In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
Authorities also ask for a separate regulator for MLMs like Speak Asia
“Move should be made to monitor advertising expenses of ponzi schemes like Speak Asia and for schemes that try to lure gullible public and a central regulator should be established to curtail these multi-level marketing (MLM) and ponzi schemes,” said Rajvardhan, additional commissioner of police, Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Mumbai. He was speaking at a National Seminar on Economic Offences, organised by Mumbai Police.
Identifying MLM and ponzi schemes as a ‘social menace’, Mr Rajvardhan said, “If advertising expenses of such schemes are monitored then advertising agencies themselves will be more cautious about the kind of client they are working for. He said that now, even gold is becoming the focus of some MLM schemes, and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also recently issued a warning to people for not falling for such money multiplier schemes.
Endorsing the stand taken by Moneylife, that there should be a separate regulator for MLMs, the additional CP said it would ensure that the promoters would not get away by cheating people easily. “In case of City Limousine, the promoters ultimately got away. The difficulty with ponzi and MLM schemes is that they are neither regulated by RBI nor by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI),” he said.
Many times the police face a dilemma about the timing to intervene into the MLM schemes. Mr Rajvardhan said that authorities find it difficult. “If we intervene before the scheme goes bust people involved say that there is nothing wrong as they are still getting their money. On the contrary, if we do not interfere before the scheme collapses, people say that Police failed to take any action,” he said.
He said that generally, these MLM or ponzi schemes are run by promoters who collects all the money. They appoint a director and when the scheme collapses, he is made the scapegoat, while the promoters go to some other place and start afresh.
Speaking about Speak Asia, Mr Rajvardhan said that the company had accumulated around Rs2,300 crore between February 2008 to 2011; and if the reward points collected in the ‘e-wallets’ of the panellists is considered, the total amount goes to almost Rs30,000 crore.
“Entire population of Raigarh appears to have invested in Speak Asia and when we continued our investigation, we discovered that the scheme has even spread to places like Lakshadweep,” said Mr Rajvardhan.
For the domestic market in India, anybody and everybody happily places a sticker saying ‘organic’ on anything they want, after all this NPOP, NSOP and certifying agency system!
As with most such things, it starts with anecdotal personal experiences, and then it moves into research. This, therefore, was no different . . .
For years now, one has been keeping one’s eyes open for organic agri-products while travelling around the country. It has usually, been a pleasure as well as an education to look deeper into such discoveries, meeting people. They are really trying to keep pesticides and chemicals out of the growth chain, including the water being used. Typically, this has been an open experience, with people proud to show off their efforts. This is true from the Sunderbans to Mountain Kerala to Garhwal to Jodhpur, and more. However, of late, one has also observed the proliferation of signboards pointing to ‘certified’ organic farms, which on enquiring do not permit visitors inside.
Retail outlets in larger cities now devote increasingly more space, especially, in affluent areas for ‘organic’ products. Spices, tea, coffee, coconut, cereals, eggs, vegetables, fruits, juices and more—pretty much everything now has an ‘organic’ option available on the shelves, and it seems to cost a lot more too. The problem lies in the fact that somewhere in the fine print you can spot ‘like organic’ or ‘nature organic’ or even ‘organic approved’. Whether processed and packaged or sold fresh, there is still no clarity on the subject. So, it is pretty much about trusting the seller and parting with more money.
What has become even more visible of late is the term ‘organic’ being pasted on or over-printed onto the packaging of processed food imported into India. It is increasingly obvious that the original label, which may be in another language, has nothing to do with the product being organic. It has been added on by some entity usually as unverifiable as the sticker with the alleged importer’s provenance next to it.
There is more. Packaged breakfast ‘cereals’, amongst the most industrialised and mis-nomenclatured of all readymade convenience foods ever invented, are an example. Eggs in pretty cartons with little holograms pasted on are also promising in not just organic qualities, but also yellower yolks and browner skins.
So what’s really organic, to start with, in India? To start with, legally only those food products, which have had their production certified as per the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) as laid down by the Government of India, can use the term ‘organic’. Requirements vary by crop and product. They require intensive record-keeping and tracking, non-usage of a variety of chemicals for a number of years, and strict segregation, as well as, control at all stages in the production chain. This would include even the transportation and storage aspects—a truck used to carry non-organic produce, for example, would not be valid for organic food without serious cleaning up—organically. If a cold storage or vegetable or fruit shop does not clearly segregate organic from non-organic, then certification is at risk.
(This has, incidentally, been a mixed blessing for the smaller farmers. On one hand, they can join ‘groups’ which have moved into organic farming, thereby sharing costs and methods, and on the other hand, have to now deal with a ‘system’ that is as yet far from perfect).
Next, is an accreditation system—there are dozens of such certifying agencies in India. Obviously, where there is going to be competition of this sort, there is going to be room to manoeuvre. So every, now and then, there are reports of such agencies indulging in fraudulent practices. Luckily, they also get caught, it seems. Genetically-modified cotton being passed of as organic cotton is one such popular scam. But, by and large, as of now, the system does appear to work. These certifying agencies are supposed to not just grant certification to farmers and others in the business of organic products but also carry out regular verifications. They are supposed to do this under the NSOP (National Standards for Organic Production).
Finally, there are the entities in the business of organic products. They ensure that the land used is fit for organic farming. They are also responsible for sourcing seeds and natural fertilisers. All of them need to be certified and that’s where the issue comes—as of now, unlike in other countries, there is no single ‘mark’ or ‘logo’ which provides a single-point re-verification on this for the eventual customer. Nor is there a requirement that the product or packaging (or even advertising) for the domestic market has to carry details of the certification under the NPOP or NSOP—as yet.
So, what happens is that for the domestic market in India, anybody and everybody happily places a sticker saying ‘organic’ on anything they want, after all this NPOP, NSOP and certifying agency system. Obviously, for the export market, documentation is strong enough to cover this lacuna; otherwise the NPOP/NSOP would lose the rest of the world as a customer.
But when it comes to the Indian customer, pretty much anybody from anywhere in the world, or domestic, can happily put the word ‘organic’ on it. That’s the real and simple truth as on date. And there does appear to be a bit of a racket in this—after all, it is the same ministry of agriculture that is involved, which is also pushing non-organic farming methods and products. So the conflict is clear and there for anybody to see.
What is the solution? Well, other than sitting with the retailer and getting her to explain the complete chain, not much else. Yes, there are shops and outlets which have built up a reputation over the years, but they are few and far between. They are in danger of being hidden by the louder and brighter smart alecks in the game. But at this point in time, if that package or display says ‘Organic’, then some amount of re-verification is certainly in order. Some how!
Governor K Sankaranarayanan, who is complying with the RTI Act in Maharashtra refused to comply with the same in Goa (as he hold both posts) like his predecessor Dr Sidhu. The High Court, in a judgment on 14th November, however declared that the Governor does come under the ambit of the RTI Act in Goa as well
In a major embarrassment to the Goa Raj Bhavan, the Bombay High Court at Goa on Monday ruled that the Governor of Goa is a public authority and come within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Pronouncing the much-awaited judgment on 14th November, the High Court held that the Governor enjoyed no immunity from the RTI Act and the public information officer (PIO) at the Goa Raj Bhavan is duty bound to furnish information sought under the Act.
Earlier in August, a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court at Goa comprising Justice DG Karnik and Justice FM Reis had reserved the judgment after hearing final arguments in the petition filed by Goa Raj Bhavan.
The Governor of Goa had refused to furnish information sought by Adv Aires Rodrigues under the RTI Act claiming that he is not a "public authority".
Adv Rodrigues had sought details of action taken by the Governor on the complaints filed by him against the Goa's Advocate General Subodh Kantak, under the RTI Act. Adv Rodrigues had also sought copies of noting sheets and correspondence pertaining to the processing of his complaints against the Advocate General.
The Goa Raj Bhavan in its petition before the High Court had contended that the Governor not being a "public authority" does not come within the purview of the RTI Act. The Raj Bhavan had also contended that the Goa State Information Commission had not been properly constituted and that the State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) could not have heard matters in the absence of another Information Commissioner.
Motilal Keny, SCIC of Goa, on 31st March, had ruled that the Goa Governor was a "public authority" and did come within the ambit of the RTI Act.
The High Court in its order however held that the Goa State Information Commission has to be a multi-member body and could not function with just the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC).
Former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, who was also former Governor had publicly opined that the Goa Governor was a public authority and did come within the ambit of the RTI Act. A similar view was also strongly expressed by noted RTI Activist Aruna Roy while she was in Goa last month.
Mr Sankaranarayanan took over as Governor of Goa in September 2011. Ironically, he has been complying with the RTI Act as Governor of Maharashtra (as he holds this post too) but in Goa like his predecessor Dr SS Sidhu, he refused to comply by the Act.
This was evident when Adv Rodrigues sought details of total expenditure incurred in 2011 by the Goa Governor's official and their unofficial visits out of the state. He was also denied information when he asked details of President of India, Pratibha Patil's visit to Goa in January this year, which the Goa Governor's declared as a personal visit. However, when Adv Rodrigues asked for the same information under RTI from the Governor of Maharashtra's office, he got detailed answers which proved that the President indeed had been on an official visit and Rs15 lakh were spent from the taxpayers' money.
Chronology of the case
29 November 2010: Adv Rodrigues had sought information from Goa Raj Bhavan under RTI, details of action taken on the complaints made by him to the Governor of Goa against Advocate General of Goa Subodh Kantak. He had also sought copies of file notings and correspondence pertaining to the processing of his complaints against the Advocate General.
30 November 2010: Goa Raj Bhavan refused to furnish the information sought.
21 December 2010: Adv Rodrigues filed a complaint against the Raj Bhavan with the State Information Commission
22 December 2010: State Information Commission sent a notice directing the then Governor Dr SS Sidhu to personally appear before the State Chief Information Commissioner on 4 January 2011.
23 December 2010: Adv Rodrigues filed a caveat before the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court against Governor Dr Sidhu anticipating that he might move the High Court against the notice issued to him by the Goa State Information Commission (GSIC) directing him to personally appear before the GSIC in connection with a complaint filed against him for not complying with the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
31 March 2011: Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Motilal Keny held that Governor is a Public Authority and should furnish information sought by Adv Rodrigues
22 April 2011: Governor of Goa Dr Sidhu took his battle against the Right to Information Act to the Bombay High Court.
August 2011: The Bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justice DG Karnik and Justice FM Reis heard the Raj Bhavan's petition for over four days and reserved the Judgment.
14 November 2011: Bombay High Court rules that Goa Governor's office comes under the ambit of the RTI Act.