Thursday, March 26, 2015

ऊन आणि कळ्या!

ऊन आणि कळ्या!
वैशाखाच्या रणरणत्या उन्हात
गुलाबांच्या कळ्यांची उमलण्याची
आणि उमलताच मलूल होण्याची  
ती जीवघेणी तडफड बघून
तुझ्या डोळ्यात आलेले ते
दोन अश्रु ही ओघळण्या आधीच
सुकलेले मी पहिले,
तुझ्या न कळत, आणि मग
मला उमजले की नेहमीच
गुलाबांच्या कळ्या बघून
मला तुझी आठवण का येते ते.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Some questions regarding Insurance!

Some questions regarding Insurance!
From what I am hearing some questions regarding insurance seem to be in order.
I have heard that in case of the death of an insurance agent their nominees are eligible to keep getting renewal commission till the policies sold by the agent continue to be in force even though the nominee is not going to provide any service to the customers! This is ridiculous. I have heard that IRDA has now decided that this practice will be discontinued in near future.
If one has health policy the money will be paid by the company only if the insured is hospitalized. If he has been asked to do some investigations that do not need admission to a hospital the expenses incurred will not be reimbursed to him. The reason that I have heard is that the insurance companies believe that this will be misused and false claims will be lodged. But what if the investigations are undertaken in the approved hospitals? Should these not be reimbursed?
Also heard that LIC agents get higher commission on Money back and endowment policies, is it true? What should there be such differentiation? But it seems LIC does not give free gifts or free foreign tours that are common with private insurance.
I know of a insurance company that pays out of pocket expenses to agents if  minimum one policy is sold in a month and if attends office for certain number of days! Some agents who complete targets their phone and internet expenses are fully reimbursed by the company.
All the gifts and these can be like Tabs from Apple or Samsung are given away free. Foreign tours must be costing a lot to the companies. All these expenses are of course born by the policy holders. The expenses are booked by the insurance companies and they get tax advantage, while the beneficiaries also do not pay any tax on these freebies! So the government loses, policyholders lose. Fit case to impose FBT on this sector? Alternately all these freebies need to be added in the income of the receiver and taxed.
Now that FDI limit stands increased to 49%, will Indian promoters be able to sell their stake to their foreign partners and make huge profits with no inflow of capital for the company, something that happened in some Telecom companies earlier. Does the law require foreign partners to infuse equity in the company directly?


Friday, March 20, 2015

Why this indifference HDFC Bank?

Why this indifference HDFC Bank?
HDFC Bank is one of the better banks. I have very good and very terrible mix of experiences with them over the years. What I have appreciated and continue to is the fact that at the higher level they are always ready to listen and also take corrective actions if they are convinced. In this regard I have been greatly helped on more than one occasion by Sucheta Dalal! I may not have reached the right people without her help!
Yesterday I had another unpleasant experience with the bank, which by the end of the day had been satisfactorily resolved due to the active intervention of the Mayur Colony branch Manager, who once the issue was brought to her notice and some tough talk by us swung into action and did the needful. So a Thank you to her is in order.
So here is the story. My friend since childhood Satish Gajendragadkar went to UK on a scholarship while in 8th standard and has been there now for almost 50 years. He still is very proud to carry Indian passport. He was offered UK citizenship way back in 1984 but he has still not taken it. He has now retired. He comes to India for few months every year as his family is here. He just lost his father and now his coming to India may be for shorter periods. He at present does not have any account in India. As he is the sole inheritor of his father some financial transactions are now inevitable and thus he now needs to have a Rupee account. He unsuccessfully tried to open an account with IDBI Bank at Satara but hit the wall. I then told him lets open it with HDFC Bank they will be able to do it no time. I was proved wrong!
On 17th March he went to the bank at Mayur Colony Pune to open the account. He was met by a woman who handled NRI desk. He explained to her that normal documents required to open such an account were not available with him as he did not require them. He has an endorsement on his passport that allows him to enter and leave UK as many times as he wishes. He does not therefore have a visa. This endorsement itself is visa for him. He does not have a Work permit either because he is resident of UK! The concerned person obviously had never dealt with such a case earlier. She asked for his passport and took photocopies and scans. For this he had to wait for one hour as the photocopying and scanning machine at the branch was not working. These documents were then mailed to the NRI desk at Model Colony office of the bank. He was promised that he would be contacted the next day and informed the procedure of opening his account. No call came. So finally we landed up at the branch yesterday. The woman he had spoken to was not available so the whole story was repeated at least two three times. The concerned person contacted NRI desk at Model Colony and was told that the account cannot be opened unless Visa and work permit are submitted. Nobody was willing to say oh we don’t know this kind of cases so let’s try and learn how such cases should be handled.
In Management Control Systems Grissinger says that unusual events must be reported on priority. This case should have been brought to the notice of the Manager but it was not till we landed up in her cabin. By then we had lost our patience as we had told and re-told our story for about 40-45 minutes. Then again the passport was asked for more pages were scanned and sent to Mumbai probably. We told the Manager we are no more interested in opening the account and we need a letter from her saying his account cannot be opened giving reasons for refusal so that we can take up the matter may with the RBI. She promised to forward the mail when received by her Mumbai office. We also realized that it may be easier to open his account in a foreign bank in London than trying to open one in India!
About half an hour later he received a call from the bank that they will come home and open his account! He was surprised and still angry said I am not interested any more. But then decided to go ahead. After all the scanning of his three passports they wanted more scans or photocopies! He refused to part with his passport and went back with them to the bank to finish the paper work. Now they have promised his account will get activated in three days. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
The issue here is if a person knows one procedure but when is confronted by a case which is not normal the person should actually try and find out how this case can be handled. Instead it is only passed on. When you promise a person that you would call him on a particular day, you must call him even if his work is still not done. This is common courtesy. The concerned person may be did the right thing by referring the matter to the appropriate office but should have also informed her Manager about it which she did not do. She also did not follow up with Model Colony branch at all. This is not done. She should have taken the ownership and followed up and if they were unable to give solution she herself should have gone to the HO or wherever to get the solution. She just sat back in true Indian work culture style and waited for her office to respond.
I believe had the Manager been brought in on 17th itself the matter could have been resolved mush earlier without all the frustrations and bitterness that had to be gone through. Fortunately I understand a little bit of banking and could take a very tough stand with the bank.
This brings me back to what I have been saying that bank employees even in good banks are not properly trained. Part of training must also tell them that when they are confronted with unusual situations how they must react and what actions they must take! It must also be drilled into their heads that when they promise something they must follow up and inform the customer. This is important because then the customer at least feels that he is not being neglected.
There is a lesson in this for all of us. When you promise anything to customer do it even if there is going to a delay in doing what needs to be done.
Don’t think we should not follow up once we raise the query. It is our job to follow up till we get the response. People sitting there are also like us and won’t move unless reminded!
Report unusual things immediately to appropriate authorities. They are normally expected to know more than us!
There is no point just saying “Customer is the King”, we need to make him feel like one!
If we are going to treat our own like this then the PM can forget about his red carpet for NRI’s to come and invest in his Make in India initiative!
Happy Gudi Padawa and all other festivals celebrated by our diverse country today!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

अजून नाही कळलं!

अजून नाही कळलं!
आर्किमेडिसचा सिद्धांत शिकलो
तो काय ते कळ नाही पण
तो नागव्यांनी ओरडत रस्त्यावर
आला एवढं पक्क ध्यानी राहील.
पायथागोरसच प्रमेय शिकलो
त्रिकोणाचा तिन्ही बाजूंच काही
तरी गणित का त्यांनी केल?
आणि त्याचा माझ्याशी सबंध काय?
याच उत्तर अजून नाही मिळालं
असे अनेक शोध आणि ते
लावणार्‍या शास्त्रज्ञांनी शाळेत
पुरेपर छळल, त्याची धग गेली
पन्नास वर्ष तशीच ठसठसत आहे,
पण दूधाच दही पहिल्यांदा कोणी
केल? आणि मग त्याच ताक करून
लोणी कोणी काढलं? आणि ते
पहिल्यांदा कढवून त्याच तूप
कोणी केल? ते हे सगळं रोज
खाल्लं तरी अजून नाही कळलं!


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Euphoria of successful Coal auction- What about Coal miners and their Families?

Euphoria of successful Coal auction- What about Coal miners and their Families?
So everyone seems convinced Vinod Rai was right and that he has been vindicated by the money that is being offered for coal. Nobody except Dr. Bhalla has rightly pointed out that the price offered is the future value that will be realized over the life of the lease which is to run for 25-30 years and the upfront payment will only be 5%! The present value of this amount if discounted will not be much.
Another thing is that the whole mess in coal is due to its nationalization way back in 70s and that is not being revoked as it should be so that we can get FDI and best technology in the sector. The corruption and inefficiency of CIL as also the reality of Coal Mafia are the things that are not spoken of at all. After the Chaibasa disaster came coal nationalization. Most of us have probably watched Yash Chopra’s film on the subject “Kala Pathhar” and our knowledge on the subject is confined to what that film told us! We are reminded of Amitabh Bacchan’s acting and his confrontation with owners and Shatrughan Sinha but have forgotten the plight of the miners.
The condition of coal miners is described as wretched in many books even novels written by British and American authors over a period of time. We have probably read Tom Sawyer and sympathized but from a safe distance.
All this money will go to the states that have the mines. Is there any provision for large part of this money to be spent for creating better living and working condition for the coal miners’ families? Working in coal mines is a nightmare, it is extremely hard work and many times it is life threatening. If the mine accidents don’t claim them; then TB eventually will. With all the dust in the vicinity their families are prone to be victims of many diseases.
Coal miners come from the poorest background. They continue to be poor even if generations work in mines. There seems to be no escape. Most of the mines are situated in most poor states and there seem to be enough poor in those states who will endure this suffering to earn a living without much protest. Yes unions are strong in CIL and they are unreasonable at times but I don’t see them fighting for the real issues affecting the miners.
CIL does not have latest machinery or processes or safety standards to protect the miners. The companies that have won the coal blocks are also unlikely to be vastly different. So will the state governments with all the money that will be at their disposal step in and enforce safety norms, demand latest technology, enforce strict environment laws and protect and promote the well being of the poor miner. I have very little hope on this.
The political parties that profess their love for the downtrodden and on this count all them must be included in this group have not spoken on this issue vigorously ever. They are unlikely to do it now. State governments that are going to get windfall from auctions must be licking their fingers in anticipation. Why are he Left parties silent on this issue. Their track record in West Bengal on this is nothing to write about. Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa are ruled by Non-Congress parties and the BJP had power or power share in all these state, but even BJP and BJD are silent.
I believe the auction will bring in money but not good life to coal miners who dig for the coal and must have a right to this money for bettering their lives. We owe it to them as a nation.
Dear Prime Minister will you please take the initiative in this matter and make sure that Achhe Din for these toiling thousands and lakhs and their families?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

अस आपल मला वाटत!

स आपल मला वाटत!
सगळीकडे जायची मला जाम घा
मग सिग्नलची मला पर्वा नाही
पण तरी ही कुठेही वेळेवर पोच नाही.
स्वछंतेच महत्व मला खूप वाटत,
म्हणून मा अंगण झाडून कचरा
मी शेजर्‍याच्या अंगणात टाकतो.
लाचलुचपतीचा मला अत्यंत तिरस्कार
पण माझ्या वर आली वेळ द्यायची तर
मात्र मग मी माझी तत्वे गुंडाळून ठेवतो
आणि चुपचाप पैसे देऊन मिटवून टाकतो.
शिक्षण पद्धतीवर मी जाम टीका करतो,
मुलांच्या बोर्डाच्या परीक्षे आधी मात्र
इमानदारीत पेपर कुठे विकत मिळतो
का याची कसून चौकशी करतो,
चापलूसी करणार्‍यांची मला अत्यंत घृणा
पण साहेबाचे बूट चाटण्यात मला येते
प्रचंड मजा आणि वाटतो खूप अभिमान,
आणि येतो मी यात अव्वल कायमचा
एकंदरीत जे मी बोलतो ते करत नाही
पण माझ बोलणं इतरांसाठी असत
आणि तस वागव स आपल मला वाटत!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” & Kaka & Leelamavashi!

Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” & Kaka & Leelamavashi!
Reading this book is an experience. It is scary at times as he tells stories of old people living alone and then forced to live in nursing homes or old age homes in US. Being dependent and forced live away from the known environment and the loss of independence must be traumatic. But it becomes inevitable at some stage. More people are getting old and living longer thanks to advances in medical science. However they get affected by many infirmities and diseases with advancing age as different faculties start deserting them. Many also suffer from dementia or Alzheimer. Medical science cannot stop the process of aging and the ailments that accompany it.
In India as long we had the joint family system the old were cared for at home. Things are not the same any more in many families and these families will only grow in the days to come. So this in built security system has all but collapsed or on its way to collapse. Old age homes are being set up and they are now necessary. Many times it is not possible for children to look after aging parents for variety of reasons. Even we had to keep our father in an old age home as he was afflicted by Alzheimer. We felt guilty but then we realized that we had no option, of course may will say it is only an excuse.
As I read through the book and read stories of many aged people I realized that this is a problem even I or many of my contemporaries may also face in the not too distant future. The thought was disturbing but then it is a reality. May one can prepare oneself to the extent possible. This thinking is possible if the mind is still under control and physical condition is good enough for one do his own things independently.
Today kaka passed away at the age of 91. He celebrated his last birthday on 4th March. I went to see him at Satara on 28th Feb, he even had a drink with me and Satish and was quite cheerful. He was cheerful even this morning. Around 12 he fell and died on the spot. It was a good death in the sense that he did not suffer or had to be hospitalized. His wife suffered a great deal and had to undergo amputation of her leg below the keen and then many other complications. She suffered for many months before death finally embraced her.
Kaka was 80 then. He lived alone for 11 long years at Satara. His elder son is settled in London. Kaka would go there almost every year for 3-4 moths and he would come here for3-4 months. His younger son was Colonel in army but succumbed to brain tumor many years back much before his mother’s sad demise. His wife refused to take Kaka under her care. Never did kaka stay with her more then 2-3 days. He preferred to live alone in the company of his very good natured neighbors who are family friends they looked after him and took the responsibility of his requirements as an elder in family. Kaka, Vijumavashi and Satish always did a lot for this family and Satish still continues to shower them with love. Vijumavashi’s sister also cared for him and Kaka was happy staying with her as he felt at home. For Mavashi he was a Father figure.
Kaka was a great human being. He and Vijumavashi and my parents were very close to each other. Kaka always called me on my birthday and wedding anniversary. He would be one of us whenever we met. He was a friend even to us. He was always cheerful and full of life. I remember a few years back I went to see him. He was extremely happy to see me and said today we will go out for have some beer and dinner, I said no problem. Then he said but today you will not pay I am going to pay because it is a special day. I asked what was special that day and he said today is my 60th wedding anniversary!
The second case is on another close friend of mother Leelamavashi. She was widowed at young age with three children. She remarried after some years. Her second husband also expired. All her children are settled in US and till about 4-5 years back she would go there regularly. I met her today to tell her the news of Kaka’s death. Incidentally Kaka had called her yesterday only! She had decided to go and see him shortly.
She told me I have stopped going to US. I haven’t been there for almost 5 years now. I asked her why? She said medical insurance post 80 is very expensive and if she were to fall ill there she would cause a lot of inconvenience to her children so it is better that she does not go! She says my children come and visit me here and that is much better. She says here I have friends but now we all are old, she is about 85, and still looks very beautiful! She stays alone. She has two girls staying with her as paying guests and has a woman who is with her throughout the day!
She is still very sharp and has a great sense of money. She manages her finances very well. In any case money was never a problem for her. She had also inherited money from her mother.
These two people whom I have known since my childhood. One has left for good today. Other is still living life on her own terms!
I wonder what will happen to me! But one thing is sure this book is a great help in thinking about the inevitable. Will I be able to prepare myself only time will tell. Will I try to prepare myself I think I have no choice!
My sincere thanks to Subra for recommending this book.