While activists campaigning against President Pratibha Patil’s palatial post-retirement home in Pune are starting a signature campaign today in Pune for citizen support, they are waiting for some crucial answers to their queries invoked through the RTI Act
While the work (though slowed down) is in progress at the 2,42,000 sq ft defence land in Kirkee Cantonment, Pune, where President Pratibha Patil’s palatial mansion in is under construction, RTI (Right to Information) activist Anoop Awasthi who is also part of the campaign against this construction, has asked a series of RTI queries that could further nail the President.
Mr Awasthi is part of the team lead by war veterans Col Suresh Patil and Comm Ravindra Pathak, in the mission to compel President Patil to surrender the land to the defence authorities. Mr Awasthi served as a naval officer (JCO rank) for 15 years. A tenacious RTI activist, Mr Awasthi had also fought a silent battle in the Lavasa campaign.
Some of the RTI applications lying with several defence offices in Pune further pinpoint the illegality involved in the defence authorities handing over this land for such construction:
Date of RTI application: 29th March
Office to which RTI query sent: Chief Executive Officer, Kirkee Cantonment Board
(Awasthi’s remarks: The contract has been allegedly given to contractors who are not registered with MES—Military Engineering Services— a mandatory clause)
Date of RTI application: 20th April
Office to which RTI query sent: Garrison Engineer, MES, Khadki
(Awasthi’s remarks: The contract has been again allegedly given to contractors who are not registered with MES, a mandatory clause)
Date of RTI application: 20th April
Office to which RTI query sent: Headquarters Southern Command
(Awasthi’s remarks: This information would give the crisis-like situation in accommodation for the thousands of officers and jawans who serve at the headquarters of the Southern Command. Against this backdrop, President Patil building a palace is very stark)
Date of RTI Application: 14th April
Office to which query sent: Principal Director, Defence Estate Office, Southern Command, with similar RTI queries filed to Tree Officer, Pune Municipal Commissioner and CEO, Kirkee Cantonment Board
1. Number of trees brought down to facilitate construction on above said land
2. Copy of permission from Tree Department/respective authorities
3. Revenue received from these trees
4. Name and details of contractors appointed
(Awasthi’s remarks: Under the amendment of the National Tree Act Policy 2006, punishment is stringent as it includes imprisonment and a penalty of Rs10,000)
Date of RTI application: 19th March
Office to which query sent: Deputy Director General, Defence, Raksha Sampada Bhavan, Delhi
(Awasthi’s remarks: Both the bungalows are on A1 Defence land—which means it can be used strictly for military official purpose. Under what rule has it been given for President Patil’s personal use?)
The Only RTI that was answered was in the regard of lot allotment
Date of RTI application: 29th March
Office to which query sent: Defence Estate Office, Pune
Details regarding the nature of land.
Date of Reply: 18th April
Reply: The 26A and 38 Bungalows are on A1 land.
Comm Ravindra Pathak (retd), Lt Col Suresh Patil (retd), and Anoop Awasthi are sitting outside the Pune Collector office from 1100 to 1800 hrs on 25th and 26th April to launch their signature campaign. Puneites are requested to visit them and sign the paper. Volunteers are welcome, they write in their press note.
Here’s a petition grievance letter posted by Comm Ravindra Pathak on the website of the President of India:
The registered number is
Your Request/Grievance Registration Number is: PRSEC/E/2012/06069
Dear Hon Smt Pratibhatai Patil President of India,
“We the undersigned appealed to you to return the Army A 1 land that you have selected for your stay post retirement.
“Madam, documents reveal that your office has twisted the facts and told half-truths to cover up the manipulations in getting this land to you for use post retirement.
“If you care to look at the letter written by your secretary to the home secretary with a copy to the defence secretary you will find following error.
“The letter states that you have selected Pune as the place for post-retirement home. Madam welcome to Pune. The letter also states that bungalow number 38 and 26 A have been selected. Dear Madam President, who has given this right to your secretary to select the plots where you will stay? The rules state that in areas outside New Delhi highest type of existing government accommodation shall be made available.
“Further the letter states that your secretary has spoken to the defence secretary. Why has this been done by your Secretary? That is the job of the home secretary.
“We hope you are aware that your type VIII entitlement ends in New Delhi. Outside New Delhi your entitlement is only 4,498 sq ft plinth with additional 1,065 sq ft for your office security, etc, of temporary and portable specification. Please note no rules talk of size of plots in the entitlement. So why has your secretary brought our plot sizes? We are sure you are aware that even in Delhi all Type VIII bungalows do not have same size of plot.
“Dear madam how has your secretary has come to a conclusion that a plot of 1,29,373 sq ft is not adequate to meet all legal needs of the President? What is the FSI your secretary has used?
“We hope that a serving military officer who staying in bungalow No 38 was made to shift residence for the sake of your palace. Is this fair play?
“Madam President your secretary has clearly stated that special repairs would have to be carried out. Madam we hope you are aware that special repairs do not include pulling down of the old structure.
“Please see the photo to see how much environmental damage your Special repairs have done.
“The secretary further goes on to state that that special repairs and further maintenance would be required to be carried out by Defence establishment. Why should the defence establishment bear the cost of your retirement the secretary suggests that unless there is a reason no cost would be borne by home ministry or the urban development ministry?
“Dear Madam if it is the duty of defence establishment (read army) to bear the cost of your retirement as Supreme Commander after a tenure of just five years why is it that you have not bothered to look after the interests of your soldiers who live in slums and your retired soldiers who are being wrong pension even after the recommendations of Sixth Pay Commission and why is your government fighting every case of veterans in the court?
“If the Supreme Commander for five years service, living in luxury of Raisina Hill gets so much, then please give at least four times more to those who have served in hardships for more years than you.
“You have refused to be the chief patron of one of our veterans’ organizations. We hope you were aware that all past presidents have graced that patronship in the past.
“We the citizens are worried and angry that you are setting a bad and dangerous precedent of people in high government posts to usurp army land meant for army use only. None of her predecessors ever asked for such a favour and were happy retiring in modest residences.
“We request you to reconsider your and only your decision to stay on army land meant for army use and return the land for army use.”
Comm Ravindra Pathak (retd)
(Vinita Deshmukh is a consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also 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 on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])
Independent mutual fund agents and distributors will now have to shell out more than double the amount in order to continue doing their business. Is NISM looking to needlessly increase cost of doing business for its own benefit?
Small mutual fund (MF) distributors and agents who rely on their certificates for doing business, will now have to shell out more than double the amount in order to keep the certificate, as the National Institute of Securities Market (NISM), and the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are making life tough for them. It costs, at the most, Rs3,600 for adhering to the new mutual fund requirement norms stipulated by NISM at a time when the business is dwindling. This move also enriches NSIM which has little or no contribution to spreading genuine financial literacy.
According to the communiqué issued by NISM around two months ago, the candidate can opt to get the certificate in one Rs1,800 per day per candidate, in case candidate opts for a single day training (i.e. the candidate chooses to complete the continuing professional education—CPE—for only one day at a time out of the two days of the CPE programme); or Rs1,700 per day per candidate in case candidate opts to complete both days training on two consecutive days of the two days of the CPE programme. A candidate with a valid NISM/ AMFI certificate is required to complete the mandated two-day NISM CPE programme within a period of 12 months preceding the date of the expiry of the said certificate.
This means, for a two-day course, the maximum the candidate will now have to pay is Rs3,600 (Rs1,800 x 2 days; two non-consecutive days) or Rs3,400 (Rs1,700 x 2; two consecutive days). Earlier it was Rs1,500 for just a one-day programme.
“NISM has unnecessarily hiked prices at their own convenience, for unknown reasons”, complain distributors. Because this is a regulatory requirement, advisors and certificate-holders don’t have any other choice but to shell out more. SEBI already squeezed them out with the banning of entry loads. Asset Management Companies (AMCs) usually reimburse the fees to their employees who take the exam.
Further, the communiqué said, upon expiry of the validity of the certificate possessed by an associated person, the certificate may get revalidated, provided the associated person successfully completes a programme of CPE, as specified by NISM during 12 months preceding the date of expiry of the certificate, or by passing the relevant NISM certification examination before the expiry of the existing certificate.
The funny thing is that one could fork over far less money for a fresh exam than attend two days of ‘training’. The NISM-Series-V-A: Mutual Fund Distributors Certification Examination, which is the main certification exam, costs just Rs1,000 NISM more, theoretically, the candidate can flunk the exam twice and still save money if the examination route is opted (Rs400 saved—assuming two flunks and a pass on third attempt). Also, previously, the candidate had to renew the certificate within six months from expiry. Now that has been elongated to 12 months from expiry.
To provide a smooth transition, NISM will continue to offer the current CPE programme (the one-day programme) till 31 May 2012. An associated person holding a certificate whose validity will lapse on or before 30 November 2012 may undergo the current programme till 31 May 2012. Such a person holding a valid certificate whose validity will lapse between 1 June 2012 and 30 November 2012, and who has not undergone the above programme, may attend the NISM Mutual Fund Distributor (MFD) CPE as per the revised requirements from 1 June 2012 onwards, within the validity period of the said certificate. An associated person holding a certificate whose validity will expire on or after 1 December 2012 must undergo the NISM MFD CPE as per the revised requirements from 1 June 2012 onwards.
NISM performs two functions delegated to it under the SEBI (Certification of Associated Persons in the Securities Markets) (SEBI CAPSM) Regulations, 2007. These are:
1) Offering mandatory certification examinations for associated persons of securities market intermediaries. (i.e. NISM-Series-V-A: Mutual Fund Distributors Certification Examination)
2) Offering CPE programmes for associated persons of market intermediaries who are holding valid certificates. (i.e. NISM MFD CPE)
As per SEBI Notification Cir/IMD/DF/5/2010, since 1 June 2010, NISM MFD CPE programme has replaced the AMFI Refresher Course programme for the purpose of revalidation of NISM/ AMFI certificates.
Advisors are required to hold a NISM-MFD certificate in order to distribute mutual fund products and keep renewing them when they’re about to expire. NISM is a public trust, established by SEBI, the regulator for securities markets in India. According to the website, the board of governors of NISM include:
This isn’t the first time this kind of thing happened. Even AMFI had done it before, when it was in charge of issuing similar certificates, especially when they were losing ground to NISM (Mutual fund industry dealt another blow, AMFI hikes ARN fees). Is NISM looking to needlessly increase cost of doing business for its own benefit?
Rewarding efficient employees and dealing with rebellious staff was part of the responsibilities at a garment factory. The 25th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
Though I had visited Sri Lanka once before I joined Gulf Industries, I had no opportunity or even need to go there again while working with this firm, as our partner took the responsibility of selecting the staff and sending them to us for employment. It was only required, when we built Finetex and it was Zubair’s way of delegating responsibility and ensuring that I get the best staff for our plant.
It took a month and half for me to know my staff; I observed them at close quarters; made my own notes on how they worked and what parts of the garment they were good at and so on. Since it was a system of batch production, each component had to be done well and passed on to the next operator ahead who would then go to the next step in manufacture. Of course, each batch had its supervisor who was constantly on the move, checking, helping, correcting, so as to make every part of the garment perfect, so that, at the end of the line, a finely made garment would emerge!
I had mentally made up my mind to reward the workers; these would be in ad hoc payment, of a sum equivalent to SLR 750 (Sri Lankan rupees), which was the kind of amount many small factories would give as a start for its trainees for a whole month! Our prize proposal was simply for encouraging them to produce the very best. This was for various sections of the plant and this would be a permanent feature, month after month. Of course, the selected winners’ photographs would be displayed in the main production hall.
Zubair is one of the rare entrepreneurs who would welcome such innovative ideas. When I suggested this to him, all that he said was: “Why do you have to even refer this to me? You do whatever you feel best for the company”. A little later, I spoke to Piyasena and without announcing the details of the ‘prizes’, we simply publicised on the mike that we expect our staff members to take pride in their work and produce the best.
On the 7th of the following month, just before the morning tea break, we announced that a special appreciation for the good work done by the staff for the previous month will be made.
When they returned, the names of winners were announced and prizes in closed ‘envelopes’ were given. There was excitement and surprise and after a speech made by Perera; there was even more enthusiasm for the staff to be on the winners’ board the next month. By the time lunch break out took place, the board was prominently displayed with the photographs of winners and their sections!
This was the first of its kind, introduced in not only in the Free Zone, but in the entire industry, operating in the UAE as well. We had not experienced any absenteeism and discipline was the very best that we enjoyed in our plant.
Mohammed, who had helped me during the interview process a few months earlier, and who was operating a plant in Shariah, was in the Free Zone to see his friends, after which he dropped unexpectedly in our plant. It was a pleasant surprise to receive this soft spoken ex-air force man, who was always friendly and nice. He had dropped in on a help mission and wanted my assistance urgently.
He explained that, due to recommendations made by his wife, he had met four young Sri Lankan girls in Karachi, who had come there on a ‘maid’s’ employment visa and were facing difficult working conditions, as a result of which they had simply “run away” from their jobs, and were doing odd jobs, and had landed in a garment factory. His wife had given them support and protection and somehow wanted them to get a break in a garment factory in Dubai! Since, it would take quite some time for him to get new visas for the staff in his plant; would Finetex give them an opportunity?
He had all the passport details, photographs and a description of what they were doing in the garment factory. After his wife made the recommendations, he had met them and came to know they were really good in their jobs and had picked up the operations well. Besides, they were able to speak Urdu well in the four years they had spent there.
It took less than a week for me to get them the visas and give them suitable jobs in our plant. In fact, Perera was more than pleased with their work, speed and finish. They worked for a good nine months or so and I had suggested to Perera that one of the girls, let us call her, Premawathy, be groomed to become a supervisor, because of her knowledge, work discipline, etc.
But, unfortunately, all too suddenly, during a random inspection by one of the Free Zone officials, she not only began to argue with him, but began to raise slogans about various matters and sort of challenged him to say that the workers must form a ‘union’ to protect their interests. Regrettably, this word itself is ‘taboo’ in the Middle East and her utterances were not acceptable to the authorities. The three other girls, who had come with her, immediately jumped up in her support, and for the first time, we had a sort of rebellious situation in our plant, the like of which never happened before.
I always loved and respected my staff and to this day they reciprocate this feeling. But this was a situation that the Free Zone did not accept and did not want any other staff member to even dream. The gang of four were repatriated back to Sri Lanka on the first flight out of the country, by mid night of the same day.
I was back in Muscat and the garment factories were slowly coming up; we had quite a few visitors and dignitaries from leading business families who wanted to get into the business but were unwilling to invest; they wanted full control and a greater share of profits, which was not acceptable to interested parties from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. The Philippine industrialists were happy building up their plants, and were not keen to invest overseas. China, of course, was expanding within the country itself.
Our shipments from Muscat also continued at great speed; and I was travelling back and forth; and we had a shipment of trousers, for a company called Habband, which was being made at both the plants. In order to coordinate the actual production and shipment details, I had come on the previous evening to Dubai and was in the plant, when Haji Cader called.
From his call, I realized that he had called Muscat and was directed to get in touch with me as I was in Dubai. There was an emergency, involving a staff member by the name, Ganga. Her young daughter was in the General Hospital in Colombo, undergoing treatment and a surgery was likely. Haji did not know the details and it was due any time; was it possible for me to send her back urgently?
Even before I discussed the issue with Piyasena, I arranged for her booking and a definite seat (it was impossible to get seats in those days); but without her ‘pataka’ I would not be given the passport by the Free Zone! All our staff had strict instructions to carry the pataka all the time when outside the camp; inside the factory, it was a ‘must’, and if any person was found working without this ID, they were liable to be punished, which included a fine. And I did not know whether Ganga was carrying her ID with her or not!
I called in Perera to my office, explained the situation to him and said, I have to carry out this ‘surprise’ inspection and check myself, because I have got some “secret news” from my friend in the Free zone that some officers were coming to the factory in the next half hour or so. This was our plan to get her pataka!
In the mock drill that followed, we called some 10-12 staff members to check their ID, praying that Ganga should not have hers with her! Eight of them had and four, including Ganga, had only the photocopy of the pataka, but not the original. With a warning, they were sent back to the camp in our van, and their patakas secured. As a ‘punishment’ we advised the four to stay back at the camp and told them their salary will be cut for the day (we never did that to any staff).
In the evening, both Perera and I called on her and explained to her the situation and that she would be met by Haji Cader at the airport early next morning. Her to and fro air passage was paid for by the company. All the members of the staff made a voluntary contribution and the company gave her a month’s salary to cover her absence. She rejoined some six weeks later, after her daughter had recovered completely. Our staff was always treated as a member of our own families.
Another member of the staff, who used to obtain urgent ‘supplies’ from the market was making a quick buck or two in preparing false invoices; and I found this myself when Perera asked me to get the materials, on my way to the plant. A quick check revealed that these items (like threads, lining materials, etc, had to be on our account, when we were doing “sub-contracting” jobs) were purchased regularly, while this driver was making the money. With the documentary proof I spoke to Zubair, who not only made the guy apologise to me, but removed him from our employment.
We loved our staff and stood by them. But we did not accept any deviation and indiscipline of any kind, for both us, work was worship. Period.
Any job opportunity was always first extended to our staff members and we had the lowest attrition in the entire industry. We remained the best employer in the industry.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was 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. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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