In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
How can illegal passport touts audaciously call themselves “online passport agents” and advertise brazenly on the Internet?
If you go to the passport website of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and click on this link: http://passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/pdf/Public_Notice.pdf, you will see the public notice which reads: “Members of the public are advised to desist from dealing with touts / agents who may be charging exorbitantly for their service and further, may be making false promises about arranging assured urgent appointment or faster passport service delivery. After the launch of Passport Seva Kendras, the appointments are available to general public through the website. Alternatively, certain categories of applicants are allowed to walk in without appointment, details of which are available on the website.
“The Government has not authorised any intermediary/ representative to undertake such activity or to give such assurances. Such incidents of harassment/ influence by them may be reported to the concerned Passport Officer.”
If the public notice is in such uncertain terms, why is it that the website www.justdial.com is filled with contacts of “online passport agents” from various cities like Delhi, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kolkata, Jaipur, Mumbai, Pune and you can just go on and on. Why is it that the harassment of not getting online appointments by citizens across cities, due to an obvious nexus between passport agents and passport officials, which helps agents to probably ‘block’ appointments and deny it to the rightful applicant. Is not being tackled?
For further proof, some of the passport agents of Pune met Prakash Javadekar, Pune’s Rajya Sabha MP, who has taken up the issue for Pune, with the ministry of external affairs (MEA). They confessed that each one of them has access to a keyword/ codeword which helps them block two appointments per agent. Obviously, the number of passport agents seems to be large enough to ensure that individuals do not get their rightful chance. That the passport agent fraternity is having the alleged backing of the powers-that-be can be established by the fact that they continue to go about their business in brazen ways.
Moneylife which has been carrying a sustained campaign against the Pune passport mess had a comment on 3rd April (in the reader’s comment slot under an article), by a passport agent openly advertising that he charges Rs500 “for booking online slot in any of the PSK (Passport Seva Kendra)”.
Naresh Kevalramani, one of the readers of Moneylife wrote to JustDial on 22nd March, “It is very sad that when the Government of India has banned all agents/ middlemen for passport applications/ processing, your website is showing passport agents by the dozen.
I think that your portal—JUSTDIAL—which is one of the leading service providers in India is doing an ILLEGAL ACT by promoting PASSPORT AGENTS whom the GOVT OF INDIA itself has banned.
I have marked a copy of this mail to Ms Deshmukh who is heading Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF).”
Anita Singh, customer service officer of JustDial replied:
“Thanks for writing to just-dial.com .
With respect to your below mail we appreciate your concern and for bringing it to the notice of just-dial.com. We shall look into the matter and do the needful. For any further queries, kindly contact customer service on 02261607080.
You can also mail us on - [email protected].
Thanks and regards
Anita (CS) “
Well, sadly, JustDial’s reply seems to be a standard one for every such complaint, as no action has been taken as yet. Advertisements of “online passport agents” merrily flourish.
Efforts need to be taken to protect and preserve foodgrain for the benefit of the large number of poor in our society who are struggling to survive on a single meals a day
Germany is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP). With a population of about 82 million, it has a per capita income of over $44,100 as per IMF estimates. It is the most developed country in Europe with technological leadership in several capital-intensive industries. Despite all these riches, its people are active in conserving their national resources, as is evidenced by the real life example conveyed by an Indian who visited the country. The following is a first-person account of an interesting incident that took place in Hamburg, Germany. We too need to cultivate such consciousness to preserve our national resources for the good of our people.
Penalty levied for wasting food in Germany
“When I arrived at Hamburg, my colleagues who work in Hamburg arranged a welcome party for me in a restaurant. As we walked into the restaurant, we noticed that a lot of tables were empty. There was a table where a young couple was having their meal. There were only two dishes and two cans of beer on the table. I wondered if such a simple meal could be romantic, and whether the girl will leave this stingy guy.
There were a few old ladies at another table. When a dish is served, the waiter would distribute the food for them and they would finish every bit of the food on their plates. We did not pay much attention to them, as we were looking forward to the dishes we ordered. As we were hungry, our local colleague ordered more food for us.
As the restaurant was quiet, the food came quite fast. Since there were other activities arranged for us, we did not spend much time dining nor did we consume the entire food that we had ordered. When we left, there was still about one third of the unconsumed food left on the table.
When we were about to leave the restaurant, we heard someone calling us. We noticed that the old ladies in the restaurant were talking about us to the restaurant owner. When they spoke to us in English, we understood that they were unhappy about us wasting so much food. We immediately felt that they were really being too busybodies.
‘We have paid for the food that we had ordered, it is none of your business how much food we left behind,’ my colleague told the old ladies.
The old ladies were furious. One of them immediately took her hand phone out and made a call to someone. Within a few minutes, a man in uniform claimed to be an officer from the Social Security Organization arrived. Upon knowing what the dispute was, he issued us a 50 euro fine. We kept quiet. My local colleague took out and gave him a 50 euro note and repeatedly apologized to the officer.
The officer told us in a stern voice, ‘Order what you can consume, the money is yours, but resources belong to the society. There are many others in the world, who are facing shortage of resources. You have no right to waste the nation’s resources.’
Our face turned red. We all agreed with him in our hearts. The mindset of people of this rich country put all of us to shame. We really need to reflect on this. My colleague took copies of the fine ticket and gave a copy to each of us as a souvenir. This will always remind us that we shall never be wasteful.”
What is the moral of the story?
The moral of the story is loud and clear. Though our people rarely waste much food in restaurants, we as a nation waste a lot of food during marriages, festivals and other occasions without caring about the large percentage of our people that go hungry each day. The levels of poverty, hunger and deprivation are so high in our country and little attention is paid to this by the well-to-do citizens and the politicians of our country.
Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the lack of proper storage facilities is resulting in rotting of foodgrain in our country? As per the media report dated 8 May 2010, the government has acknowledged that our country wastes Rs58,000 crore worth of food items every year due to lack of or poor storage facilities. The condition of the godowns in the country is not good and that is resulting in the rotting of good grain.
The Union minister of state for food and public distribution stated last week that the government’s food subsidy bill for the year is estimated to be Rs1.35 lakh crore and the government will have to procure about 62 million tonnes of good grain to meet the targeted public distribution system. If only the foodgrain wasted in the country due to lack of storage facilities was saved, the burden of subsidy would have come down to that extent and thus saved the tax-payers’ money. But who cares?
Is there no solution to this problem?
The best way is to create awareness about the need to avoid wastage of food at all levels. But that alone will not solve the problem. There is a need to penalise people who are responsible for failure to preserve and protect the precious edible resources of the country as is done in Germany. This could have been easily done through the Food Security Bill that is awaiting the consent of the Parliament. But unfortunately, the Food Security Bill, in its present form, does not provide for any such provisions to penalise wastage of food, nor does it cast any obligation on the government in power to ensure that the people in charge should be held accountable for their failure to protect foodgrain produced in this country.
It is time to take note of the obligation of every citizen of this country to ensure that the food wastage is totally avoided. Efforts must be made to protect and preserve foodgrain for the benefit of a large number of poor in our society who are struggling to survive without even two square meals a day.
(The author is our regular columnist and he writes for Moneylife under the pen-name Gurpur’)
At an event in Mumbai on Wednesday, SEBI chief UK Sinha indirectly pointed out the games Sahara has been playing about repaying the money as per a Supreme Court order. Today, in an open attack on SEBI chairman, Sahara put out a press release saying that “rich men’s SEBI do not understand, recognise poor Investors”.
Yesterday at an event at Indian Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce in Mumbai, SEBI chairman UK Sinha pointed out the menace of Collective Investment Schemes which are thumbing their nose at the market regulator. In a veiled attacked on Sahara, he pointed out: “There is a famous instance where a company has claimed that it has refunded more than Rs20,000 crore in the last three to four months to so-called investors out of which more than 90% cent has been returned in cash. How feasible and credible can this story be?” Sinha wondered.
While Sinha did not name Sahara (neither did most newspapers who are large beneficiaries of Sahara advertisements), in a strongly worded press release issued today, Sahara attacked the SEBI chief.
Here is the text of the unedited press release in all its glory. Please savour it.
“Sahara complained that SEBI Chairman Sri U.K. Sinha neither gave time to meet our Chairman since last one year nor he accepted the invitation for appearing with our Chairman in T.V. Channel for informing people the truth and torture given to Sahara. Such a big responsible person should not give irresponsible statements that how and why Rs.20,000 crores repayments were made in 4 months and 90% was paid in cash. Well, he should have asked these questions to Sahara first.
Repeatedly we have written to SEBI and everywhere that our investors are very small and mostly living in small townships and rural areas. These investors do not go to Banks and Banks do not come to them.
Our investors profile on the basis of principal amount.
Upto Rs. 5, 000/- = 1.33 crores, upto Rs.10,000/- another 0.88 crores, upto Rs.15,000/- another 0.42 crores, upto Rs.20,000/- another 0.36 crores. This totals to 2.99 crores out of total investors of 3.07 crores. We genuinely hope that the SEBI Chairman should kindly send an amended statement to Media with realisation and apologies that why cash repayments to around 90% investors have been made and the 90% cash payments are totally justified.
Upto Rs. 20,000 repayments (including interest) it is cash payments only as per country’s law.
It should also be clear that 90% amount of investors in both the companies have come from investors upto Rs.20, 000 that is 2.99 Crores. So any logical but unbiased mind shall be convinced, accept and understand our challenge in the past also that there cannot be any case of fictitious, fake investors in Sahara.
He has also mentioned about paying Rs. 20,000 crores in 4 months. But majority payments are in 5 months plus time.
SEBI knows the reason very well that upto April 2012, esteemed investors through our committed and highly concerned field workers in Lakhs, knew that Hon’ble Supreme Court is likely to give 5 – 6 years against security of properties. We have submitted the valuation reports of properties to Hon’ble Supreme Court.
In fact in case of RNBC under regulation of Reserve Bank in 2008, RBI had given 7 years time to repay. This 7 years time was given within 10 days from the date of Prohibitory Order. So there was no chance, no reason of big rush demands of any nature.
Again the same profile of investors in RNBC also that is deposit of around Rs.20,000 crores with 3 crores plus investors. Important to note that we had almost repaid all liabilities 3 years in advance in RNBC.
But all of sudden in May 2012, 1st Week, Hon’ble Supreme Court ordered for continuous hearing in June 2012 and decision had to be given the same time.
During April 2012, one news was probably infected by some interested party which spread like wild fire in our field, Countrywide that in case of Golden Forest Company which was exactly similarly initiated and fought by SEBI. After Hon’ble Supreme Court’s decision in 2004 in this Golden Forest Company for repayment, not a single rupee has been paid to any investors till today that is in 8 – 9 years. Workers and Investors also knew that there were dozens of other Companies where, SEBI’s had taken action but not a single investor have received one rupee till now.
Also, company as sole custodian of Investors money from last 34 years got concerned about Esteemed very small investors.
Then there was big rush with demands for repayments. There were big – big queues in front of offices throughout the country. We had to repay big sum but could contain to a great extent the rush by around middle of June. So almost 60% repayments had to be done in around 45 days only. Really a very difficult time for Sahara for no fault of ours.
No fault of ours since we did this OFCD business after we got all valid permissions in writing from Central Government through Ministry of Corporate affairs as our regulator who continuously used to inspect and investigate, all Balance Sheets etc. were regularly to be submitted to them etc. etc. for last 10 – 11 years as our regulator but we faced and are facing very difficult days with retrospective effect punishments. Government departments who gave us written permission are not accused at all. Had they not given these permissions we would not have collected even one rupee and we would not have faced any problem. Well we are Prajas and they are Rajas.
One thing SEBI should understand that, had there been any hanky – panky by Sahara as accused by Chairman SEBI, then why we could not manage 5000 Crore which we have paid to SEBI.
Humble request to SEBI to act Judiciously like a very responsible and very big Regulator as big brother of society.