Beware, tyres are getting damaged well before their tread life is over
Some of the best feedback I get on the motoring industry is from friends in the tyre industry. One issue that many of them tell me that they are facing now, increasingly all over India but especially in previously not so badly impacted areas like National Capital Region and the Mumbai-Nashik-Pune triangle, is the issue of tyres getting damaged well before their tread life is over. Which, in turn, leads to upset customers who come with complaints of tyres that are still new on tread life but have been damaged beyond repair because of bad road conditions. What’s the best solution for these?
1. Please try to select cars with tyre and rim sizes that permit at least 65% aspect ratio, if not 70%, especially for heavier vehicles. The simple reason is that, with such tyres, you have more air in them and, therefore, better life when running on bad roads. There may be a loss of control and performance, at the high speeds that those cars are designed for, but where is the need and the opportunity to go over 120-140kmph anyways, lately?
2. If everybody who had a car made one complaint each, along with a photo of and a location of a big pothole or a stretch of bad road to the relevant authorities, then maybe something would get done, because nothing else seems to be working in India other than public pressure.
3. In front-wheel-drive cars especially, but in other cars too, it is the front tyres which take the most punishment. (This fact appears to have missed the attention of designers at Tata Motors, who gave the Nano smaller tyres in front, by the way). Please ensure that the front tyres are always properly inflated, as both over- and under-inflated tyres can, and will, create conditions for severe damage when that sudden pothole or speed-breaker attempts to destroy them.
The coming general elections are going to impact the automobile world in India in many ways.
• Larger vehicles, like MUVs/SUVs and other four-wheel drives, will be requisitioned for election duties and there is nothing you will be able to do about it, but release the vehicle, often with a driver.
• Likewise, resale prices of second-hand vehicles, capable of carrying men and goods, will start going up; actually, this has already started happening. Coterminous with increased chances of theft.
• You can expect to be checked even more vigorously while travelling, especially if you are doing long, cross-country runs in out-of-state registered cars. Be sure all documentation is up-to-date.
• Do remove any and all political as well as religious stickers from your vehicle. This may be not just prudent, but also in keeping with the regulations.
Happy and safe driving then, until mid-May 2014!
Cost of Maintaining a Car
Do you keep track of all the cash expenses you incur on owning and operating a private car? I have asked the a few people, who live nearby, to do so, as cost to owner. I double-checked with the owners; the numbers in and around Delhi, are amazing.
Parking: Rs800-Rs1,500; PUC: Rs30-Rs40; Tolls: Rs1,200-Rs1,500; Cleaning material: Rs200 Driver meal & sundries: Rs500 (not including overtime)Traffic violations: Rs50 (About one in four cars gets pulled over for something or the other, every month, and it costs about Rs200 to ‘fix’; so that’s Rs50 per car, per month). That’s about Rs33,000 to Rs45,000 per annum which, typically, are not taken into account. I know some cars in running condition which are not worth that much; and these are cars not over 10 years in age, too.
Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.
Naming 78 people in his stamp paper suicide note, Vilas Baravkar alleges harassment by police, politicians and some of his family members. His RTI applications, however, reveal some ‘vague’ information that he had asked for, say RTI experts
Pune has the dubious distinction across the country as being the city to witness the first ever murder of a Right to Information (RTI) activist, Satish Shetty in 2010. Here is another case of an RTI activist, who despite police protection, committed suicide allegedly due to harassment by police, politicians and some of his family members. RTI activist Vilas Baravkar, who has been given an armed police guard since 2010, had left a suicide note behind that mentions name of 78 people responsible for his death.
Fifty three year old Baravkar, a noted RTI activist from Chakan - a now high profile suburb of Pune, known for its multi-national automobile manufacturing unit- used to file RTI applications related to illegal constructions in and around Chakan and Khed and had sought legal intervention in the matter. The case is still being heard in the District and Sessions Court at Pune and on Monday, a day before he died, Baravkar was present for hearing.
According to a report from Daily News & Analysis (DNA), a suicide note on Rs100 stamp paper was also found at his (Baravkar’s) residence. “The note names 78 individuals, including a senior politician and a senior personnel from the Indian Police Services (IPS),” the report says.
Baravkar also alleged that some people, including policemen, had twice hatched a plot to eliminate him, during 2007-08 and again in 2010. In the note, Baravkar also asked his wife and children to end their lives as anti-social elements mentioned in his ‘suicide note’ would not let them live peacefully.
Leading RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar spent a large part of Tuesday following up the suicide case by procuring copies of Baravkar’s RTI applications from the Pune bench of the State Information Commission and found that most of them related to mundane information from various police departments, which should have been available on the website as it falls under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
Speaking about Baravkar’s suicide and information that he sought from the police, Kumbhar says, “At this stage it is very difficult to comment on this issue. However, as most of his applications pertained to functioning of the police department, it would not be proper for the Pune Rural Police to investigate the matter. Irrespective of the authenticity of Baravkar’s allegations, the investigations should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Crime Investigation Department (CID).’’
As per Rural Police authorities, the allegations are not pointed, but they would be investigated into.
Kumbhar rues that most of the information asked for by Baravkar related to suo moto disclosures by public authorities, which comes under Section 4 of the RTI Act and should therefore have been put up on the website, without any citizen having to ask for it. “For example, queries like number of police stations or officers in a particular police station should not command a requisition under the RTI Act,’’ Kumbhar says.
The four page suicide note, written by Baravkar is about some people and police conspiring against him and even attempting to take his life, twice. He was allegedly also frustrated with continuous adjournments in the court case.
In the meanwhile, Shetty’s case is still being investigated by the CID. A few weeks back, Shivaji Raut, noted RTI activist from Satara had received threats allegedly for filing RTI applications pertaining to the infamous Jambhe land scam in which Pune’s Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh is allegedly involved.
The Asian Centre of Human Rights in its report – RTI Activists: Sitting ducks of India had observed that: “RTI activists are the most vulnerable human rights defenders (HRDs) of India. Unlike other HRDs, a large majority of the RTI activists are not necessarily part of any organisation or group. They often act alone, moved by outrage against corruption and other illegal activities. RTI activists are extremely vulnerable as they live in the same areas as the corrupt public authorities, political leaders and mafia who do not want information about their illegal activities to be disclosed. The lucky ones come to the media attention only when killed, maimed or battling for life.”
“When complaints are made by RTI activists, the law enforcement personnel, who are usually hand in glove with those threatening the RTI activists, do not take necessary action. The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides no protection. The Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions are not mandated either to deal with such threats or attacks or to provide protection when needed,” the report says.
Shetty, also had appealed for police protection due to threats to his life but never got it. He was killed on 13 January 2010 by unknown attackers in Talegaon near Pune. Shetty, a systematic whistleblower, was credited with throwing light on several major land scams in the picturesque Talegaon—Lonavala regions, now a favourite with realtors in the state. He shot to fame after exposing certain corrupt land deals in and around the country’s first expressway, the Mumbai—Pune expressway, over a decade ago.
Baravkar’s case is one of suicide and not murder, but investigation will hopefully prove whether it was purely a personal trauma or frustration in pursuing RTI activism that led to his unfortunate end.
List of RTI activists killed until July 2013:
RTI for divorce cases
The Sunday RTI Katta at Chittaranjan Vatika garden in Model Colony in Pune has proved to be very successful with 40-50 citizens attending it regularly. “This Sunday, 30th March, it will be a special session on filing RTI for divorce cases,” states Vijay Kumbhar in a release.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, 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 series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
After signing up for coverage and disclosing they were smokers, about 100 New Hampshire consumers, including Terry Wetherby, find their new Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield policies cancelled because they were charged incorrect ‘non-smoker’ rates
Retired New Hampshire nurse Terry Wetherby doesn’t hide the fact that she smokes.
She checked the box on HealthCare.gov saying she uses tobacco and fully expected to pay more for her insurance policy under the Affordable Care Act. “It’s not a secret at all,” she said.
Wetherby dutifully paid the premium Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield charged her for January and again for February — and believed she had coverage effective on Jan. 1.
Then when Wetherby went to pay her March premium, she was told she couldn’t. A check arrived in the mail refunding her February premium with a two-word explanation: “Contract cancelled.”
Turns out, Wetherby was among about 100 smokers in New Hampshire caught up in a “technical glitch” that caused them to lose their new health insurance policies because they had been mistakenly charged non-smoking rates, according to the New Hampshire Department of Insurance.
It is unclear if the error affected smokers in other states served by Anthem.
Wetherby, 64, learned on Friday that her insurance was being reinstated, retroactive to Jan. 1, and that the original rate she was quoted — about $26 a month after a big government subsidy — would be honored throughout this year. She turns 65 in October and will then go on Medicare.
“When we were contacted by consumers who were experiencing application processing problems, we reached out to the carrier (Anthem), and worked with them to understand the factual situation,” said insurance department spokeswoman Danielle Kronk Barrick. “Ultimately, Anthem agreed that it would honor the originally quoted nonsmoker rates for the remainder of 2014, even though Anthem believes the glitch was not of its making.”
Still, for the past month, Wetherby has been scrambling to find out what happened and get it fixed. She contacted Anthem, her governor, her Congresswoman, her senator and state insurance regulators. She set up a Twitter account to try to get someone’s — anyone’s — attention.
“How can this be??” she wrote to me. “The ACA guarantees coverage. I went to the ACA website and received a rate. Anthem has taken my premium for 2 months and undoubtedly they have taken the corresponding US government subsidy dollars, yet they tell me I am not covered. I read where Obamacare is covering millions but when I speak to the NH Insurance department I am told many people have the same issue as I do.”
An official with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees HealthCare.gov, said “this was an error committed by Anthem” and that the insurer recently submitted revised data, which will soon be reflected in the online health plan comparison tool.
“CMS works to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data issuers submit,” agency spokesman Aaron Albright said. “Issuers are also responsible for sending accurate and complete rating information to CMS."
Maine’s insurance superintendent Eric Cioppa said that up to 200 smokers in his state were also affected by Anthem’s glitch. “We have been working with Anthem and they have agreed to not only reinstate the policies but offer and honor the rates that they [the smokers] have been quoted,” Cioppa said.
Cioppa said four consumers had complained to his department about the problem and that officials are now working with CMS to get approval for the fix.
Across the country, some of those signing up for coverage are finding out that their policies are not what they thought: Their physicians are not in their insurance network, their drugs aren’t covered, or their copays are higher than expected. But Wetherby’s case was different — she was left with no insurance at all.
While it is legal in many states to charge smokers more for insurance, it generally is not okay to cancel them based on an error made by the insurer.
Officials at Anthem, the lone Obamacare offering in New Hampshire, did not return multiple emails and phone calls seeking comment. In a letter last week to the insurance department about Wetherby’s case, an analyst wrote that “it was determined that when the policy was to be loaded there was a difference between the calculated rate and the quoted rate, so it was never effective.”
Wetherby is exactly the type of person the ACA is intended to help. Retired in 2013, she lives on Social Security benefits and had been paying $400 per month for high-deductible coverage last year.
Once HealthCare.gov began working again in November, she logged on and signed up for coverage. Because her income is barely above the federal poverty limit, she qualifies for a huge federal subsidy — $657 a month. She is also eligible for help paying her copays and deductibles.
While Wetherby said she is healthy, she said she was nervous about not having insurance. When she canceled her old policy four days before the new one took effect, “I wouldn’t leave the house. I was so afraid I was going to get hurt.”
Even after what’s happened, Wetherby said she remains a “boisterous” supporter of the ACA.
“It’s been a long hard journey but I still believe in it because I believe that everyone should have insurance,” she said. “The president has just put so much effort into this and I feel we still do have a lot of people in government who believe in this, and I myself believe in it.”
Update: We've added information about additional Anthem customers in Maine who experienced similar problems to those in New Hampshire.
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