Before being selected to head SEBI, Mr Sinha was the chairman and managing director of UTI Mutual Fund, and prior to this, a joint secretary in North Bloc
Upendra Kumar Sinha assumed the office as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) today from the outgoing chairman Chandrashekar Baskar Bhave, who had considerably raised the bar of the authority of the institution during his three-year tenure.
As the eighth chairman of the market's watchdog, UK, as he is known among his friends, has a tough task cut out for him, since his predecessor had placed the institution highly above suspicion and had also shown the real powers of SEBI to one and all-especially the mighty.
Before being selected to head SEBI, Mr Sinha was the chairman and managing director of UTI Mutual Fund, and prior to this, a joint secretary in North Bloc (June 2002-October 20052).
Hopefully, the persuasive skills of this 1976 batch IAS officer from the Bihar cadre will come to his aid as while dealing with the government at a time when the latter is seriously planning to clip the financial autonomy of various regulators by forcing them to keep the funds with the Consolidated Fund of India.
The State has increased milk procurement prices by Rs2 per litre for cow milk and Rs2.5 per litre for buffalo milk. This hike will also have a direct impact on the prices of milk products—curd, paneer and shrikhand
After the spiralling onion prices that made the 'aam aadmi' weep, now it's the turn of milk prices to make them cry.
The Maharashtra government has increased milk procurement prices by Rs2 per litre for cow milk and Rs2.5 per litre for buffalo milk. This hike will also have a direct impact on the prices of milk products-mostly curd (yoghurt), paneer (cottage cheese) and shrikhand.
B Bhandari, general manager (marketing), Warana Dairy, told Moneylife that there would be a rise in the prices of milk products like paneer and shrikhand as the production cost of these products will go up.
Another official from a leading Mumbai-based milk dairy said (preferring anonymity), "Because of the rise in milk prices, there could be an increase in the prices of milk products. We will be thinking on that line (hiking prices)."
The decision to increase milk-procurement prices has been taken as the cost of milk production has increased, due to rise in fodder and labour charges.
Vinayak Patil, chairman of Mahananda Dairy, explained why milk prices are going up. "The milk procurement price has increased, as the cost of milk production has gone up. This is mainly because of the rise in the cost of fodder and labour. The production of milk has also come down due to the inclement weather. As milk procurement prices have increased, we have had to hike milk prices."
Following the government's decision, major milk dairies in Maharashtra have hiked the prices in the range of Rs1-Rs3 per litre, depending on the type of milk. Dairies like Warana and Gokul have hiked their prices by Rs2 per litre (for cow milk) and Rs3 per litre (for buffalo milk). Mahananda Dairy, one of the state's leading milk cooperatives, has decided to increase prices by Rs1 per litre on both types of milk.
Interestingly, market leader Amul-owned by Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF)-which had earlier refused hike prices, has also decided to join the trend. Amul has increased prices by Rs1 per litre for its milk brand Amul 'Taaza' and Amul 'Lite Slim' and 'Trim Milk'.
According to R S Sodhi, chief general manager, Amul, "Earlier we did not agree to the decision of increasing milk prices by Rs2- Rs3. Now, we have increased the prices by Rs1 per litre for Amul Taaza and Amul Slim and Trim." However, Mr Sodhi ruled out any possibility of rise in other milk products by Amul.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government permitted the Karnataka Milk Federation to increase the price of milk. Accordingly the milk prices in the state have gone up by Rs2 per litre.
The Bank had decided to charge Rs10 for updating passbooks of account holders from other branches, but relented after a customer insisted that such basic services should not be charged
"Hum hain na." That's a sentiment that almost every bank will paraphrase and advertise to assure customers about its services. But how much does a customer have to pay for this service?
When a customer of a nationalised bank protested against new charges to be levied, the officials reversed the decision. Banks, however, insist that it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue providing basic services free of charges and customers will have to start paying up.
Canara Bank put up a notice at its Lokhandwala branch recently, announcing that from 15th February every customer would have to pay Rs10 for every entry in the passbook being updated. VS Venkataraman, one among the old customers, protested, saying the move was "absurd". He wrote, "It is the bounden duty of the banks to update the pass books of their customers. This is the minimum service expected from a bank free of charge and the depositor is entitled to know his balance."
While most private banks do not issue pass books, they send statements to customers periodically free of cost. So, the idea of a nationalised bank asking for money to provide this basic service would appear unjust. Mr Venkataraman said, "The nationalised banks should adopt the practice of sending regular statements to customers, if they are not prepared to update the pass book free of charge. Alternatively, they should update the pass book once a month free of charge."
Moneylife intervened on his behalf and spoke to members of Reserve Bank of India committee on depositors' issues. MN Gopinathan, member of the committee and shareholder director of Bank of India, replied and assured that Canara Bank had taken the necessary steps.
"I took up the matter with Jagdish Pai, the executive director of Canara Bank. I got a revert from him now that Canara Bank has decided not to levy charges for updating pass books. I should also clarify that Canara Bank was charging Rs10 only for updation of passbooks at a branch other than the one where the account was maintained. This too will not be levied," Mr Gopinathan said.
However, he explained that customers must understand that banks, like other commercial institutions, must make profits so they can serve other people as well. "Banking is a commercial activity and banks are expected to earn profits sufficient to satisfy capital adequacy requirements. While banking is an essential service, it is not quite reasonable to expect banks to render free service," Mr Gopinathan said.
He explained that banks earn less than 5% on a savings account of a customer which is a nominal amount. So if a customer has a savings account with a balance of Rs1,000 the bank will earn only Rs50. "This", he said, "just about covers the cost of one or two transactions. In fact more than 90% of the deposit accounts are not profitable at all. Already banks do a lot of cross subsidisation to maintain the accounts of a majority of the customers."
Therefore, he explained, that services like transfer of funds (amounting to more than Rs25,000) from one branch to another, must be subject to charges. He said that "in any case, no one, including the government, can afford to provide service free of any charge. At least the cost has to be recovered." Besides, he said, the charges levied by banks do not cover the costs.
While it is understandable that services must be paid for, the charges must be reasonable and justifiable. Give-and-take a little on both sides.