Arvind Kejriwal! You made history but don’t become one

Arvind Kejriwal (AK) has done the pheonix by rising from nowhere to virtually owning the Delhi assembly!

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It is not my intention to analyze how he managed to do it and what were the factors that led to this remarkable victory because that is already done ad nauseam. I am more concerned about going forward and this is where AK will do well to learn from history.

Circa 1982: NT Rama Rao started his Telugu Desam party in Andhra and within a year he won a landslide victory by securing 201 seats out of 270 against Indira Gandhi, then PM.

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Circa 1984 Dec: Rajiv Gandhi swept the Lok Sabha polls by winning a massive mandate of 404 seats (a feat that his illustrious grand father or mother could not even come close). Incidentally, there were only 2 BJP members in that lok sabha viz AB Vajpayee and LK Advani

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1991:Jayalalitha’s ADMK with Congress won 225 out of 234 seats in Tamilnadu and the then incumbent party DMK managed to get only 2 seats.

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The common theme amongst these examples is that all of them wasted the huge mandate possibly because they weren’t ready for that! Or possibly the results got into their heads!! You may be already aware about what happened to them and more importantly how the nation/states lost out despite giving them such clear and massive mandates.

Now let us look at the other extreme.

At the same time as Jayalalitha, PV Narasimha Rao took over the mantle of PM leading the INC which won only 244 seats (less than the minimum 272 for a majority) but then transformed the nation.

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So Mr Kejriwal, you have a choice of fulfilling the aspirations of the Delhi voters who have given a never-before drubbing to everybody else in your party’s favour or letting the verdict get into your head.  You have got a second chance but you may not get a third one.  More importantly, Delhi and perhaps the Nation will go back to the cynical mindset.

Wish you (and Delhi) all the best!! Jai Hind

5 Serious Questions to Banks on their new practice of charging for ATM Transactions

Yesterday at an ATM of Union Bank of India, I saw a poster (see below) that was revealing and self-explanatory in the context of charging for ATM usage beyond the ‘free’ transactions.  The poster had clearly differentiated between Financial and non- Financial transactions.

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Background:  For many years, Banks have been campaigning to get their customers away from the branches to reduce the cost of transactions.  They started with the ATM culture where a customer can withdraw cash only from the ATMs of that particular bank and then as adoption increased they made it possible for customers of any Visa card to withdraw from any bank that supported the network.  And just like the mobile revolution, customers started using ATMS and more or less stopped going to the counters to withdraw cash except in situations where the withdrawal amount was more than the limit for withdrawal by ATMs.

And now when ATMs have become a habit, they have chosen to limit the transactions and charge for anything more than the limit.  So what was created as a service to help customers enjoy convenience has now become a ‘Revenue Model’.

When I first came to know about this ‘free and then fee’ model, I thought it was fair on the grounds that if a customer can do 5 Free Transactions on the Banks’s own ATMs and 3 more in other ATMs in a month, he/she can actually transact 8 times using an ATM in a month.  It seemed inconceivable to me that anyone would require more than this until I started reading the small print.

It was not just withdrawals but anything that you do in an ATM.  See the above image once again and you will notice that Free Transactions would include Financial and Non-Financial and they have clearly listed out what would constitute a transaction. (I am happy that they have not included (as yet) “asking for a receipt for the transaction” as another Transaction)

I see that different banks offer different limits for the ‘Free’ but I am going to consider them as a single entity for the 5 questions (on the lines of daily 5 questions that BJP is posing to the AAP) that follow.

1. So do the banks want more people to come to the branches now and use the ATMs sparingly?  This defeats the original purpose of offering this service because the cost of say ‘cash withdrawal’ at the branch was significantly higher than at the ATM.

2.  Will there be a warning to the customers at the ATM or via sms when they exhaust the number of Free Transactions for the month and that they will be charged for further transactions during the month?  I suppose Banks don’t expect their customers to keep track of their transactions on the own Bank ATMs and the network ATMs.

3. If the bank’s intention is that customers should pay for the services they enjoy, will it also extend to the number of debit card transactions and going forward Internet Banking? There is a high push from Banks to encourage the customers to use the debit cards instead of cash and I suspect that they will charge for debit card usage once it takes off.  Likewise for the other services like sms banking, internet banking, app banking to just name a few.

4.  Will banks allow carry forward of unused transactions for a period of 6 months? As a customer, I can plan my usage on a larger time window than just a month.  If the Banks have the wherewithal to track the number of financial and non-financial transactions, surely they can offer this facility.

5.  Is this a ploy to create new products like a premium account where the number of transactions on ATMs (or any other channels) will be unlimited to attract more customers?

Bonus question:  Are the charges levied for the extra transactions inclusive of Service tax? I know that this is trivial but since there is no * in the poster above, I want a clarification.

I’m surprised and shocked that RBI has allowed Banks to get away with such customer-unfriendly practices.

Mr Raghuram Rajan, are you listening?

This is True Austerity

In The Hindu of today (5th Jan 2014), I read a news item titled “Vasundhara Raje takes a leaf out of AAP’s book” where the Rajasthan CM’s occupation of her MLA bungalow instead of the CM’s quarters and other activities are seen as Taking a cue from the Aam Aadmi Party government’s hugely popular austerity measures!!  The Hindu has been very shortsighted in ascribing these as inspired by AAP whose austerity means Innovas for the Ministers!!

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Given that the public memory is short and the media’s even shorter, it is important to know that a person who occupied the highest office of the Governor General besides being Home Minister at the Centre, Governor of West Bengal and Chief Minister of Madras, lived in his modest house at Bazullah road in Chennai.  That is true austerity!!  Yes, I am referring to C Rajagopalachari well known as ‘Rajaji’. And talking about stopping at traffic lights (which is today seen as a rarity) Rajaji, once stuck in a traffic jam, got out of his car and made his way through the other cars and vehicles to cross into the Central Station to board the train to Delhi because he did not want to inconvenience the others in the train.  

Another example that comes readily to mind, again from a Madras-based personality, was another Chief Minister and King Maker Kamaraj, who lived, incidentally in T Nagar in Chennai, in a rented house when he was the CM.  Kamaraj forbade even a pilot car when he was travelling and once helped a traffic constable to clear a traffic jam by himself.

Can you even imagine that such people lived amidst us not so long ago?  It is indeed pathetic that the modern day politicians have behaved in such a fashion that the ‘stunts’ of the AAP are acclaimed as ‘inspiring austerity measures’ by the media.  

Let us become capable of separating the wheat from the chaff!!

And Arvind Kejriwal is a common man!

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There is absolutely no doubt that Arvind Kejriwal (AK) has become a meteor in the Indian political scenario!  But is he a common man as eloquently described by many?  Let’s look at this description deeply.

  1. For those uninitiated, AK is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur where he studied Mechanical Engineering.  As many would know, getting admission into the prestigious IIT’s is no mean task and is a feat done by a few thousand out of lakhs of applicants.  And AK is a common man!
  2. AK then joined Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and served in the Income Tax department in different roles. And AK is a common man!
  3. It now gets even more interesting.  AK was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for Emergent Leadership.  This Award is considered to be Asia’s Nobel Prize and has been instituted by Rockfeller Brothers.  Let’s leave out the conspiracy theories for a moment and let’s take a look at the awardees.  I see the names of Acharya Vinobha Bhave, Baba Amte, MS Subbulakshmi, Jaiprakash Narayan, Verghese Kurien, Dr Shantha of Cancer Institute amongst many others from different countries in Asia.  The reason for giving AK this award in 2006 is “his contribution to the enactment of the Right to Information Act and for his efforts to empower the poorest citizens of India”.  While the nation came to know of AK only during Anna Hazare’s movement in 2011, the award jury had identified him for his contribution as early as 2006!!  It would be interesting to know that the RTI Act was passed by the Parliament only in 2005!!  You can draw your own conclusions.  And AK is a common man!
  4. I do not know if someone has made the effort to calculate the amount of media time that AK has garnered in the last two years, ever since he has been one of the key figures in the Anna movement.  But nobody will doubt the fact that he has received extensive coverage, mostly positive, from the so-called mainstream media (MSM).  And AK is a common man!
  5. He made outrageous promises (including passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill on 29th December 2013 which incidentally is today) as part of his party’s manifesto and yet the media called him a politician with a difference.  And AK is a common man!
  6. I have lost count of the number of flip-flops that he and his team members have done in the last few months and yet no one is even making a mention of them.  And AK is a common man!
  7. AK called both Congress and BJP names and yet has taken the support of Congress to form the government.  And AK is a common man!
  8. Thousands of people travel on the Delhi Metro everyday and nobody pays them any attention.  But AK takes the metro to attend his swearing-in ceremony and the media is gaga about it.  And AK is a common man!

A request to all thinking Indians and to the media (if they are willing to listen).

Call AK as a shrewd politician, strategist, Chanakya, messiah or anything laudatory.  But please do not insult the common man by calling AK as one.

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