Spending
Toyota Must Come Clear
The car major is a victim of workshop gossip over the issue of airbags
 
Toyota is facing global queries on the issue of faulty airbags supplied by Takata Corp, manufacturers of safety devices, including seat belts, for major car companies across the world who constitute its consumers. Toyota is taking rapid action all over the world to fix the issue. Here, in India, the news is that the manufacturers are still ‘considering’ what action needs to be taken, beyond some small gestures here and there. ‘Voluntary recall’ of safety feature is seen as a big favour to customers and diluting the message is par for the course. (According to news reports, airbag inflators made by Takata are exploding with too much force and government officials and regulators in many countries, including the US, are investigating.)
 
What’s even worse is the disinformation campaign being spread: genteel queries with taxi-operators, on the airbag recall issue, reveal that most taxi-operators don’t have airbags even in their top-end cabs and, if they do, very often, these airbags have either been de-activated or have simply never been tested. In one case—and I am talking about one of the oldest cab companies going—the middle-level staff told me that they stay clear of the issue of airbags as it makes drivers careless.
 
Another rumour, which has gained mileage, is that replacing airbags will reduce fuel efficiency of larger vehicles. I have no idea how these things start; but can only assume that this is workshop gossip. The message is everything—one would have expected Toyota to have issued full advisories on the subject of safety.
 

Different Approaches

 

On the subject of safety and cars, one manufacturer, which does not appear to be diluting any global standards as far as safety is concerned, is Volvo cars. Here, I must point out that this is totally different from the approach taken by Volvo heavy vehicles, buses and trucks, which have permitted major changes, especially to their buses, to ‘adapt’ to Indian standards.
 
Volvo buses appear to have bowed to market forces by permitting buyers to build ‘sleeper’ coach configurations which would not pass muster in most other countries. Even China has stopped registering fresh sleeper bus coaches on safety grounds. But, in India, this risky approach continues unfettered.
 
Volvo cars, on the other hand, simply do not permit any flexibility with safety on cars sold in India. This is unlike most other manufacturers who smartly delete safety features, passive as well as active, without really letting customers know.
 
If you care for safety and are spending good money on your car, the simple question you should ask the seller of the car is whether the piece you are getting in India is exactly the same as what is sold in the manufacturer’s home country or in, say, the United Kingdom. And take that answer in writing. You will be surprised.
 

Tough Task

 
In summers, when manufacturers choose to throw press conferences, getting hold of the motoring media willing to come to an air-conditioned hotel for a mediocre meal and to meet even more mediocre middle-management-level people is a tough task assigned to public relations (PR) entities. One such PR agency, obviously, couldn’t gather enough headcount for a Monday afternoon press conference in heat wave wrapped New Delhi. Come Sunday, then, the barrage of plaintive emails and messages started flowing in—it will be followed by lunch, can I send you a taxi?
 
Just to see how far they would go, I asked them if they could specifically send me a high-end SUV, made by a global rival, as a taxi to pick me up and then drop me back after the event. As I type this out, I am told they are working on it and will revert. Such is the reality behind ‘exclusive’ press conferences 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.)
 

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COMMENTS

Kiran Chitnis

1 year ago

Agree on the sleeper coach configuration bit. While at that, shouldn't buses by TATA, AL and Eicher built on a truck chassis be stopped as well?

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to Kiran Chitnis 1 year ago

There is a cost-benefit issue here too - ladder (truck) chassis with bolt on bus bodies do have their role, especially on the back-roads.

Uttarakhand floods: Two years on, life in 'Village of Widows' at standstill
The trauma of the incident was so intense that even after two years, those who survived are terrified to go back to Kedarnath, 30 km away, and work
 
Rain symbolises doom for this tiny speck of Uttrakhand that saw nature's worst fury in the form of floods caused by a cloudburst two years ago, leaving thousands of people dead and causing widespread devastation. Despite efforts made by the government, NGOs and other social organisations to restore normalcy in the region, people continue to be in the grip of despair and helplessness even after two years.
 
Among many stories of grit and hopes in the valley is one such tale of Deoli Brahmgram -- a village nestled on the hills of Guptakashi with a population of 1,100. The village, that was completely dependent on the earnings from temples, where the residents worked as priesst, porters and guides for the pilgrims, witnessed 70 deaths - leaving behind over 60 widows and giving it the "Village of Widows" tag.
 
The trauma of the incident was so intense that even after two years, those who survived are terrified to go back to Kedarnath, 30 km away, and work. This has not only caused unemployment among the people but also compelled them to become daily wage earners.
 
Although in the first year, government showed interest in resolving the issue, but with time that too faded away. The lack of earning has even prevented widows from sending their children to school.
 
"I am not even able to fulfill the basic needs of my children since my husband died in the floods two years ago. At times, my kids starve which makes feel that I should also die to get rid of all these problems. We received about Rs.10,000 from the government in the name of compensation after which they never turned up," Dhanita Devi, a 30-year-old widow told IANS.
 
Dhanita was four months pregnant with her third child when the disastrous floods killed her 33-year-old husband who had a grocery shop in Kedarnath.
 
"My husband used to earn Rs.30,000 to Rs.40,000 every month, but since his death the situation is such that we even have to struggle to make Rs.4,000 to Rs.5,000 a month," she said, adding that she was ready to go to any part of the country to earn money without being worried of any odds.
 

Dhanita Devi is not alone. Lela Devi, Savita Mali, Savitri Rawat and 60 other widows are among those struggling hard to continue living.
 
Leela Soni, 45, who lost her son and daughter-in-law told IANS: "My elder son used to look after the entire family. Whatever he used to earn from the shop was sufficient for us. But in the last two years the situation has deteoriated so much that I am even thinking of telling my younger son to discontinue his studies in Dehradun and take up some minor job so that at least we can tackle the poverty."
 
"I didn't even get the dead body of my son and his wife. My son's absence has also made me worry about my daughter who needs to be married this year at any cost, but the problem is that I neither have the money nor any other resources," Soni said, as her eyes welled up remembering her sufferings in the past two years.
 
Currently, people have to travel at least 200 km to seek medical help as the medical centre at Kedarnath was washed away by the floods and the government never attempted to rebuild it.
 
"The disaster has caused my son mental trauma. He used to work in Badrinath as a porter. Witnessing deaths and his house being washed away in the flood waters not only has made him mentally sick, but has also scared him so much that he does not want to go out of the house," Ayodhya Prashad told IANS.
 
Although the government has repeatedly assured the people in the region of their best efforts to restore normalcy, Sulabh International --an NGO working for the social upliftment -- has adopted the village and is providing widows, elders and children Rs. 2,000 every month.
 
Along with this, every affected family in the nearby six villages is being given an allowance of Rs.1,000 a month. The organisation has also set up 12 computers and 25 sewing machines for the village people to gain some skills.
 
Speaking to IANS, Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak said it Sulabh will make efforts to bring back the normality the villagers had in their lives two years ago. This will not only act as the basic economic support but also help them get training in some particular work in which they can gain expertise.
 
The money paid to the widows and the senior citizens is for five years and till then Sulabh wishes to help all the women gaining expertise in sewing, candle making and handling computer related work, which will further economically empower them.
 
"We learn sewing and the computer related work in batches. I won't say that our life has completely come back on the track, but Sulabh has at least given some economical stability," Vindoo Negi, a 23-year old widow, who attempted suicide twice to get rid of the sufferings caused by the nature's doom, told IANS.

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COMMENTS

Narendra Doshi

1 year ago

Commendable work. Cheers for Sulabh Team

Complaint filed after worms found in Nestle's Cerelac in Coimbatore
Still fighting the Maggi noodles crisis in court, Nestle India on Tuesday was hit by another potential trouble-spot with a consumer filing a complaint with the food safety watchdog saying that a packet of baby food Cerelac was found infested with worms in Coimbatore.
 
"We have received a complaint about a worm-infested packet of Cerelac. We have sent the packet for tests. We will be collecting three more samples of the same Cerelac variant and send it for tests," R. Kathiravan, the designated officer of the food safety and drug administration, told IANS over phone from Coimbatore, around 500 km from the Tamil Nadu capital.
 
M.S. Sriram, the complainant, also told IANS over phone from Coimbatore: "We bought the Cerelac packet on Sunday. It was opened only on Monday around noon by my wife to feed our baby. To her shock, she found worms in the powder and called me."
 
"The expiry date on the pack was printed as February 2016. We always buy food products after checking the expiry date," Sriram said.
 
He said he then called Nestle India's toll-free complaint number and got a "pathetic response".
 
"The response I got at the toll-free number was horrible. Hence I decided to take the issue further by making a complaint to the food safety department," Sriram said.
 
Only after the issue escalated did Nestle India officials start acting.
 
"A company official called me and apologised for what happened to me with their product. He gave a new packet and said the company would also take the issue forward by testing the samples," Sriram said.
 
According to Kathiravan, there was a remote chance of a properly packed product getting infested with worms.
 
Incidentally, this was the second such complaint in Coimbatore with Nestle India's baby food.
 
On June 2, a person said he found larvae and worms in a packet of Nestle's NanPro 3 milk powder.
 
"After that complaint, we collected samples of that product from other shops and tested them. The test results were positive for the company as they were not contaminated," Kathiravan said.
 
He said the product would get infested with worms only when moisture enters the packet.
 
Nestle India officials were not immediately reachable for comments.

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