The Whistleblowers’ Bill aims to protect those who expose malpractice or corruption. But will the Bill in its current form be really effective?
The ‘Whistleblowers’ Bill’, which aims to protect whistleblowers who expose malpractice or corruption, was finally passed by the Rajya Sabha on the last day of Parliament in February 2014. Will this Bill, when passed into an Act, make any difference? Moneylife Foundation organised an open house discussion on this subject, at its Knowledge Centre in Mumbai recently. Environment activist Sumaira Abdulali and Advocate Mohana Nair explained the various features of the Bill, including its weaknesses.
Ms Abdulali, convenor of MITRA (Movement against Intimidation, Threat and Revenge against Activists) and founder of Awaaz Foundation, emphasised the need to strengthen the NGO-media-RTI activists’ network, to protect anyone who exposes illegality. She also mentioned that it is important to monitor the Act and draft rules suited to Maharashtra where a large number of activists have been murdered.
Advocate Mohana Nair, who practises at the Bombay High Court and takes up public interest litigations, highlighted the intricate legal aspects of the Bill. She explained the positive features of the Bill like concealing the identity of the complainant for protection from threat and victimisation, penalty against false complaints or in case the complainant is acting with malafide intentions.
But the Bill also has many negative aspects, mainly vague definitions, such as victimisation of the whistleblowers. She also clarified that this Bill concentrates more on the government sectors and government officers who need to be protected, as whistleblowers, for exposing the malpractices in government departments. Moreover, the ambit of the Bill is only financial corruption and financial loss to the government, not other issues of public interest such as environmental degradation or public health.
Ms Nair pointed out another major negative of the Bill: anonymous complaints are not acceptable. “This is either being myopic, or a deliberate attempt to discourage whistle blowing. The best whistleblower protection laws in the world, including those in UK, US and South Africa, allow for anonymity,” she pointed out.
The presentations of Ms Abdulali and Ms Nair were followed by a discussion during which Railway activist, Samir Zaveri, shared his experiences about how he and other activists were harassed by the police. He said he had filed many RTI applications to expose the ‘Railway Scam’ at Kurla terminus by RPF officers. The RTIs have ‘to be in a good faith’. However, the Whistleblowers’ Bill doesn’t have the provision of being ‘in good faith’. In fact, it imposes penalties if the complaint is found malafide. This provision can be abused.
For FY14, Infosys reported a 13% increase net profit to Rs10,648 crore even as its revenues grew 24.2% to Rs50,133 crore. The company declared a final dividend of Rs43 per share
Infosys Ltd, India's second largest software company reported a 25% jump in its fourth quarter net profit on higher revenues.
For the quarter to end-March, Infosys’ net profit rose 24.9% to Rs2,992 crore from Rs2,394 crore while total revenues, including sales, increased 23.1% to Rs12,875 crore from Rs10,454 crore, same period last year.
Infosys reported a 13% increase in its full year (FY14) net profit to Rs10,648 crore even as its total revenues, including sales grew 24.2% to Rs50,133 crore from Rs40,352 crore a year ago period.
In a regulatory filing, SD Shibulal, chief executive and managing director of Infosys, said “I am pleased that we have been able to double our growth rate for the full year compared to last year, though performance in the last quarter of FY 14 has been disappointing. We have guided for a revenue growth of 7%-9% next year and remain firmly focused on building the growth momentum by making all the necessary investments in our business.”
The company has reported earnings per share (EPS) of Rs186.35 for fiscal 2014, a 13% growth when compared to the previous fiscal on a year-on-year basis.
Infosys has declared a final dividend of Rs43 per share.
“Our cash and cash equivalents crossed Rs30,000 crore during the quarter. We have increased the dividend payout ratio to up to 40% of post-tax profits effective FY14 to enhance returns for our shareholders,” said Rajiv Bansal, chief financial officer.
Infosys also appointed Carol M Browner as an additional director of the company. Ms Browner was director of White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy in the Obama administration during 2009 to 2011.
At 10.34am Tuesday, Infosys was trading 1.7% higher at Rs3,290 on the BSE, while the benchmark Sensex was marginally down at 22,483.
The wider the choice, the less is our ability to select. This is why most savers find financial products confusing and difficult to choose
At a Moneylife Foundation seminar, which was packed to capacity, Debashis Basu, editor, Moneylife, explained the five major asset classes available to Indian savers and the hundreds of products in each class. Therefore, savers move away from these products and keep their money in the bank, even though the value of their money gets eroded by inflation. Average savers require just a few products to meet their needs, at different stages of their life.
Without choices, life would be dreadful. But there is a limit beyond which choice becomes counter-productive. In fact, several studies have shown that we get paralysed, or make the wrong choices, when we have too many options. This is all the more important in financial products.
When you buy consumer durables, you can see, compare and test; also, well-known brands usually assure a quality product; unfortunately, the same does not hold true for financial products. In the case of financial products, too much choice is definitely harmful. Brand names also mean nothing, because even some well-known banks indulge in horrendous mis-selling.
Mr Basu asked: “if you have to choose from 3,000 actively traded stocks, over 700 mutual funds, 344 life insurance products, 145 health insurance products, what would you do?” He elaborated: “there are portfolio management schemes, bank fixed deposits, bonds and corporate deposits. The list can go on and on.” Many of these products are untested, said Mr Basu.
To make ‘better’ financial choices, savers approach financial advisors, financial planners, wealth managers, IFAs, etc. Whichever channel they choose, the intermediaries earn money through commissions and churning on the choices they offer savers. It is not necessary that the choices offered are in the best interest of the saver.
So what should a saver do? “All you need is just two or three equity schemes, a few fixed-income products, a term life insurance, a health plan and some tax-saving instruments. Tune out the rest and you will do much better,” Mr Basu explained. This takes care of 90% of your financial needs for a safe financial life, leaving you with enough free time to enjoy the fruits of your savings. The effort and the resources required to choose the right product is immense; generally, the average saver could be put off by numbers.