The fiscal witnessed "loss of momentum in overall activity", the RBI report said, but added India has done well as compared to several other countries.
The Reserve Bank has attributed decline in the economic growth rate to three-year low of 6.9% in 2011-12 largely to deterioration in the external environment.
"Recent data indicate that after a smart recovery during 2009-10 and 2010-11, real GDP growth slipped sharply to 6.9% during 2011-12 largely on account of the deterioration in the external environment and the slowdown in domestic investment," Reserve Bank of India ( RBI) said in its monthly bulletin released. The external factors that influenced the performance of the economies of the world include euro zone sovereign debt crisis and rising prices of commodities, it said.
According to the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), India's growth rate is estimated to slip to 6.9% in 2011-12 from 8.4% in the preceding two years. The fiscal also witnessed "loss of momentum in overall activity", the report said, but added India has done well as compared to several other countries.
"Notwithstanding the recent slowdown, the rate of growth of the Indian economy remained quite impressive in a cross-country context," the report added.
The Indian economy, it said, has "generally outperformed the other economies, with the notable exception of China, right through 2007 to 2010 and is expected to continue to do so in 2011 and 2012."
Savings and investment rates dipped during 2010-11 mainly reflecting a decline in household financial savings and private corporate sector investment, it said.
"During the four years since global financial crisis...the growth rate of real GDP averaged 7.6% which was lower by nearly two percentage points than during 2005-06 to 2007-08," the study said.
The estimated growth rate in 2011-12 is only slightly higher than 2008-09 when the Indian economy was adversely and indirectly affected by global financial crisis, it said.
The deceleration in real GDP during 2011-12, it said, was evident across the major sectors, "largely in agriculture on account of base effect followed by industry and to some extent in services".
Within industry, mining and quarrying sector contracted while manufacturing sector growth rate, which accounts for around 80% of industrial sector, nearly halved, the report said.
Nifty should close decisively above 5,400 to form an uptrend
The RBI’s CRR cut on Friday saw a positive opening but nervousness ahead of the Union Budget resulted in the market ignoring the bounce back in industrial output and closing with modest gains. Today the National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 74.58 crore shares, which was above its 10-day average. We had mentioned on Friday that the Nifty should close above 5,400 over the next few days to maintain the gains; we continue to maintain it. The index’s intraday high was above this level; however, it closed below it at 5,360. Today was the second consecutive trading session where the benchmark made a higher high and a higher low.
The market opened on a positive note, buoyed by the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) ‘surprise’ 75 basis point cut in CRR on Friday. Stock of consumer goods, banking, capital goods, technology, oil & gas and auto led the gains in early trade. The Nifty opened 86 points higher at 5,420 and the Sensex jumped 269 points to resume trade at 17,772.
The opening figure on the Sensex was its intraday high while the Nifty hit the day’s high almost immediately with the index at 5,422. The market came off the highs immediately as profit booking set in, despite the fact that industrial growth for January came in much higher than expectations at 6.8%.
The indices witnessed a sharp fall in mid-morning trade even as president Pratibha Patil, in her address to the both Houses of parliament at the onset of the Budget session said that economic growth would return to the 8-9% range on the back of “strong fundamentals and favourable domestic factors”.
The market dipped into the red briefly just after 11.30am to touch the day’s low. At the lows, the Nifty fell to 5,327 and the Sensex 17,495.
The benchmarks were sideways in the second half of trade as the European indices witnessed a lower opening. The market closed with modest gains on speculations that the RBI, in its policy review later this week, would defer a rate cut on the rebound in the industrial output numbers.
The Nifty settled 26 points up at 5,360 and the Sensex gained 84 points to close trade at 17,588.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was in favour of the gainers at 1028:655.
The broader indices outperformed the Sensex as the BSE Mid-cap index climbed 1.06% and the BSE Small-cap index advanced 0.70%.
The top sectoral gainers were BSE Capital Goods (up 2.56%); BSE Consumer Durables (up 1.90%); BSE Realty (up 1.33%); BSE Oil & Gas (1.24%) and BSE Bankex (up 1.22%). The losers were BSE IT (down 1.06%); BSE TECk (down 0.75%) and BSE Healthcare (down 0.15%).
The Sensex was led by State Bank of India (up 3.96%); Larsen & Toubro (up 3.54%); Reliance Industries (up 3.02%); Jindal Steel (up 2.69%) and BHEL (up 2.32%). The key losers were Mahindra & Mahindra (down 1.88%); Cipla (down 1.83%); ONGC (down 1.71%); Infosys (down 1.51%) and TCS (down 1.35%).
The major gainers on the Nifty were SBI (up 3.72%); L&T (up 3.36%); RIL (up 3%); Siemens (up 2.90%) and Reliance Power (up 2.75%). M&M (down 2.12%); ONGC (down 1.96%); TCS (down 1.90%); Cipla (down 1.61%) and HDFC (down 1.49%) were the top losers on the index.
Markets in Asia closed mostly lower on growth concerns within the region as Chinese exports grew at a slower-than-expected rate of 18.4% in February while imports rose 39.6% in the month, leading to a trade deficit of $31.5 billion. On the other hand, Japanese core machinery orders rose in January, a sign that the economy is picking up after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
The Shanghai Composite declined 0.19%; the Jakarta Composite fell by 0.11%); the KLSE Composite tanked 0.90%); the Nikkei 225 was down by 0.40%; the Straits Times shed 0.03%; the Seoul Composite lost 0.78% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 1.10% lower. Bucking the trend, the Hang Seng gained 0.23%. At the time of writing, the key European indices were mixed and the US stock futures in the negative.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs1,284.65 crore on Friday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of shares amounting to Rs12.90 crore.
Natco Pharma has received a compulsory licence from the Indian patents office to manufacture and sell a generic version of Bayer’s cancer treatment drug Nexavar. The Indian Patents Act has a provision to issue compulsory licence to drug makers after three years of the grant of patent on particular products which are not available at affordable prices. The stock jumped 6.28% to close at Rs314.75 on the NSE.
Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting, the FMCG arm of Wipro, today launched LED products for the domestic segment complimenting its range of commercial and institutional LED lighting. The Wipro LED lights are designed and tested extensively for Indian conditions, the company said in a statement. The stock gained 1.39% to close at Rs438.20 on the NSE.
The revenue department today attached Jet Airways’ accounts, maintained by global airlines’ body IATA, for non-payment of service tax dues to the tune of Rs69 crore. The revenue department had sent notice on last Friday to the airline cautioning that its accounts would be frozen if it fails to clear the service tax. The stock slipped 0.03% to close at Rs294 on the NSE.
Though the banking ombudsman functions well as a grievance redressal mechanism, the large of number of rejection of complaints call for a need to revamp the scheme to make it more pro-active, transparent, helpful and responsive to meet customer needs
The annual report on the performance of the banking ombudsman scheme for the year 2010-11 released by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last month gives a mixed picture of customer service in banks. The total complaints received by all the ombudsmen in the country have come down by 10% compared to the previous year, which may give rise to a feeling that customer service in banks appear to have improved though marginally . Because of this, the general feeling is that the ombudsman scheme started by RBI in 1995 has been one of the better managed grievance redressal mechanisms presently operating in our country. But if you analyze the report carefully, you are in for a major surprise. Out of 71,274 complaints received by the ombudsmen during the year 2010-11, 50,474 complaints (i.e. 71%) were rejected by the ombudsmen for various reasons. Out of these, 36,522 complaints i.e.72% of the rejected complaints were non-maintainable, meaning thereby that they were outright rejected without even accepting them for consideration. This large number of rejections for whatever reasons indicate that either the banks’ customers are not aware of the rules of ombudsman scheme or the office of the ombudsman is not rising up to the aspirations of the bank customers.
The report further states that the number of complaints rejected on various grounds is showing a rising trend. While 62% of the total complaints disposed off in 2009-10 were on account of rejection, the same accounted for 71% of the complaints disposed during 2010-11. This gives rise to a feeling that the office of the ombudsmen must be spending more time in rejecting rather than in accepting the complaints. This is because the percentage of rejection far outstrips the number of accepted complaints for the last three years. The following analysis of the rejected complaints clearly brings out the need to completely overhaul the scheme to suit the changing profile of bank customers, as more and more people from the rural background join the mainstream of banking due to financial inclusion programmes pursued by the government.
1. First reason for rejection: First resort complaints: During last year 16,755 complaints constituting 33% of the complaints rejected falls into the category of first resort complaints. The complaints referred to the ombudsman without first approaching the bank concerned are termed as first resort complaints. This happens because full details of the ombudsman scheme are neither available at the banks’ branches, nor are they properly communicated to the customers. It is practically difficult for every customer to look for the details of the scheme on the website of ombudsman and then prepare the complaint on the lines of the scheme. This is because a very limited people have access to and/or knowledge about Internet in our country, though it is growing fast. Besides the website itself is very formal and needs to be made more user-friendly so that ordinary citizens could easily understand the scheme. When the RBI has permitted the customer to submit a complaint even on a plain paper, a workable solution should be found out, rather than outright reject the complaint received without first referring to the bank concerned.
The report further states that the high percentage of first resort complaints indicates greater faith of the complainants in the banking ombudsman rather than their banks concerned in getting their problems solved. If that be the case, there is all the more reason to ensure that a practical solution should be found to totally eliminate such rejections. The best course in such cases is for the ombudsman to accept the complaint and handle it in the normal course, advising the complainant at the same time the correct procedure to be followed for his future guidance. But no complaint should be rejected for this reason, as full details of the scheme are hardly publicised and no branch of a bank is able to provide even a two-page leaflet containing important aspect of the scheme to its customers. It is, therefore, necessary to revisit the ombudsman scheme and drastically modify the terms of the scheme to allow the customers to submit complaints even before writing to the main office of the bank concerned.
2. Second reason for rejection: Complaints outside the scheme: Complaints received but are outside the scheme constitute the second highest percentage of rejections. 8,583 complaints (17% of the total rejection) were rejected because the complaints relate to areas which do not come under the purview of the scheme. This again is due to lack of communication of the details of the scheme to bank customers. But this also raises the question as to whether there is any scope to expand the areas to be covered by the ombudsman. It is worthwhile for the RBI to review the areas not covered by the scheme and explore the possibility of adding on more and more areas to meet customer expectations with out in any way intruding into the operational freedom of banking institutions.
3. Third reason for rejection: Complaints without sufficient cause: These constitute 11% of the total complaints rejected and appear large enough to go deep into the complaints to find out what makes the customer write to the ombudsman, if there is no sufficient cause to complain. As many as 5,447 complaints fall into this category and it is possible that the complainant may not have been able to put across his grievance in a manner understood by the ombudsman’s office. The best course in such cases is, before rejecting the complaint outright, the ombudsman’s office can contact the complainant at least on the telephone and have a chat with him or her to understand the reasons better and assess whether there is any merit in the complaint. This will not only create a lot of goodwill for the ombudsman, but will also help in eliminating such complaints by educating the customers.
4. Fourth reason for rejection: Complicated complaints requiring elaborate evidence: 4,441 complaints constituting 9% of the complaints rejected fall into this category. It is rather strange that the ombudsman who is there to solve the problems faced by the customer should reject a complaint for the reason that it is too complicated requiring elaborate evidence. The ombudsman scheme provides for arbitration and there is no reason why these complicated complaints cannot be solved through arbitration if acceptable to the parties. If the ombudsman requires any assistance of specialists to solve these complicated cases, the RBI could think of appointing an advisory panel for every ombudsman, consisting of two persons, one an expert in banking and another a chartered account who has had experience in bank audits and these advisors could be consulted by the ombudsman wherever necessary, so that complicated complaints too get resolved to the satisfaction of the banks’ customers.
5. Fifth reason for rejection: Bank branches outside the jurisdiction of the ombudsman: 2,838 complaints (constituting 5% of the rejected complaints) were rejected simply because they fell outside the jurisdiction of the ombudsman, who received the complaint. Yes, the customer would have made the mistake of addressing the complaint to the wrong office of the ombudsman for want of information about the correct jurisdiction. This might have happened because the RBI is yet to arrange for an ombudsman in every state, and several states are clubbed together, which might have caused this mistake. But instead of rejecting them, these complaints could have been easily forwarded to the correct ombudsman, under whose jurisdiction they fall, under advice to the complainant, so that these complaints too get attended to by the right ombudsman.
Apart from the above changes suggested, there is a need to make the ombudsman more helpful, pro-active, transparent and responsive to meet the expectations of the customers and bring down the rejections considerably. Every ombudsman’s office should have a toll-free number to enable the customers to seek any clarification, if necessary, before submitting their complaint. This toll-free number must be prominently displayed in every branch of a bank and also in ATM booths located in their jurisdiction. The complaint forms, too, must be made available through the branches of banks and this should be closely monitored through the internal inspection of every bank.
It may appear strange for us in India, but in United Kingdom there is a provision to evaluate even the level of service rendered to the complainants by the financial ombudsman, which speaks volumes about their transparency. Some of the most useful ways in which the UK ombudsman helps the banking public can be observed from the following information culled out from their very informative and illustrative website www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk .
“We answer over a million enquiries a year and deal with more than 200,000 disputes.” “We will be happy to phone you back, if you’re worried about the cost of calling us”
“If you ask us to look into your complaint, we will explain any particular rules and restrictions that may apply in your own individual case—and we will always give you the chance to query anything you don’t understand. If you’re not sure if your complaint is one we can help with, just ask us.”
“We can provide information about our service in different formats and languages. And we can adapt the way we communicate with you—depending on your needs. For example, we can use Braille, large print or audiotape and we can make and receive calls using Text Relay. Please let us know what your particular needs are, and we will do our best to help.”
“If you are not happy with the way we have dealt with your case—or with the level of service we have provided—please let us know. We have a special procedure to handle complaints about our service—for example, if you think we have:
“This procedure involves the independent assessor, who can carry out a final review of the way we have handled a complaint. The independent assessor is appointed by our board and has official terms of reference.”
The sky is the limit for anybody to improve their services, and UK ombudsman is a classic example of showing its desire to serve the public with great concern and total commitment, which could be achieved with a little more imagination and foresight. By raising the bar for the ombudsman to excel in customer service, banks too will get a clear message that there cannot be any compromise in so far as quality of customer service is concerned.
Can our ombudsmen, too, reach that level of perfection and provide that level of comfort to the public at large, and be a torch bearer of the customers’ rights to the extent of becoming a model for others to emulate? If people sitting in the RBI make up their mind, it is certainly possible to excel in this field also, as they have proved their mettle many times in the past in the matter of managing the banks of our country so admirably during the recent international turmoil in the financial world.
(The author is a banking and financial analyst. He writes for Moneylife under a pen-name ‘Gurpur’)