Moneylife Foundation Gets the 10th MR Pai Memorial Award

It’s our first award and vindicates the hard work put in by the entire Moneylife team for the hapless financial consumer


Moneylife Foundation was honoured with the prestigious MR Pai Memorial Award on 16th September. This was the 10th year of the Aaward. Among the previous awardees are: Pushpa Girimaji, Manubhai Shah (founder CERC, Ahmedabad), Pradeep S Mehta (of CUTS, Jaipur), Dr YV Reddy (former governor of RBI), Sunita Narain (Centre for Science & Environment), Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Shirish Deshpande of the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu, founder-trustees of Moneylife Foundation, received the Award from Dr Deepali Pant Joshi, executive director of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The Award has been instituted in the memory of MR Pai, a well-known crusader for consumers’ rights especially in banking and telecom. The Award carries a citation and prize money of Rs1 lakh and is sponsored by the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank Ltd (PMC Bank), a progressive and innovative cooperative bank based in Mumbai. 
The selection process is handled by the All India Bank Depositors’ Association (AIBDA) which was founded and led by Mr Pai for several decades. The event itself is conducted in association with AIBDA and the Forum of Free Enterprise (FFE), another organisation that Mr Pai headed for a long time. 
Introducing the Award and its aim, CS Chadha, chairman of PMC Bank said, “The Award was set up in memory of MR Pai who had done tremendous work for consumers’ protection. The prize money was increased to Rs1 lakh from Rs50,000 in 2009 and the Bank is proud to felicitate activists, journalists and NGOs who are carrying forward the legacy and work of the late MR Pai.” 
In his acceptance speech, Mr Basu, said, “We feel highly honoured and absolutely humbled to accept the 10th MR Pai Memorial Award on behalf of our entire team at Moneylife Foundation and over 30,000 Moneylifers! This is our first award and so it will always be the most cherished one. We hope we will always be able to live up to the high expectations that it builds. What makes this all the more precious is that this award salutes the memory of a stalwart in the field of consumer activism and a pioneer of the rights of bank depositors.”
The Award ceremony was attended by several members, supporters and donors of Moneylife Foundation as well as members of AIBDA, FFE and officials from RBI and PMC Bank. 
Dr Deepali Pant Joshi, in her address, made several key points that expressed her own views and RBI’s overall vision with regard to various matters of banking and consumer protection. She said, “While the line between regulation and paternalism is a very fine one, RBI has made conscious efforts to stick to regulation and stay away from the latter.” She went on to address the issues of financial inclusion, customer awareness and fiduciary responsibility. With a renewed push for financial inclusion, and the wider use of technology and banking correspondents, safeguarding customer interests, especially in rural areas, becomes an even more daunting task. 
In this context, she said that, since the 2008 crisis, the financial sector has been driven by the idea of consumer awareness and greater awareness about financial products, services and risks involved. She spoke about the need for an ‘ingrained suitability clause in financial products’. This would naturally imply that the time was opportune for the financial services sector and banking institutions to move from the maxim of caveat emptor (buyer beware) to caveat venditor (seller beware), she added. 
“The only watchword is that the present customer experience should be better than the experience of the previous generation of customers,” said Dr Joshi.
Congratulating this year’s MR Pai Memorial awardee, Moneylife Foundation, she said, “While it is the job and mission of the regulator to safeguard customer interests, it is organisations like Moneylife Foundation that add to the efforts of the regulator and provide valuable inputs in creating improved customer service policy framework, over time.”
Towards the end, the RBI executive director said that “while technology has expanded the reach of banking services and financial products, it also suffers from the pitfall of de-humanisation of the banker-customer relationship and the fall of trust between the two.” She added that “the friendly neighbourhood banker and the feet-on-the-street banker is a disappearing breed.” She concluded by sharing RBI’s vision in drafting the first iteration of the Consumer Rights Charter, a first for Indian banks and customers, and she encouraged the audience to share their ideas with RBI in making the Charter better and stronger for customer rights.
Excerpts from the Citation
“Through various activities of Moneylife Foundation, both Sucheta and Debashis have sought to empower those who work hard, earn, spend, save, deposit, borrow, invest and yet do not get due returns on their hard-earned money.
“The social impact of their activities is enhanced by the daily email dispatched to more than 100,000 subscribers and by free access to the Moneylife Knowledge Centre, which is well-equipped with a seminar hall cum library.
“During four and half years of operations, the Foundation has a nationwide membership of 30,000 members and has conducted more than 220 events at the rate of almost one every week... They have shown an innovative path in delivering lasting results to those less able to help themselves. In doing so, they have also created a valuable platform to address even non-financial issues and subject of topical interests...
“In recognition of its immense contribution in impacting common people seeking fair treatment and justice, the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank Limited and All-India Bank Depositors’ Association (Mumbai) are privileged to confer the Tenth MR Pai Memorial Award to Moneylife Foundation.”


Maneka Gandhi launches new guaranteed Minimum Pension Scheme

The Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi gave away certificates of increased pension to the first ten pensioners


The Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi presided over a function to launch the New Guaranteed Minimum Pension Scheme of Government of India in Dehradun. The Minister gave away certificates of increased pension to first ten pensioners. The government announced the launch of a guaranteed minimum pension of Rs1,000 per month under the Employees Pension Scheme, 1995.


Under the new scheme, the pension has been increased from Rs650 to Rs1,000. Also, the maximum wage limit for eligibility has been increased from Rs6,500 per month to Rs15,000 per month.


Speaking on the occasion, Maneka Gandhi said that this measure has been taken by the government to provide increased social security to workers through the Pension Scheme.


The Minister said that the pension is a small token of gratitude which the nation pays to workers who spend a life time in building the nation through their hard work. Maneka Gandhi also explained the benefits of integrating Jan Dhan Yojana and Employees Scheme which will now enable the Pension to go directly into the accounts of the workers.


The Minister also gave a preview of Swachch Bharat Yojana of the government and its critical applicability to an environmentally fragile state like Uttarakhand.



MG Warrier

3 years ago

If the government is serious about ensuring a reasonably secure post-employment/retirement life for workers who earn 'starvation wages', the organisations like PFRDA (implementing National Pension System), LIC and EPFO should put their heads together and implement schemes that will get resources from employers when employees serve and by managing the funds prudently, these organisations should be in a position to pay a decent regular pension for retirees and their survivors. Rs1000 wll be inadequate, even if the Parliament House canteen facilities are thrown open to pensioners.


3 years ago

I checked this increase in my Pension scheme with Provident Fund Office at Mangalore. This increase is only for those pensioners who had opted for family pension at the age of 58. Please check your increase in pension at your respective EPFO Offices.

Will regional connectivity be mandatory for new airlines?

Civil Aviation Ministry plans to make ‘regional connectivity’ obligatory for new airlines, so that these do not become, ‘non-performing-assets!’


Vistara, Tata-SIA joint venture, was originally scheduled to start its operations during the festive season. It may not be able to do so, as it still has to secure several technical approvals. If the experience is any criterion, it generally takes about eight months to obtain an Air Operating Permit (AOP). Pending approvals include flight operation manuals and other related procedures. Now, why these procedures should take as many as eight months (or about 240 days) to accomplish is a tough question to answer, and it is best left to the Civil Aviation Ministry to clarify as to whether this time frame can be brought down, at least for future applicants.


In fact, Vistara had proposed to start its operations with two aircrafts and complete its fleet of 20 by the end of 2015.


In the meantime, the Civil Aviation Ministry finds that only 75 of the 125 airports are being actually used. It plans to make “regional connectivity" obligatory for new airlines, so that these do not become, "non-performing-assets!” This was stated by the Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, while speaking to journalists, on the sidelines of the 65th AGM of the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), Hyderabad Chapter recently.


Perhaps, the minister hopes that by making this mandatory, these under (or practically unused) utilised airports bring about some activity!


While the idea is laudable to support these airports, it may be worthwhile to suggest that the new domestic airlines may be encouraged to schedule, at least one flight a week, so that the benefits start accruing to all concerned? We must bear in mind that if almost all the domestic airlines are at a "loss" and make a "stop-over" at such airports, it may add to their woes! Why not suggest to these airlines to "adopt" at least one airport so that, in course of time, it develops more fully?


Vistara, which has not yet started to operate, because it is still in the "process of completing the formalities and trying to get the required clearances", has appealed to the Civil Aviation Ministry that new airlines be given at least one year grace period before the "regional connectivity" rule is applied to them! In fact, they have gone one step ahead, and boldly suggested that this rule may be made applicable if and when the airline is permitted to fly to international destinations! This is the first time that they have shown interest in "foreign" travel!


The second issue that Vistara has raised is its interest to fly abroad. But it pointed out that the 5/20 rule - meaning five years of domestic air service and fleet of 20 aircraft -is a hurdle. However, other domestic operators, who have gone through this exercise, and who are members of the Federation of Indian Airlines, have protested that the government should not relax this rule, as it will give unfair advantage to new comers!


In the meantime, Air Asia, attempted to become a member of Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA). It has met with a stony silence. FIA has neither invited them nor acknowledged their letters! FIA is a joint forum of Indian carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir! It should follow, that Vistara will also get similar treatment when it applies for membership!


If the Civil Aviation Ministry decides to withdraw this 5/20 rule, it is just possible that passenger traffic will increase and the load factor will increase to a respectable 50%.


Already, the Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapathi Raju has shown his seriousness in following up with various states to tackle the issue of tax on Airport Turbine Fuel (ATF) and reduction in airport charges. Some like Andhra Pradesh have responded to lower tax on ATF, while others like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have shown interest to do follow suite. So, one of the many ways by which the smaller regional airports could attract domestic carriers to make their airport as the hub or even as a secondary support airport, would be to offer attractive lower airport charges, besides making drastic concessions on ATF!


Some airlines may be persuaded to "adopt" these small regional airports, so that business can be brisk and rewarding to both!


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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.)


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