Onion as election symbol will win the Assembly!

What is of greater significance is the slipshod way the onion trade is left in an uncontrolled fashion by the government! The party that can assure and deliver the supply of commodities at fair prices will succeed in the ensuing election

Assembly elections are due in five states, including Delhi. But, the high cost of food and the resultant inflation is likely to play a decisive role, particularly in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It looks like Kejriwal will have a field day when he takes on Sheila Dikshit to debate on various issues affecting the aam aadmi!


There has been a public outcry as to why export is allowed of the onions where there is so much shortage in the country itself? Export of onions, controlled via NAFED, has been going on for decades and mostly to the Gulf countries, where millions of Indians toil and remit their hard earned foreign exchange back to India. Cutting off the supplies would not only affect them, but will give the opportunity for our competitors to break into the market.


Already, new comers like Australia, USA and China have made supplies to the Gulf market. In a recent survey that Moneylife carried out, it was found that as against the regular Dh3 to Dh4 per kilo price (Dh1 = Rs17.30 now), the brown onions from Australia and USA were being sold at Dh4.95 and Dh6.95 per kilo. Of course, there are variations in the prices, depending upon the location of the super market or the chain that sells them.


The export price was $650 per tonne in August; after the situation began to worsen in the country, the price was revised to $900 and now, finally, the minimum export price has been raised and revised upward to $1,150 per tonne.


Increasing our export price has serious repercussions in the Gulf market. Pakistan has been one of the fiercest competitors for the Indian suppliers, and when the shortage in the country became unbearable, the government even planned to get some quick supplies from Pakistan and China. How much came from these two sources has not been made public so far, but their quality does not match our taste buds in the country!


In any case, as against one million tonnes in the first half of last year, this year, due to lower production, India has not been able to ship more than 700,000 tonnes. With the high jumps in the minimum export price, our final export figures is likely to fall and it would be a difficult task to regain these markets. We cannot open and close the supply taps at will, just because we are unable to domestic market.


The vagaries of rainfall have affected our supplies once again; this time, it has been excess rainfall in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. What is of greater significance is the slipshod way the market is left in an uncontrolled fashion by the government! The growers do not get adequate price for their produce and the maximum benefit is usurped by the middlemen and wholesalers. There is a nexus between the two and it is generally believed that politicians play a vital role in these transactions.


Retail price of onion ranges between Rs60 and Rs100 a kilo. Sadly, the grower does not even get one third of the price.


The party that can assure and deliver the supply of commodities at fair prices will succeed in the ensuing election.


(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.)


Moneylife Impact: Now, track the status of your passport application on your smartphone!

Moneylife’s consistent campaign since March 2013, has led to a series of customer-friendly initiatives by MEA and TCS; the latest is with mobile technology. The mPassport Seva app provides a wide variety of services such as status tracking, locating a passport office and other general information

No more the arduous trips to your passport office and exasperating interaction with the officials who often make you run round and round. Now, to track your passport application; to find out which is your passport office if you are residing in a small town or overseas; to get the required contact numbers; to find out exactly what are going to be your application fees and; any other general information, all you need is to search it on your smartphone!

Termed as the `mPassport Seva’, this new mobile application enables Indian citizens to access passport related information on their smartphones. This service has been executed in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

It may be recalled that since March 2013 Moneylife succeeded in breaking the TCS’s corporate secrecy, when it took up the passport issue at Pune, which was in utter mess. For more than a fortnight, the TCS officials refused to take note of the constant emails being sent to them regarding the breakdown in services. The writer agitated in front of the Pune’s TCS’s Passport Seva Kendra in Mundhwa, after which TCS officials came out in the open, to discuss the problems. Passport applicants were also encouraged to use Right to Information (RTI) to track status of their passport application.

Thereafter, it was after Moneylife’s managing editor Sucheta Dalal’s intervention through a meeting she organized at the Moneylife Foundation office in Mumbai. This meeting held sometime in April 2013, broke the ice of corporate secrecy. Tanmoy Chakroborty, head of Global operations at TCS, took the lead in making the Pune passport office citizen-friendly through various facilities including online payment along with the online application form. It is heartening to note that this has now resulted in an extra facility that was not envisioned before – that is, the `mPassport Seva.’ Moneylife heartily thanks the TCS and the passport division of the MEA.

See these links for other Moneylife impact stories on passport:

Moneylife Impact: TCS swings into action to ease some difficulties faced by Pune passport applicants


Moneylife Impact: Now pay online for your passport; challan option also available


Moneylife Impact: Ministry of external affairs begins action on Pune Passport mess


Pune Passport Seva Kendra improves process of applications and facilities: A Moneylife Impact


Moneylife Impact: Chief Passport Officer increases daily appointments to 1,100 after inspecting Pune’s Passport Seva Kendra


An RTI application gives Peyush Rai his passport even before submitting his plea


File an RTI application if you do not get your passport in time


A press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on 5th November, states, “In order to keep pace with the current technology, the Ministry of External Affairs had launched the mPassport Seva mobile app on Android platform, as a pilot, in March 2013. Encouraged by positive public response, the Ministry has now launched this app on Windows and Apple iOS platforms as well.’’

To avail the facilities available on your Smartphone, you would have to download it their respective stores:

Android-based handsets:

Windows-based mobiles:

Apple iPhones:

Following are the facilities offered on your smartphone:

  • mPassport Seva, enables Indian Citizens to access passport related information on their smartphones. This application provides a wide variety of services such as status tracking, locating a passport office and other general information
  • The application provides information on various steps involved to obtain a passport related service and related phone numbers in case of queries or concerns
  • The users will be able to search for a Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) or District Passport Cell (DPC) in a district where a passport application can be submitted. This can also be searched based on PIN code. For certain states and districts, the users can search for police stations as well
  • Citizens residing overseas who apply for a passport service in Indian missions/posts abroad can also utilize this facility for searching address and other relevant information
  • The fee calculator feature of the application enables users to find out the applicable fee based on the service and mode of submission
  • Users can track the status of their passport applications by providing file number and date of birth. In case the passport has been dispatched, delivery status can also be tracked
  • In the meanwhile, citizens share their happiness on getting their passports with the guidance of Moneylife. An example:

    Dear Vinita
    Happy Diwali and trust you are doing good.

    This is to inform you that I have received my passport today. It was indeed a great commitment by Passport Officer Mrs Rane who had promised me to expedite the case, provided everything being in order. I appreciate her and her office's sense of responsiveness and expediting this so promptly. In the event you get an opportunity, I would request you to extend my thankfullness to them. I will share my entire experience, which is really laudable, of working with Pune Passport Office in some suitable forum for the benefit of common citizens.

    Lastly, my sincere gratitude to you to for listening to my concern, taking it up and guiding me to handle this rightfully to closure. You people are doing a great job to the nation and society.

    Thanks again and with warm Regards,

    Subrata Maity

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)




2 years ago

Hello Sir, I have applied for a passport under tatkal mode. I genuinely need passport in short term. I have submitted my application along with all documents on 21st Jan 2015. Still my passport online status is 'Your passport application is under process at regional passport office'. I was expected that I will get it in 3-4 days. I had received an email from that they have initiated post-verification as Police verification. I asked RPO about exact status of my application then they said please clear your police verification. As I need my passport in short term, it is not affordable for me to spend 3-4 weeks to get police verification report. And passport officer already have raised police verification on post assurance mode. So I don't understand why they are not processing my application first. I will clear police verification as soon as possible.

Please help me...I need passport in short term. I don't want to loose my opportunity...

Sucheta Dalal

2 years ago

Big News: Regional Passport Officers -
Mumbai & Thane, will answer your queries

Painless Passports: No Agents Needed!

Mr Tanmoy Chakrabarty, VP & Head of the Global Govt Industry Group at Tata Consultancy Services, will explain how passport issuance has been transformed, what you can expect in terms of service, speed and efficiency; and the next phase of the automation process which will track Indian workers abroad.

He will also talk about the e-migrate system that has been launched by the Govt to protect the interests of Indians going abroad for work.

Dr Swati Kulkarni, Regional Passport Officer - Mumbai.
IFS and MBBS, she worked as Consul General of India in South Africa before becoming Mumbai's RPO

Mr TD Sharma, Regional Passport Officer - Thane.

Come and have your queries answered on these and many other benefits of the e-migrate process and automation of passports.


Registration: 6pm

Session Time:
6:30pm – 8:30pm

Indian Merchants
Chamber, Walchand
Hirachand hall (4th floor),
IMC Marg, Churchgate,
Mumbai - 400 020.

Registration is Mandatory!

Jewel / Libertina at
022-49205000 or email us
at [email protected]

Charles Carvalho

3 years ago

Great job Vinita and the moneylife team. My mother has applied for a passport 3 months ago and is yet to receive it. Is there a helpline - by Moneylife or TCS or the passport authorities to follow up on such delayed cases. The passport website shows "sent to regional passport seva kendra". This status exists for the last month or so. My brother applied on the same date as my mother and received his passport in 30 days. Please advise. Thanks and regards


3 years ago

From my own family and friends experience, Passport Seva Kendra (at HERALD HOUSE Delhi, manned by TCS) has indeed proved a boon beyond expectations. entire process was completed within 45 days from the date online time slot was appied, date for physical verifications was alloted 20 days later and passprt was despacted after 21 days and got delived on the 2nd day after issue and despact detailswere informed on mobile by SMS alerts. Police verification took place after receipt of passport. in this regard over email PP office suggested to get police verification completed by informing local police station if the same is not completed by time of delivery . I recieved my passort. Service is indeed improved and a friendly for those who have given all correct data and info. And mind you, it was not a TATKAL but Normal application. welldone ! MEA


3 years ago

From my own experience, Passport Seva Kendra ( Mumbai) has indeed proved a boon beyond expectations. I verified in person and put my signatures on 28 th Oct. and Lo & Behold on 1 st Nov. I recieved my renewed passort without even Police verification. Service is indeed miraculous and a boon for those who have given all correct data and info. And mind you, it was not a TATKAL but Normal application. BRAVO ! MEA .

Mahiti Adhikar Manch

3 years ago

In Pune it may be very good, I have very worst experience and still my wife's passport applied on 16-04-2013 sis still pending to be received.Bhaskar Prabhu



In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 3 years ago

Dear Bhaskar Prabhu
An activist like U should not face such problem. If U provide a few relevant details, perhaps I may help. There must be some reason given when U track status. Otherwise can speak to the helpline of your Passport Seva Kendra in which area your residence falls. Regards

Vinita Deshmukh

In Reply to MOHAN SIROYA 3 years ago

Like i said, try filing a RTI application


In Reply to Vinita Deshmukh 3 years ago

I think ,U wanted to reply this to Mr. Prabhu. I have had no problem. I asked B Prabhu to send details or find out 'Reason' from helpline.


3 years ago

Great job Vinita and Moneylife, continue the good work.

Why health insurance cancellations shouldn’t be a surprise

A former federal health official says consumers in the individual health-care market deserved more of a heads-up about what was coming under Obamacare

There seems to be no letup of bad news on the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday,, the problem-plagued federal health insurance marketplace, crashed again. And a pile of news reports focused on citizen anger over policy cancellations prompted by the law.

Last night, President Obama addressed the situation. Passing the act 2010 “was the easy part,” he said. Though he’s done campaigning for office, Obama said, "I’ve got one more campaign in me – the campaign to make sure that this law works for every single person in this country."

To get behind the headlines, we reached out to a leading expert on the law: Kip Piper, who advises large health care organizations on Medicare, Medicaid, and health reform policy, finance and business strategy.

Among other roles, Piper has worked as senior adviser to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Wisconsin state health administrator, director of the Wisconsin Medicaid program, a senior Medicare budget officer at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

"The fact that ACA would effectively nuke most of the existing commercial individual health insurance market was never in question," Piper told us.

In the interview below, which was edited for length and clarity, Piper discusses cancellations, the apparent surge in Medicaid enrollments under Obamacare and whether more transparency would have helped the rollout.

Q. What’s your take on the coverage cancellations arriving in mailboxes around the country?

A. It was always known that the ACA would outlaw millions of existing individual or non-group health insurance policies. From a policy wonk perspective, that was a no-brainer. It was self-evident in the law in March 2010 and confirmed in subsequent rules and analyses. Also obvious all along was that consumers would face a very different marketplace under the ACA, with some seeing lower premiums (including me), some seeing larger premiums, and most everyone seeing higher deductibles, higher co-pays, and a narrower choice of providers.

Quantifying the impact of ACA on the individual — estimating the number of people affected — was always tough. Whether it would cause 60 percent or 80 percent of individual plans to be cancelled was hard to estimate because data on individual coverage is hard to come by, rules and products varied by state, the ACA grandfathering rules came out slowly and in pieces, and even things like the essential health benefit package varies a bit by state. Also, not all these policies expire on December 31.

What’s frustrating is how it took three and a half years, the failed launch of the federal exchange, and the news media starting the question the administration’s core talking points for anyone to focus on this. Whether you like or dislike the ACA policies, the 19.4 million Americans in the various parts of individual market deserved a heads up.

Q. Could this have been prevented?

A. From a regulatory perspective, health insurers in the individual market have no choice but to discontinue non-compliant policies and, if they wish to keep business, offer new, compliant policies. Health insurance is a binding contract. Insurers can’t merely transfer people. They have to cancel policies that no longer meet federal and state law, give notice, and then try to sell people into the new one policies. Having said this, the new policies will generally be more expensive. The ACA requires people to buy a richer benefit package – it only permits sale of the richer benefit packages. You can argue that this is better for society but there is no free lunch and it does eliminate choices many consumers were fine with.

The higher cost sharing – deductibles and co-payments – that many are seeing (including me) is an inevitable byproduct of the ACA insurance market rules, the brave new actuarial risks of the post-ACA marketplace, and competition based on premiums and brand.

Q. Is Medicaid a success story here?

A. Medicaid enrollment data from the states with their own exchanges certainly suggests a surge in Medicaid. It’s still early but it appears that the surge is a combination of ACA Medicaid expansion and the woodwork effect – bringing in individuals already eligible but not enrolled. Medicaid rolls will also increase somewhat as individual commercial polices are cancelled, high-risk pools end, and some small and mid-size employers drop coverage.

Today, Medicaid covers about 74 million Americans. Given all the unknowns, including economic conditions, projected Medicaid enrollment by 2020 ranges from 85 million to 102 million. Regardless, the role of Medicaid in the marketplace and impact of Medicaid on federal and state budgets will only grow.

Q. Should the contractors behind be penalized?

A. Determining accountability for the mess is very tricky. Both the CMS and the multitude of contractors were responsible for the project, with a maze of interdependencies. Parsing out responsibility for the many failed parts of the federal systems for Obamacare will be difficult, will take months, and an independent party such as GAO or the Inspector General. Overall, it appears that there will be considerable finger pointing in all directions, with plenty of blame to go around.

CMS made several significant strategic blunders, most notably the decision to manage the project in-house rather than hiring a systems integrator. Hiring a systems integrator to honcho the project, serve as a super general contractor, make the disparate pieces work together, and oversee testing and problem solving was essential. CMS simply does not have the experience or capabilities to do this in-house. Retaining an integrator would have been expensive, probably at least $75 million on a project this size. Perhaps they didn’t have the budget, but otherwise the decision to handle system integration in-house is inexplicable and proved disastrous.

The Obama administration decided to avoid making decisions during the 2012 election year. Given the nature of elections and the array of winners and losers under the ACA – most of whom still are unaware they are winners or losers – this is perhaps understandable. However, CMS had no choice but to follow orders and avoid making decisions or revealing information about the controversial law during the election. That meant countless critical decisions that should have been made in 2011 and 2012 were not made until well into 2013, leaving little time for problem solving, system integration, and testing. To this day, nearly 44 months since the law was signed, not all ACA-related decisions have been made, with many less critical rules deferred.

In the end, whether in the form of reasons or excuses, the contractors have plenty to point in minimizing their share of responsibility. It appears they have covered themselves with a paper trail of warnings to CMS.

Q. You’ve been particularly critical of the administration’s transparency and follow-through on its own rules.

A. Presidential executive orders have long required cost estimates and impact analyses for every major proposed or final rule. In Executive Order 13563, President Obama reiterated the longstanding requirement and further directed each federal agency “… to use the best available techniques to quantify anticipated present and future benefits and costs as accurately as possible.” A Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) must be prepared for rules with economically significant effects — anything with an impact of $100 million or more in any one year. Obviously, every ACA rule had an impact of over $100 million.

However, early on CMS stopped providing cost estimates for rules implementing the Affordable Care Act. Most were omitted entirely, others watered down to be meaningless statements the analytical equivalent of saying, “The hell if we know what will happen.” They even started explicitly saying in ACA rules — including the massive Medicaid expansion rule — that the rule didn’t have an impact of over $100 million because, in effect, everybody expected it.

My understanding is that CMS was directed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to stop publishing the cost estimates and impact analyses with the ACA rules. They were concerned the information, coming from the CMS Office of the Actuary, would be used as ammunition by the House and other critics of Obamacare. That is certainly true but no excuse for ignoring 30 years of executive orders and the President’s own stated commitment to open government.

Read more of Kip Piper’s exchange with ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein here.



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