Days after results being declared of the MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) Lottery, the entity remains clueless on when unsuccessful applicants will get their deposit refunds
It has been 20 days since the MHADA Lottery results have been declared (they were announced on 31st May) and many applicants who were not lucky enough to win flats have yet to receive their security deposit refund.
Various complaints have been registered in sites like www.consumercomplains.in and www.grahakseva.com about the non-payment of refund. On 14th June, Vivek Nair, an applicant, complained: "I had submitted my application No1000026047 for the MHADA Lottery 2011. I had made payment via DD (demand draft) on Axis Bank for Rs15,050 along with application on 3rd May, but so far I have not received refund of my deposit money as promised by MHADA. I wish to know as to why they have not refunded my money within 48 hours though ECS (electronic clearing system) as declared by MHADA.
Please let me know whom to contact in this regard with their contact number."
A MHADA official said, "Results were out on 31 May 2011 and we have started giving refunds. But details of the refund are not available with us. Axis Bank can provide an update on that." While the official seemed clueless about non-payment of refunds, repeated attempts by Moneylife to contact the MHADA spokesperson to get a clear idea about the reasons for non-payment of refund were not successful till the time of writing this article.
While the Axis Bank spokesperson told Moneylife in an email reply: "We have handled the refund of all unsuccessful applicants of MHADA through electronic mode of NECS/ECS. (A total of) 5,580 cases (4.6% of total refunds) have been returned by the applicants' banks with the reasons as under 'name mismatch', 'account closed' 'wrong account name' or 'no such account'. These refund cases are being resolved in consultation with MHADA."
For 4,034 tenements to be allotted under the MHADA Lottery scheme, 1,23,380 people had applied during the registration period from 27th April to 19th May. While the higher-income group paid a security deposit of Rs50,000, the middle- and lower-income groups paid a deposit of Rs25,000 and Rs15,000 respectively. The DDs and pay orders were submitted at Axis Bank branches across Mumbai.
Potential candidates were supposed to download the application form and submit it to the nearest Axis Bank branch with a demand draft or pay order in favour of 'Axis Bank A/c MHADB'. Those applicants did not win the lottery were supposed to get the deposit money through the Electronic Clearing Service (ECS) within days (not specified by MHADA) after result declaration.
The MHADA website provides no details about the days which it will take to provide a refund; it only has a notice about the non-payment of refund to unsuccessful candidates of the 2010 lottery.
(See: http://mhada.maharashtra.gov.in/sites/default/files/nivedan_070810.pdf for more details).
Again, the help-line meant to contact the concerned authorities regarding the same is still "under construction" (http://mhada.maharashtra.gov.in/?q=helpdesk).
MHADA is an apex body under the housing department of the government of Maharashtra. It provides houses through its MHADA Lottery scheme. This was the forth consecutive year when MHADA issued a circular for its lottery fund. Forms costed Rs50 and people from the high-income, middle-income and low-income groups applied for the lottery in the hope of getting their dream homes.
The laws, far from protecting labour, many times limit competition, discriminating against foreign companies and foreign workers. Often, it is not the laws themselves, but how they are enforced
Anyone who has ever been an employee is acutely aware of the asymmetry of power between the employed and the employer. The person who writes the paycheque can often withhold it either temporarily or permanently at any time. Except for certain highly-skilled workers, market forces are usually on the side of the boss. Few would argue that prevention of child labour, worker safety and a fair wage are not worthy goals of government regulation. Sadly, often the only thing that government regulations prevent is employment.
In the United States, local governments have the power to require licences for people practicing professions. This seems to make a certain amount of sense. It might be in the government's interest to prevent fake unlicensed doctors or dentists to harm citizens. Although, a required full disclosure of competency, or the lack thereof, might do the same thing. Still state governments have gone overboard in their definition of a profession. According to The Economist, the "list of jobs that require licences in some states already sounds like something from Monty Python-florists, handymen, wrestlers, tour guides, frozen-dessert sellers, second-hand booksellers and, of course, interior designers."
Obviously, the purpose of these licences has little to do with public safety and more to do with limiting competition. By raising the entry costs with licences that require expensive training or quotas, the workers can defend their turf. In Japan the number of law students who actually pass the bar exam is less than 2%. This limits the number of new lawyers to less than 3,000 a year.
Often these laws limit competition by limiting foreigners. In Saudi Arabia, Saudi nationals are favoured over foreigners. Unlike foreigners, Saudis can be sacked only with great difficulty. But, instead of creating jobs the law backfires, because it is unattractive for employers to hire its own citizens.
Sometimes it is not the labour laws themselves, but how they are enforced. Strikes in China are usually quite rare, because local governments dislike any type of social unrest. Recent strikes against Japanese firms were allowed to continue. They serve a double purpose of adding to workers wages and present a convenient target for grievances.
Labour costs in countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos remain a fraction of those in China, but foreign firms are still a target. Vietnam increased the minimum wage, but only for workers at foreign-owned companies. Taiwanese firms have been the target of labour unrest.
Lengthy procedures to terminate workers also have a perverse effect of creating a two-tier labour market. Since it is so difficult to fire people already employed, employers are discouraged from hiring new employees. This has created unemployment among young people of up to 40% in countries like Spain and Greece.
The result of these inflexible firing laws has often made it easier to hire temporary workers who are entitled to fewer benefits and can be easily terminated. In Spain they make up 30% of workers. Japan used to be the home of life-time employment. Now it matches Spain. Temporary and part-time workers have increased from one-fifth to one-third of the workforce.
In India the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 also made it difficult to hire and fire workers, but it only applied to companies of a certain size. The perverse effect has been to make many Indian companies capital intensive in a country where labour is cheap and limited company size to avoid regulation. So unlike China, India cannot capitalise on what should have been a comparative advantage.
Brazil's labour laws were originally based on the labour code of Mussolini's Italy. Instead of a separate law that could be easily amended or changed, some are written into the country's constitution. Workers have their own labour courts, where a fired worker can get a far greater severance package than one who resigns, sometimes as much as 4% of the total amount the worker has ever earned.
Finally, inefficient labour regulations force more and more workers and employers into the grey market. On paper, Spain has an unemployment rate of over 20%, but this is dismissed as fiction. Millions of workers register as unemployed so that both they and their employers can avoid paying social security contributions. Grey economies in emerging markets top 50% of the economy. As a result, not only is tax evasion rife, but workers who need the most protection do not get it.
Reforming these laws with perverse incentives would often benefit both workers and the economy. But reform is never easy for the simple reason that there are huge economic investments and incentives for both labour and employers in maintaining the status quo. But crises have their uses. Sometimes change occurs when there are simply no other alternatives.