Nation
Promoting Politicians with Public Funded Advertisements
Supreme Court calls a halt to this obnoxious practice
 
Our slow and creaky judicial system can sometimes create ironical situations. It was 12 years ago that a publicity blitzkrieg unleashed by the BJP-led, NDA government agitated the Common Cause, a consumer organisation. It filed a public interest litigation against the misuse of public funds for government advertisements designed to promote politicians in power. And, it is another NDA government that will have to implement the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement laying down guidelines for publicly-funded government advertisements. 
 
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Ghosh has prohibited the use of photographs of ministers and other political leaders in government advertisements, with the exception of the president, prime minister and chief justice of the Supreme Court (SC). More importantly, the Court has said that a three-member ombudsman will oversee the release of government advertisements. Common Cause, the petitioner, believes that, over time, this ombudsman could emerge as an independent institution like the election commission and bring accountability in spending of taxpayers’ money. 
 
This judgement, based on the recommendations of a three-member committee appointed by the SC in April 2014, has put state and Central ministries that splurge public funds to promote ministers in a fix. It also affects media houses that survive on political patronage. The apex court specifically noted the “power of the purse that government advertisements invariably involve” and said that “concepts of fairness and even dispensation to all media/publishing houses will have to be maintained by the Government be it at the Centre or the States.”
 
The gravy-train of government advertisements is mammoth. The department of advertising & visual publicity alone issued advertisements worth around Rs2,000 crore in 2014. These do not include tender advertisements or different kinds of results, or those of state governments and public sector undertakings and government institutions. The judgement eliminates the government’s power to bestow its largesse on favoured media houses; it will now have to follow rules and guidelines framed by a three-member ombudsman. For the first time, those aggrieved at how the advertising pie is divvied will now have a forum to file complaints. This, in itself, will increase accountability and bring transparency to the use of public funds.

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COMMENTS

Subramani P K

2 years ago

The judgement is welcome. There should be thorough check in the expenditure using public money. Similarly rules & regulations should be set for all expenditure like free bees, subsidies etc by government both at the centre & state.

Internal Ombudsman of Banks
RBI’s new initiative raises the question: have Customer Services Committees failed?
 
On 14th May, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked banks (all public sector banks and only certain private and foreign banks) to appoint an ‘internal ombudsman’ to resolve consumer complaints. Importantly, the ombudsman, to be designated ‘chief customer services officer’ should not have worked with the bank in which s/he is appointed. 
 
The private and foreign banks asked to appoint an ombudsman include ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, IndusInd Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Citibank and HSBC. This move is a change from RBI’s earlier adamant stance that a three-layer customer services committee, prescribed during the tenure of Governor Dr YV Reddy, was adequate to resolve customer complaints. But an internal ombudsman is only half a solution. 
 
RBI is now saying that the internal ombudsman would ensure ‘undivided attention’ to resolution of customer complaints. This is probably its way of giving some sanctity to the Charter of Customer Services that it released in December 2014. 
 
This Charter asks banks to treat customers fairly and has identified all their key concerns; however, it is rendered meaningless by failing to prescribe costs and consequences for deficiency in service or harassment of customers. 
 
Will the internal ombudsman, appointed by the bank be empowered to issue tough orders, or grant costs and compensation? 
 
Detailed guidelines on the working of the ombudsman are yet to be released; but RBI says it is a step prior to approaching RBI’s Banking Ombudsman. Rajiv Lall, chairman of IDFC, which is turning into a bank, was quoted recently as saying, “All the research we have done suggests that customers have an uncomfortable relationship with their banks.” Had RBI started out with a recognition of this fact, it would have realised that we have a long way to go before customers begin to trust their banks again.

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COMMENTS

Gopalakrishnan T V

2 years ago

The very fact that RBI wants an internal ombudsman to be appointed in banks is a clear admission that the present arrangement to address grievances of Customers by the banks' three tier Customer Committees has failed. The banks have become insensitive to customers problems and thanks to invasion of technology most of the banks have developed standardised replies regretting for the inconveniences but not resolving the issues the customers have raised. Even if the matter is taken up personally at the Chairman's level, the customers do not get even any reply or even an acknowledgement. KYC has become very handy indirectly to retain the customers as the procedures and problems involved to change the accounts from one bank to another are really a handicap and trouble some and not worth the trouble. It has become a fait accompli for customers to continue with the banks with all inconveniences and grievances and banks have also come to know of it. Human intervention and approach from banks are seldom attempted these days by most of the banks and in a way the machines are helpful as the customers do not have to put up with arrogance and indifferent attitude of the staff members.

MOHAN SIROYA

2 years ago

P> S It is imperative that RBI, at it cost must issue notification to this effect in all leading newspapers so that the general public is made aware of this new Appointment. Further, all covered banks must be directed to be transparent by putting appropriate notices about this appointment, name and contact details of such Internal Ombudsman. It should also be added in the 'Grievance Redressal Procedure of the bank on its website too.

MOHAN SIROYA

2 years ago

At the out set thanks to Moneylife for making all aware of this RBI guideline about Internal Ombudsman.
But how such a person who is on pay roll of the bank, can pass orders holding he employer bank guilty? Even if he/she does, yes there is no provision for any compensation or penal action. So this 'Internal Ombudsman ' scheme too will remain useless to customers as the earlier three layer committees for grievance redressal were there.
However, in all fairness, let us give a chance to see what customer satisfaction this new arrangement brings. After all, RBI deserves a thank for creating another venue for intervention. BUT THOSE CUSTOMERS WHO ARE IN HURRY, are free to approach the RBI Ombudsman . So where is worry ?

R B UPADHYAY

2 years ago

This will be a welcome step by the R B I. But the salary of such ombudsman should be paid by R BI and reimbursed by the concerned bank.

Vaibhav Dhoka

2 years ago

Customer services wing at Bank of Maharashtra is dismal.Do they have internal ombudsman?

Modi government will tackle black money issue: Amit Shah
The Narendra Modi-led central government is determined to tackle the black money issue, BJP president Amit Shah said here on Tuesday.
 
"The Modi government is determined to tackle the black money issue," said Amit Shah while addressing the media on the completion of one year of NDA government.
 
Shah also said the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government failed to tackle the issue of black money.
 
He said the NDA government has performed well and added that there has been no corruption under the Modi government. 

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COMMENTS

Dayananda Kamath k

2 years ago

I have my own doubt about this govt tackling black money issue even today all the govt agencies are helping creating and transferring of black money. easily one of the biggest culprit is RBI. by not monitoring export advance received and liberalized remittance scheme. it is also not monitoring the nri gold import scheme. and all these have been brought to the notice of the upa as well as narendra modi govt and rbi. there is big gold gate which has been burried by all the govt authorities including the pmo and presidents office. If they are very serious let them initiate action on my complaint to directorate of public grievances with the action every govt authority has failed in their constitutional duty.

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