience, harassment and mental agony due to unsolicited calls. We are of the opinion that Complainant is entitled to be reasonably compensated for that.”

The Forum asked HSBC and its three DSA to pay Rs50,000 as compensation for causing harassment to Sinha and also pay Rs5,000 towards litigation cost. However, he feels the penalty is paltry considering the inconvenience, harassment and mental agony he had to suffer. “Since the amount of Rs50,000 is too little, I may move higher court to make sure I drive the message home. I want this to be a lesson for all banks and financial institutions and hope others can learn from my experience too,” Sinha says.

Here is the first person account of Sinha’ ordeal to stop telemarketing calls from HSBC…

I moved to Delhi in March 2007 to join a new place of work after a three-year stint in Mumbai. A little later, sometime in May 2007, I applied for a credit card from HSBC. A person visited the office on behalf of HSBC, made me fill the form. He gave me a receipt for the application. About a month later, I was told that the application had been rejected. In addition, as happens with financial institutions, the communication was sugarcoated and no reason was given for the rejection.

No sooner had the application been rejected, I started getting calls for buying other products of HSBC such as personal loans, home loans and a whole lot of others. I ignored the first few calls because the rejection of the credit card application was fresh in my mind. And, besides, why should I give business to a bank that does not consider me worthy of a credit card customer?

However, the calls continued and refused to stop, so I decided to bring it to the notice of HSBC. I wrote to them repeatedly, and each time mentioned the number, date and time of the call. HSBC did reply to some of those emails and said that they were taking necessary action to have the calls stopped. But the calls did not stop. Between July and December 2007, I must have received at least 70 to 100 calls, some of which I did not respond. At times, I was so familiar with the numbers that I would not bother taking the call. On the occasions that I wrote to them, I made sure I wrote down the call details. Over several months, this became a trail of evidence that HSBC found it difficult to dismiss.

On 1 October 2007 the concept of Do Not Call was introduced by TRAI and it went live and I formally registered my phone to be a part of the do not call list. However, my phone was already on the do not disturb list by Vodafone.

On 23 December 2007, a little after 9am on Sunday, a person called me on behalf of HSBC, offering to sell credit cards. I asked the person to come home. Meanwhile, I called Malini Thadani (Head of Communications, Public Policy and Corporate Sustainability at HSBC at that time) and told her that if the person came home, I may beat him up. She was aghast and blurted, "How can you do that?" I told her the story of what had been happening for over six months. The person did not turn up.

Soon after, I got a text message from HSBC regional manager, Jamsher Dhillon. He came home the next day, with a bouquet of flowers, and assured me that I would not get calls from HSBC. I showed him the list of calls I had received, and within minutes, he found out about the culprits. He left my home at around 11:30am and before 3pm there was another call with a sales pitch! I called up Jamsher and he was surprised. He told me that he would send out an internal memo that no one should call my number. Much to my amazement, there were two more calls the next day. I contacted Jamsher again and he said that he was going to stop all telecalling. But he was surely lying because I got yet another call!

In the meantime, the quality control people from HSBC in Chennai apologized for what had been happening. They sent me an email and a hard copy of the letter, naming their channel partners who had been calling me regularly. Despite the apology, the calls did not stop!

I wrote to the HSBC headquarters and they asked me to contact the India office. Then, I wrote to Naina Lal Kidwai, who claimed that HSBC takes such matters very seriously! She referred the matter to the head of credit cards, Jagdish Khanna, who claimed that they were working on a system which would not allow any calls to be made if a phone number was on the do not call list. But till this was done, he said that he could not guarantee that the calls would stop.

The frequency of the calls, in the meanwhile, had come down but it did not cease completely.

Sometime in January 2013, when I had turned the heat on HSBC, the owner of Mascom India, one of the DSAs, contacted and met me at my office and claimed that he was a cousin of one of my colleagues and requested that I should not pursue the matter. A couple of weeks later, he came along with another person claiming to work for HSBC. The person wept inconsolably and said that because of my complaints, he was going to lose his job at HSBC. I decided to ignore his claims.

By now, I had decided that, whether it was HSBC or any other bank, it did not matter to them what end customers had to face. Therefore, I decided to pursue my case in the consumer court.

Nearly four and a half years after I had filed the case, on 22 April 2013, the consumer court found HSBC and its three DSAs guilty of violating my privacy and calling repeatedly. The guilty have been asked to pay Rs50,000 and Rs5,000 as litigation cost.

I still believe that I have got a raw deal since I have had to suffer at their hands for one full year. It must be pointed out that after the case was filed in the consumer court, I have never ever got any telemarketing calls from HSBC, but I still do get calls from HDFC Bank and Citibank.

You can read other stories of HSBC over here:




4 years ago

can we stop any telemarketers like this?

Vaidya Dattatraya Vasudeo

4 years ago

Hearty Congratulations. I am a BSNL Mobile user. I am already on DND. Still I do get some calls. If I lodge a co, mplaint to BSNL nothing happens. How do I proceed. I do really wish to punish these people. Any help is welcome. Thanks in advance.


Kavita Swame

4 years ago

I was also harassed by for over a month or more and finally that DND concept came and it stopped. I called(STD charges for God's sake) them several times explained patiently, scolded but nothing worked. Emails did not work. Funny thing is I am not from Mumbai still they send SMS/emails/calls of deals in Mumbai. After recogzing their numbers I sopped taking calls but SMS I had to accept no way to reject. Even I complained to Airtel(My service Provider) no use.

For the past 2-3 months I am rcvng promo emails from Indiatimes Shopping, even after unsubsrcibing. Sent email no reply. Every time I unsubscribe they create another group and send mail again. So there is no use of unsubing. Practically you can see this by sub-unsub of their promo mails. Do not know what to do.
50K is peanuts for them, it must be in atleast lakhs. It is like if you have 50K you can bother anybody for a year kind of idea. Fine must be heavy for institutions.

Michael Mason-Mahon

4 years ago

Mr Ashutosh
May I say congratulations and well done.

May I suggest you send the article to the following people.

You may like to contact Mr Stuart Milne CEO of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited in India: [email protected]

You may also like to contact Mr Flint the Chairman of HSBC Holdings Plc : [email protected] and ask him is this HSBC Values and their staff acting with Courageous Integrity.

HSBC states that: HSBC takes compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously. You may like to ask Mr Stuart Levey has HSBC in India been complying with the Laws in India. [email protected]

Is it your personal belief that HSBC and their Agent's are in violation of the following Sections of the Indian Penal Code?

52. “Good faith”.- Nothing is said to be done or believed in “good faith” which is done or believed without due care and attention

As HSBC did not comply with section 52 of the IPC, therefore they have violated Section 43. HSBC was legally bond to do: Act with due care and attention.

43. “ Illegal”, “Legally bound to do”.- The word “illegal” is applicable to everything which is an offence or which is prohibited by law, or which furnishes ground for a civil action; and a person is said to be “legally bound to do” whatever it is illegal in him to omit.

Has HSBC's agent acted illegally by there actions.
44. “Injury”.- The word “injury” denotes any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property.

By the agent's illegal behavior this has caused great distress to you and HSBC is legally responsible for the actions by their and contractors.

Kind regards

Michael Mason-Mahon
Mobile: 0044 7834763544
Mobile: 0044 7448770801
E-mail: [email protected]

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win."

hemant charya

4 years ago

This ruling is a win for consumers harassed by telemarketers. Hats off to Mr Ashutosh Sinha for determinedly pursuing the case to its logical conclusion. However, the penalty amount should be 10X more, in additions the business licenses of the DSA and of the telemarketer should be suspended for at least 12 months. A mere fifty thousand bucks is loose change for the DSAs to part with, which is equivalent to letting them walk away scot-free. Wonder when Indian Penal statutes will be revised!!

Telemarketers workaround TRAI regulation by changing their calling phone numbers after disconnection. As a result the DNC complaints lodged with telecom providers is futile and the National Do Not Call registry remains as useful as the 'r' in February. Suspension of business license should be the

hemant charya

4 years ago

This ruling is a win for consumers harassed by telemarketers.

Mr Ashutosh Sinha deserves applause for determinedly pursuing the case to its logical conclusion.

However, the penalty should be 10X more. A mere fifty thousand bucks is loose change for the DSAs to part with.

Telemarketers bypass TRAI regulation by constantly changing their calling phone numbers, as a result of which the DNC complaints with telecom providers is futile and the National Do Not Call registry remains as useful as the 'r' in February.


4 years ago

Hats off to Ashutosh Sinha for his perseverance and patience.

It's a great example for all of us "victims" of unsolicited telemarketing calls, who only complain, but do nothing.

Anil Agashe

4 years ago

I am not surprised. i had a bad experience with this bank in the past as regards to my wife's account where i am a joint holder and they were very funny. When I told them what they are doing is against RBI norms I was told But Sir we are a foreign bank!

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