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Process of change should begin with us

Vinay Somani, founder of the NGO platform, spoke on the role we can play in bringing about a change, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr Verghese Kurien

On the occasion of the first Sahakarya Kranti Diwas, I would like to talk about what the process of change involves and the bottlenecks in this process—bottlenecks that all of us here have experienced. I am sharing today some of our learnings through eight years of Karmayog where we have been working to bring about change in large and small ways. Bringing about change in society is both an internal as well as an external process.

A) Internal Processes:

A.1. People say, “But, what can we do to make things better?”

Our life's journey is about ourselves, and we must constantly look at ourselves to start improving things, instead of looking outside and to others for change.

We want other people to change, the system to change, the country to change... None of these will happen unless we start by changing ourselves first.

A. 2. Take corruption

The first thing that we must decide is that we must ourselves be honest. I have to reach a meeting, say today’s event at Moneylife Foundation and I am late, and someone calls me up and asks where I am, and I reply that I have passed Mahim, though actually I am still at Bandra. If we decide that we will be honest in everything that we say and do, then we start realizing how dishonest we actually are.

As we start walking the path of being completely honest, the world changes completely and unless we begin this journey, we have no idea about the impacts of such change.

A. 3. Take cleanliness

We are not interested in keeping our surroundings clean. As long as our own home or work area is clean, we are rarely bothered about the corridor outside. We are not willing to take the extra effort or pay the extra money to keep that corridor clean.

There is a scheme in Mumbai called the Saaf Aangan scheme where citizens can adopt the pavement and road in front of their house or office, and keep that area clean, free of encroachers, etc. Hardly anyone in Mumbai has come forward to take part in the Saaf Aangan scheme. Why? It’s the BMCs job. But, if we were really neat and clean persons, then we would be unable to tolerate the dirt around us anywhere.

A. 4. Developing spine

How do we develop spine in ourselves? In our daily lives, we have to say things that people may not like hearing, both to people that we like and to people that we don’t like. Usually, we don’t do this; instead we maintain a quid pro quo, where no one says anything to anyone.

We are unable to be tough with our own family and friends, but we expect the CAG to be tough, we expect the RBI governor to tackle inflation, despite pressure from mighty corporates, and we expect our municipal commissioner to take on the builder lobby. How can they be tough, at jobs and decisions 10,000 times tougher than our daily decisions, when we are unable to take a firm stand on the daily everyday things in our lives?

Most of us can hardly be effective in our country, in our city, in our lane, in our building and even in our home, but still we expect that someone else will have this effectiveness for the whole country to improve, and that too without our support.

A.5. Moving towards a balanced state

We need to have a conscious desire to move our activities from a tamasic (passive & ignorant) state to a rajasic (aware & excitable) state and eventually to a sattvic (balanced & serene) state. Your entire world changes into a more serene and balanced place, and if more people do this, gradually we will see that the world will change into a serene and balanced place.

It may sound too basic and simple or inconsequential to be true, but we have no idea how tough this is to achieve even for one person.

These above examples all show that the focus for any change must first be inwards.

What are some of the external processes that can lead to change?

B) External Process:

B. 1. Write if you have a problem

If we have a problem about garbage or traffic or corruption that troubles us, then we must write a letter or lodge a proper complaint. We have to convey the details of the problem that we face to the persons or authority in charge, if we have even the smallest real desire to get that problem solved. Writing a complaint letter is the first step, irrespective of whether someone may or may not take action on our complaint. If we just keep talking about all the problems that we face without ever writing a complaint about it, then we should seriously reflect on whether we actually have a desire to get that problem resolved.

If we do not do the small things, then the big things will never change.

B. 2. Define the problem from the angle of all stakeholders involved, including opposing ones.


When there are competing claims of different stakeholders, we must take into account whatever is feasible. When we work keeping in mind the views and needs of all stakeholders, then the solution that emerges will be the correct one.

The issue of hawkers or street vendors in Mumbai is one such issue that has largely remained unresolved because no solution has met the needs of all stakeholders. And who are the stakeholders in this case:

- the citizen as a pedestrian, who needs empty footpaths to walk on

- the citizen as a consumer, who wants cheap & conveniently located goods and services

- Citizens Groups and Resident Welfare Associations, who want to improve their localities

- Hawkers, who want to earn a livelihood

- BMC, which regulates the use of pavements, roads, public spaces, selling of goods, etc.

- Police, who enforce laws and prevent encroachment.

So solutions that have been tried in the past have either ignored the needs of pedestrians, or ignored the needs of residents, or ignored the needs of the hawkers, or ignored the capacity of the police to implement the law, etc.

B. 3. Cause Vs Symptom

When we start working on any issue, we may start by tackling one or more of the symptoms of the problem. But if we are interested in reaching a lasting solution, then we have to tackle the root cause. If we do not tackle the root cause of the problem, we may sometimes cause even more harm and problems, than when we started with. If we tackle only the symptoms, the results will be limited, and we will have to constantly enforce compliance, as the root cause will continue to generate new symptoms.

E.g. Tackling the stray dogs issue in Mumbai, does not involve catching all the dogs and releasing them somewhere else, or keeping them locked up, or even killing them all. It also doesn't stop at sterilizing and vaccinating the stray dogs against rabies, though this is a huge step. Stray dogs thrive in cities because of open garbage bins and piles of waste—and unless this root cause is tackled, the stray dog problem will continue.

B.4. How to tackle resistance to our work and ideas?

When we first realise that we are not happy with things around us and decide to do something about it, there are two broad ways that we could go about it.

One way is to put pressure on government and other agencies to do their job and believe that the government can indeed achieve what is needed, as “where there is a will there is a way”. If this is the path that you prefer, more power to you. This is a path that several individuals and civil society groups have taken with many successes too.

There is another way, when a citizen has thought about and realised a solution to some problem that affects him or her. Let’s say that this solution is implementable, cost-effective and suitable and yet when you take this solution to the public agencies which could adopt and implement it, there is little positive response from them.

There are two possible reasons for this resistance:

One being that there is a vested interest in maintaining the status quo—for the moment I am not addressing this today. The second is that the government agency is not able to implement the solution due to some reason that they are not able to tell us. Instead of just assuming that in general, government is lethargic and disinterested, in such a situation, we must try and find out their viewpoint and objections, and incorporate and factor this into our solution. Once we know what the objection is to the proposal or suggestion, we can take appropriate steps to overcome this.

So, how can we overcome the resistance to our proposal?

One of the ways is to organize a public forum or meeting where both you and a representative from the concerned government department are speaking on that issue.

This is exactly what MoneyLife Foundation has been doing through some of their public events. We have seen at Karmayog that this method can have immense success in resolving differences in viewpoints, and this approach has enabled us in the past to work with MCGM to frame two new Rules for Mumbai.

B.5. Forming a group /team

Irrespective of whether we decide to work as a pressure group for public agencies, or as collaborators with government, one of the essential steps that we must take is to form a core group of people for the cause. Such a group, be it even five or six people, is needed for logistical support, to prevent burn-out, to sustain the momentum of actions, and even to keep open avenues of dialogue with people, who may have closed them with some group members.

The group should have people from various backgrounds, with a common commitment to resolve the problem. The challenge of the leader of the group is how to keep the group together despite some members feeling that their objectives may have been diluted, or that the means are not exactly how they wish them to be, or that there are some differences on principles, etc. The appropriate leader, in many cases, may not even be the person who started the process, but needs to be the person who can hold the group together.

B. 6. Define milestones

We must define several achievable milestones for our work, and take the steps to achieve these. Even if we do not achieve the absolute end objective, by defining a series of milestones and reaching these, we will get a sense of achievement and satisfaction from our work, be motivated to continue, and not get bogged down by others' unrealistic or ambitious expectations of us.

B. 7. The cause is greater than us

While engaging in initiatives to bring about social change, we should always remember the cause, and the fact that the cause is greater than us. Therefore we must try and involve everyone engaged in that issue, whether they agree with us or not, and whether or not they are competitors.

B.8. Crossing the plateau

We have seen through our work at Karmayog that in all such efforts to bring about change, there comes a point when we reach a plateau. Some of the points mentioned above, specifically

- incorporating the viewpoints of those resisting you
- forming a group to sustain your initiative
- realizing that the cause is greater than us, individually
- constantly improving ourselves as human beings
are the means to cross that plateau and move ahead.

B. 9. Support each other

Finally, we need to all support each other. This may sound obvious, but we usually don’t implement it, though we may mentally commit our support. Therefore, if something is being done by some individual or group that you agree with, do show your support to them. How? By writing a cheque to them, even of Rs1,000, by attending their events, by talking about their work to your friends, by creating awareness about them through email and social media, and by writing to the media about them.

Closing: One letter every week: 52 letters in a year

We have seen, through the last 8 years of work at Karmayog, that paper moves government, and that a letter from a citizen has greater power and impact than we commonly think. Remember that while your troublesome email can be deleted, your letter cannot be simply thrown into the dustbin.

Let’s resolve that each one of us will write and send one letter every week regarding something that troubles us. That would be 52 letters in a year. The letter can be to the Traffic Police, to the BMC, to the chief minister of Maharashtra, to our daily newspaper for having a full page ad instead of news everyday on the front page, to prominent companies whose products you use, for misleading claims about their products, to our local MP, MLA or corporator with suggestions for our area, to the managing committee of our housing society about ideas for improvement, to our favourite actor or actress about a cause that they can endorse and raise awareness on, to the political party that we have been voting for...

[In case you have trouble with the contact details of anyone that you would like to write to, we would be happy to try and help you out with that.]

Send us a copy of your letter. Karmayog goes out to over 64,000 people everyday—someone will read and be moved to respond and take some action triggered by your letter. Send us the responses that you receive too, both good and bad.

I am confident that a movement can be born from this.



nagesh kini

5 years ago

My take -
A.3 Cleanliness - How many in the Municipal Corporation are aware of the Saaf Angaan Scheme and what are the steps taken to make the civic staff and citizens to be aware of this Scheme.

B.5 Forming a Group/team
BMC has in place the Advanced Locality Management for Citizen Participation in Locality concerns.
Mumbai is reported to have just over 140 such groups across all wards.
BMC needs to come out with fact files as to how many are active and what is the contribution of the Ward Office with the ALMs.
One Civic Officer has the audacity to call them "Eco-terrorists" who are a nuisance to their money making devices!
These are fom hands-on experiences of one who knows Civic matters very closely.

nagesh kini

5 years ago

My take -
A.3 Cleanliness - How many in the Municipal Corporation are aware of the Saaf Angaan Scheme and what are the steps taken to make the civic staff and citizens to be aware of this Scheme.

B.5 Forming a Group/team
BMC has in place the Advanced Locality Management for Citizen Participation in Locality concerns.
Mumbai is reported to have just over 140 such groups across all wards.
BMC needs to come out with fact files as to how many are active and what is the contribution of the Ward Office with the ALMs.
One Civic Officer has the audacity to call them "Eco-terrorists" who are a nuisance to their money making devices!
These are fom hands-on experiences of one who knows Civic matters very closely.

Mutual fund SIPs decline further. Who is to blame?

A large portion of SIPs were withdrawn before the completion of their tenure. This just shows no efforts have been taken to retain SIP investors

The number of systematic investment plans (SIPs) ceased before the tenure and those expired, outnumbered the new SIP registrations resulting in a decline in total SIP accounts. The number of new SIPs registered was just 6.69 lakh whereas the number of SIPs that were stopped before the stipulated tenure and those that expired totalled as much as 9.78 lakh, according to Computer Age Management Services (CAMS) data which accounts for 60% of the industry. However, what is more striking is that as many as 5.10 lakh SIPs were ceased before the completion of the stipulated tenure. The high number of SIPs being ceased shows that the investor has not clearly understood the concept of a systematic investment. To attain the true benefits of rupee cost averaging, one needs to keep investing at regular intervals and not try to time the market. But has the fund house or distributors taken any steps to educate the investor about the facts about investing though a SIP?

According to the CAMS data the SIPs were ceased during a period when the Sensex was around 16,500-17,000. The Sensex is now around 18,800. This just shows that there is no form of handholding for the investor. Investors would have withdrawn their SIP seeing a decline in their portfolio value, but this is part and parcel of a SIP. We had shown in our cover story a few months back (Read: SIP smartly) that over shorter periods SIPs can deliver negative returns, but if you continue for a longer period the chances of negative returns is reduced. Most investors are not made aware of this fact by either the fund houses or their distributors, and some are only shown a hypothetical chart when the concept of rupee cost averaging works best. As for the regulator, they would say that they have done their part by asking fund houses to set aside a portion of the expense ratio for investor education.

Over the first half of the financial year 2012-13, equity mutual funds have witnessed a net outflow of Rs7,275 crore. It is but obvious that investors are not are not putting their money into mutual funds. Every month we analyse the data provided by AMFI and point out the declining trend in net inflows. Therefore a decline in SIPs is not a surprise to regular Moneylife readers. Net SIP registrations have been a negative figure each month from April 2012 to September 2012. The SIPs ceased or expired has been a greater number than new SIP registrations leading to a decline of nearly  3.09 lakh SIP accounts despite the fact that the number of new SIP registrations was showing a rising trend from June 2012 to September 2012.

The decline in the number of SIPs is not a recent trend. In April 2012, CAMS had come out with a similar study for an 11-month period from April 2011 and February 2012 (Read: SIPs are not selling. A wake up call for Sebi?). The number of new SIP accounts peaked at around 200,000 in August 2011 month and this has since steadily declined by more than 60% to 75,000 new accounts. The top 15 cities contribute nearly 90% of the total assets of the mutual fund industry. However, nearly half the new SIP registrations came from the beyond the top 15 cities according to the CAMS report.  Though the ticket size may not be as much as compared to the top 15 cities, it is still encouraging. The average ticket size of retail investors from the top 15 cities was Rs3,790 and that from beyond 15 cities was Rs2,760.



mam chand aggarwal

5 years ago

Most of the investors are waiting for the uptrend of share market .
If crosses 19500 they will with draw their hard money . Investors are in great loss with MFs.You will yourself see the future .

Ramesh Poapt

5 years ago

A matter of concern indeed!SIP with Insurance,SIP with feature to invest more in decline of index,SIP with holidays without break,SIP with auto Top up introduced by many MFs.But result-decline in folios!
1.A daring suggestion- 5 yrs SIP in equity/hybrid/debt schemes to be given tax break! Closure to attract clubbing to income.
2.Scheme change in SIP is not allowed. The same should be considered say after 12 months if SIP us for 3 yrs or more.

Suiketu Shah

5 years ago

Most agents of MF esp wealth managements companies are only int in their commission,not guiding investores periodically rightly which is the main cause of this.The way agents of MF work,I think MF industry will shrink more and more.A real waste of time MF is withotu trustworthy relaible agents offering value-added service to customer.


dilip golani

In Reply to Suiketu Shah 5 years ago

yes sir it is mf agent who doesn't guide the investor to continue the SIP and just asking you and the author of this article why would he guide you are the investors paying him service charge for his advise??? are the regulators paying him enough renumeration to meet his cost. Guiding/educating an investor requires not only petrol but also lot of effort/time and none of this is free. Seriously just answer me if I am to come to you and educate you about SIP how long will it take 10 minutes 15 minutes no sir it will take around atleast 30 minutes or perhaps more and will you start the sip the same day itself or will you ask for another meeting? and in any case will you pay me for the time I have spent with you for educating you about mutual funds????? Ask yourself this question first and then blame the agent..


In Reply to Suiketu Shah 5 years ago

1) Protecting investor’s interest: A strong deterrent needs to be in place. Any abuse of client’s trust or any case of mis-selling must be most severely dealt with. Wonder if this can be done retrospectively; to identify and punish miscreants, whosoever they may be.

2) Sir, about mf agents being interested only in commissions. The commissions for selling traditional life insurance policies are in the region of 25% - 30% for the first year. Now compare this with the 2.25% which the mf agents used to get in the best of the times. – Those interested only in commissions will never sell mutual funds; especially when there other products offering more than 10 times the compensation and they may be doing just that.

3) Mutual funds industry is shrinking not because of the way agents work. But, because there are not enough agents working for the MF industry anymore – The number of mf agents has shrunk by about 50%.

4) In the past two decades, mutual funds have been gaining in popularity and growing across the world. In the USA; there are more mutual funds than listed companies. There is nothing wrong with mutual funds.


5 years ago

The fault lies with the abolition of the entry load (of 2.25% ) and the ripple effect it has had on weakening the distribution network of mutual funds in India. But, who will admit and rectify?

disclosure: Ours is a mutual funds distribution company

jaideep shirali

5 years ago

Decline in SIPs can blamed on the distributor, investor and the regulator.Many distributors still don the insurance cap, losses scare them. They prefer to offer insurance products, given the market volatility.Now that traditional insurance plans are back, investors will earn sub-optimal returns of 3-6% p.a.Investors have seen their MF portfolios recover to cost price in some cases from 2008. They would rather earn less on insurance products rather than in double digits if they hold on through volatile markets. SEBI has made villains out of the whole mutual fund industry and the distributors. Investment in securities is being compared to FDs by so-called experts. On one hand SEBI worries about inadequate penetration of equities in India, while it is busy criticizing fund managers for the scheme performance. SEBI has also ensured that selling mutual funds and SIPs is not so profitable (around Rs 5 upfront less Service Tax for a monthly Rs 1000 SIP). I wonder which business is so rewarding !

RTI Judgement Series: PIO cannot deny information sought under RTI citing other rules or law

PIOs cannot deny information sought using the RTI Act, by citing any other law or rule or ask the applicant to apply under other rules, like the Order XII of the Supreme Court Rules. This is the third in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application 

The public information officer (PIO) cannot deny information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, unless except under Sections 8 and 9 and ask the applicant to apply under other rules like the Order XII of the Supreme Court (SC) Rules, says the Central Information Commission. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, also disagreed with the decision of the then Chief Information Commission.
“The SC Rules as well as the RTI Act co-exist and therefore, it is for the citizen to determine which route s/he would prefer for obtaining the information. The right to information available to the citizens under the RTI Act cannot be denied where such citizen chooses to exercise such right, as has been done by the PIO in the instant case. The Commission would like to highlight that just as the SC Rules put in place by the Supreme Court are not abrogated, the RTI Act passed by the Parliament also cannot be suspended. If the PIO has received a request for information under the RTI Act, the information shall be provided to the applicant as per the provisions of the RTI Act and any denial of the same must be in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only,"  the Commission said in its order issued on 11 May 2011.
Gurgaon resident RS Misra sought information from the PIO, SC, on nine queries pertaining to action taken or status report on certain letters and reasons for judicial decisions. The PIO informed that in regard with query nos. 1 to 7, inspection can be done and information/ certified copies of the judicial records /judgments of the Supreme Court can be obtained by moving an application to the Registrar (Copying), Supreme Court under Order XII, SC Rules, 1966 on payment of prescribed fees and charges. The Officer also denied information on query no 9, saying that it is beyond the scope and jurisdiction of the PIO to interpret the law, judgements of the SC or of any other courts, opine, comment or advise on the matters, as it is not covered under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.
The First Appellate Authority (FAA) upheld the decision of the PIO and asked Mr Misra to apply under Order XII of the SC Rules for inspection of documents and information related to judicial records on payment of the prescribed fee. Mr Misra, then approached the Commission.
Mr Gandhi, in his order said that it is legally established that information requested for under the RTI Act may be exempted from disclosure in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 only and no other exemptions can be claimed while rejecting a demand for disclosure.
Section 22 of the RTI Act expressly provides that the provisions of the RTI Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the RTI Act. 
“In other words, where there is any inconsistency in a law as regards furnishing of information, such law shall be superseded by the RTI Act. Insertion of a non-obstante clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act was a conscious choice of the Parliament to safeguard the citizens' fundamental right to information from convoluted interpretations of other laws adopted by public authorities to deny information,” Mr Gandhi said.
The Commission said, “Merely because Order XII of the SC Rules provide for a mechanism by which certain information may be obtained by the applicant, does not mean that the citizen cannot exercise her right to obtain the same information by taking recourse to the RTI Act (subject always to the provisions of Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act)”.
Order XII of the SC Rules provides inter alia:
1. Subject to the provisions of these rules, a party to any cause, appeal or matter who has appeared shall be allowed to search, inspect or get copies of all pleadings and other documents or records in the case, on payment of the prescribed fees and charges.
2. The Court, on the application of a person who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter, may on good cause shown, allow such person such search or inspection or to obtain such copies as is or are mentioned in the last preceding rule, on payment of the prescribed fees and charges." 
Rule 1 allows only a party to any cause, appeal or matter who has appeared to inspect and/ or obtain copies of information pertaining to judicial matters. However, Rule 2 allows a person who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter to inspect and/ or obtain information relating to judicial matters where ‘good cause’ is shown. In other words, where a person is not a party to a case, appeal or matter, she would be required to demonstrate ‘good cause’ before the court before being allowed to inspect and/ or obtain copies of the information sought, the Commission stated.
Mr Gandhi said, “As per Section 6(2) of the RTI Act, an applicant making a request for information under the RTI Act shall not give any reasons for requesting the information. Under Rule 2, in order to determine what is 'good cause', it is necessary to enquire into the purpose/ reasons for which an applicant is seeking information. This is clearly violative of the statutory mandate of Section 6(2) of the RTI Act.”
Citizens would have to justify any request for information by demonstrating ‘good cause’ under Rule 2 and the ultimate decision whether information should be provided or not would lie with the court. In addition, the SC Rules neither provide for a specific time within which information shall be furnished, any appeal procedure, nor any penalty provisions where information is not provided.
“Therefore, this Commission respectfully disagrees with the observations of the then Chief Information Commissioner and holds that Rule 2, Order XII of the SC Rules appears to impose a restriction on access to information held by or under the control of a public authority, which is prima facie inconsistent with the RTI Act. Therefore, in accordance with Section 22 of the RTI Act, the provisions of the RTI Act shall override the SC Rules,” Mr Gandhi said.
The Bench further ruled that all citizens have the right to access information under Section 3 of the RTI Act and PIOs shall provide the information sought to the citizens, subject always to the provisions of the RTI Act only. “It is the citizen's prerogative to decide under which mechanism i.e. under the method prescribed by the public authority or the RTI Act, she would like to obtain the information,” the Commission said.
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000237/SG/12351
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000237/SG
Appellant :                                                                            RS Misra,
                                                                                                 S- 93, New Palam Vihar,
                                                                                                 Phase- I, Gurgaon- 122017
Respondent :                                                                         Mrs. Smita Vats Sharma,
                                                                                                 Supreme Court of India,
                                                                                                 New Delhi
Read other articles on RTI by Moneylife, here.



Vaidya Dattatraya Vasudeo

5 years ago

" Gurgaon resident RS Misra sought information from the PIO, SC, on nine queries pertaining to action taken or status report on certain letters and reasons for judicial decisions. "

In one of my case the NCDRC has given a judgment dismissing my case ' because there are defects in the case ". The judgement does not specify the what are the defects. I tried to get this information from NCDRC, which gave very vague information. As on today, I do not know what were the defects for which the case was dismissed. All the defects pointed in three stages by NCDRC were replied properly under guidance from a retired President from Consumer Court. How do I proceed to get full information. Any one who wants to guide me may give his contacts. My email id id [email protected]. Thanks.

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