MLM / Chain Money
Ponzi schemes and the role of EOW of Mumbai Police
Only those who lost money to the Ponzi schemes of the 1990s would probably remember how they used to lure people into their trap. The entrapment continues even today and people lose tens of thousands of crore rupees to a variety of Ponzis that are proliferating even today. But I want to share a story that has a happy ending, thanks to the work of one upright police officer.
 
In the 1990s, many of us were lured by a phone call from an unknown person claiming we had won a lucky draw and were to receive a gift?  The modus operandi was simple. The caller would tell us, the target victims, that we would have to attend seminar on a particular date, time and place to claim the gift. On the day of the event, there would be another  call confirming attendance, and once we agreed to attend, we would be asked to come along with one’s spouse and not forget to bring a ‘cheque book’ along. 
 
Neatly dressed, we used to enter into a spacious hall to a warm welcome. A man would lead us to a table. Some so-called representative would attend to us with a glossy brochure about an investment scheme – there was also high tea on offer. The representative would describe the whole scheme, its benefits, a rosy future and attractive returns. The schemes were usually a plantation company offering unusual benefits, a holiday time-share scheme, goat farming or some such, which would apparently yield extraordinary returns because of a new technique of operation. The smooth talk of the presenter and the ambience of the hall worked like a charm and people invariably fell for into the trap and handed over a cheque to the person.
 
In 1999, two such companies, Adventure Plantation and Adventure Country Resort attracted people through such calls.  My maternal aunt invested in the first company and I invested in the second one.  Adventure Plantation, was supposed to use the funds collected for purchase of teak (saag) trees and promised extraordinary returns over 20 years. The terms for early withdrawal were very stringent and no return was offered until then, except a tour of the plantation every two years. Adventure Country Resort, issued bonds with an attractive return of 12% per annum payable on maturity, which was 10 years.  Another attractive feature was that the bondholder could enjoy a free stay at one of its hotels, once every two years accompanied with spouse and children below 12. There were also some coupons that could be encashed by selling them at a specific value to other members after a three-year lock-in. I fell for this, despite being a banker along with other professionals and wealthy people. 
 
After a few months, the scheme was exposed as a fraud and we were shocked. The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police intervened, there were some arrests and the EOW asked victims to file written complaints. We also lodged a complaint, but without any real hope of getting back our money.
 
After a few years, we were surprised to receive a letter from the EOW asking us to attend the court and sign some papers. It is then that we met Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Avadhoot Chavan for the first time.  We attended the court three or four times. Mr Chavan, who was invariably surrounded by eager investors used to explain every procedure to us and was also kind enough to share his mobile number. His patience, dedication and untiring effort in answering all our queries was noteworthy. 
 
Two years ago my maternal aunt got back the principle that she had invested in Adventure Plantation and last week I received my principle investment in Adventure Country Resort. I called up Mr Chavan to thank him for the ‘thankless job’ he had done for us.  He informed me that he has retired, but is still associated with this investigation as a special case. He felt satisfied to receive my call.  Being a good citizen of Mumbai, was it not my duty too to thank him and Mumbai Police? I have also written to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai to share my thoughts.
 
Only those who have lost money in a Ponzi scheme would know how rare it is to recover funding from such companies and then distribute it to investors. Yes, it was only the principle and it took decades. It would be nice if the system worked better, but at least this is rare positive news for lakhs of hapless people who have been taken for a ride by such scamsters. 
 
I wish Avadhoot Chavan a happy and healthy retired life.
 
(Mr Abhay Datar is a retired banker who is now a well-known consumer activist. He volunteers his time every Thursday to guide members of Moneylife Foundation on consumer issues, banking and insurance matters). 
 

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COMMENTS

S Thambi Raj

4 months ago

Poor investers money should be returned to them with immediate effect and it is the prime duty of Lodha committee

Sharad Jain

5 months ago

Hats off to Abhay for finding time to help others! May his tribe grow.

4 Reasons Why Pune Scores in Waste Management
All of India’s metropolises are grappling with problems of pollution, poor air quality, no sewage treatment and inadequate solid waste disposal. We ignore the issues until they suddenly erupt in the form of frequent fires at overused dumping grounds (Mumbai), lakes frothing with toxic foam that hit the streets or mass death of fish (Bengaluru), cities being flooded (Chennai) or having to resort to extreme traffic restraints (Delhi). Most of this is a result of economic prosperity and soaring land values which have led to indiscriminate infrastructure building by openly flouting rules or even no serious rule-making. Growing prosperity also means a sharp spike in waste generation by individual families. 
 
The entire gamut of these issues is high on the agenda of prime minister Narendra Modi’s in various forms—the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Clean Ganga project, or the drive to build toilets or plan to build smart cities with well-planned infrastructure. The task is humungous and needs change at the local level where multiple political equations and entrenched corruption comes into play. But some cities have managed to beat the problem, while the bigger ones struggle. Let’s consider just one example. 
 
While it may not rank among India’s cleanest cities as yet, Pune, which is now a part of the PM’s Smart Cities initiative, has made big strides in improving its solid waste management problems, in recent years. The success of the ‘Pune model’ of solid waste management (SWM) is often discussed by Mumbai activists and concerned citizens. On 9th July, a dozen-odd activists, engineers, journalists and concerned citizens visited Pune (a self-paid, independent trip) to figure out why it is doing better than Mumbai. The visit included an overview of Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC’s) activities and a visit to Noble Exchange Environment Solutions Pvt Ltd (NEX) which converts bulk food waste into bio-fuel that will soon power Pune’s public transport buses, in a shining example of converting waste to wealth.
 
What we found is an effort to reduce the waste going to landfills and greenhouse gas emission that needs to be expanded and amplified in cities across the country, with some fine-tuning for local characteristics. What has triggered the push for better SWM is also important; but is not the subject of this column. 
 
Here are four things that seem to be working in Pune where the integrated SWM effort has ensured high (50%-55%) segregation at source in a city that generates 1600-1700mtd (metric tonnes a day) of waste every day.
  1. Right Man for the Job: Committed and dynamic individuals drive change. In Pune, joint municipal commissioner, Suresh Jagtap is the driving force and seems totally committed to the 4Rs (reduction, reuse, recycle and recover) of sustainable development. Concerned Punekars acknowledge that there is genuine ‘stakeholder engagement’ and accountability that extends from rag-pickers’ collectives, to NGOs, citizens’ groups, educational institution and elected corporators. This is through increased transparency and a third-party audit by three educational institutions who produce a well publicised colour-coded monthly scorecard on how each corporator’s constituency has fared on the SWM front. 
     
  2. Multiple Solutions: PMC has combined an integrated approach with a decentralised waste management strategy that encourages NGOs and private sector participation. It has 25 decentralised bio-methane plants which produce 600kw of electricity and compost; the 300tpd NEX plant that converts food waste to bio-CNG, 300TPB (total plumbum) vermi-compost and compost projects (Ajinkya Biofert and Disha), and the Rochem Separation Systems which processes mixed waste to produce 300tpd producing RDF (refuse derived fuel). It also has 13 smaller composting plants. Townships such as the unique Magarpatta City in Pune also take pride in being near-zero garbage as just a part of its focus on eco-sustainability. Key to efficient waste sorting and collection are large organisations such as SWACH (Solid Waste Handlers and Collectors’ Society), at the ground level.
     
  3. Incentives & Fees: Segregation of waste has been made mandatory for all residents with the levy of user charges. At the same time, there is a 5% tax rebate for those who have onsite waste disposal facilities. PMC makes it a point to highlight and celebrate those who adopt innovative solutions and practices in SWM and sanitation, through awards and recognition. 
     
  4. Public-private Partnership: Part of Pune’s success in waste management is its ability to persuade, and work with, private CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives such as the Adar Poonawalla Clean City Movement (APCCM) which pledged Rs100 crore to the city’s waste management efforts. The NEX project, including the land, is fully funded by APCCM; in addition, it has contributed to awareness building, welfare measures for grassroots workers and providing litterbins and mechanised cleaning at specific public spots. The model is working well so far; the process of recycling waste to recover energy is complete. 
 
For Pune, India’s eighth largest city, the challenge now is to prevent slippages in standards already set and to work on plans for efficient disposal of electronic waste, biomedical waste, construction waste and sanitary hygiene products more effectively. Its achievements are best seen in contrast with more resourceful Mumbai which has yet to come up with a sensible plan to reduce garbage and litter in public spaces, enforce segregation at the household level, or even act on easy-to-do bits like collection and reduction of bulk food waste, let alone biomedical and e-waste. 
 
Pune is on track to become a smart city while Mumbai has come up with a 20-year development plan which is full of shocking holes, despite two iterations. 
 
While Pune is involved in a scientific closure and beautification of its 30-hectare dumping site at Urali Devachi, Mumbai has yet to find a solution to repeated fires at the 132 hectares of dumping ground at Deonar where 6,550 metric tonnes of unsegregated garbage, silt and bio-medical waste are dumped every day. Pune’s DBOT (develop build operate and transfer) project, NEX, started producing 45tpd of bio-CNG and 150 tonnes of organic manure at its Talegaon plant, based on the anaerobic digestion system in exactly 11 months after it was awarded the contract. The municipal corporation’s responsibility was to ensure collection of food waste from bulk producers such as hotels and markets and to provide 15,000 sq ft of space for the first-stage sorting, segregation and making a slurry. The actual processing is done at the 5-acreTalegaon plant owned by NEX and Pune’s municipal buses will soon use the fuel generated.
 
In contrast, Mumbai’s second ‘scientific’ dumping ground at Kanjurmarg (67 acres) has provided land to a contractor free of charge, but has yet to convert methane into electricity and has been mired in litigation and controversy, for over a decade. Operating in the same political environment, with the municipal corporation controlled by an opposition party, Pune seems to have found a way to get past political issues through greater transparency. Mumbai, which has an ally of the ruling party controlling the municipal corporation, cannot usher in even basic transparency in handing out contracts to tackle issues such as waste management or potholed roads which can bring cities to a standstill, and destroy years of development in a natural calamity.
 
PMC is controlled by National Congress Party which is not exactly known for delivering great governance. On the other hand, governance, cleanliness, smart cities are among the biggest promises of PM Narendra Modi. Maybe the prime minister’s office can push other cities to learn from Pune’s success on the SWM front and implement the model in a time-bound manner.

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COMMENTS

svgopal

5 months ago

My compliments to PMC and the team for such an innovative green environment initiative. Such things should be published on front pages of newspapers and media should give wider publicity. Hope Mumbai and other cities will replicate the same.

Saurabh Shah

5 months ago

Combination of good administrators and responsible citizens has helped Pune emerge as a leader in SWM. Unfortunately, Mumbai lacks both.

HARSHAD J KAMDAR

5 months ago

We at Save Bombay Committee have been asking for a decentralised Solid Wastw Management for a long time.
We feel smaller cities and towns where the problems are small can be given incentives to start on this project and be guided to make it a sucess.
With increase in urbanisation there is need to set up an institution to teach Urban SWM. This will go a long way to provide trained man-power for this problem haunting our urban universe

Fake Pokemon Go apps infiltrate Google Play store
A malicious gaming app called Pokemon Go Ultimate, the first "lockscreen" app has made its way onto the Google Play store, said software security company ESET.
 
The app when downloaded and run is not installed as Pokemon Go but as "PI Network", a report published in the Fortune said. 
 
Anyone who ran that app would find their phone completely frozen, forcing them to restart the phone by removing the battery. After rebooting, the PI Network app seemed to disappear, but in fact continued running in the background and generating fake ad clicks, stated Fortune.
 
The Pokemon Go gaming app uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities of the device in conjunction with Google Maps to place virtual creatures in real world locations, which one then tries to find using your device as a guide.
 
Once in proximity to the placed creature, one then needs to use device's camera to view the creature and try to capture it.
 
ESET also spotted several other malicious apps, including Install Pokemongo and Guide & Cheats for Pokemon Go. 
 
The plague of malicious tricks surrounding the augmented-reality game highlights the security risk posed by Android's relatively open app ecosystem. 
 
Though the specific apps highlighted by ESET seem to have been removed from Google Play Store, a search found several apps named with variations on Install Pokemon Go.
 
The app, however, has been pulled off from Google Play, ESET reported. One can uninstall the app manually by going to their phone's application manager.
 
The Pokemon Go is available on Google Playstore and Apple's App Store in the US, Japan and Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, Britain and Germany and is coming soon to India, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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