Navigation Photography

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Introducing a website to educate Indian drivers

Ah, my pet peeve, the fabulous road discipline and sense, or lack thereof, of Indian drivers. Who, you ask? Hey, I'm taking about us. You and me, and our friends and family. Yes all of US.

There is no denying the fact that the people most to blame are those who drive for a living: bus, cab and auto drivers. Why do such people not follow the traffic rules? The reasons are many, and they are valid, and we are familiar with them: mostly uneducated, underpaid, overworked, never had proper training (if you call sitting beside another driver and watching him mash the gears, then being given your own killing machine to run over every pedestrian on the road as training, well, fine), trying to meet minute deadlines, and what have we. Again, don't for a moment think that I am accepting these reasons, endorsing them as valid, sympathizing with them. NO. Whatever be the reasons, it does not excuse indisciplined driving and flagrant violation of traffic norms , rules and regulations. I've written about this extensively on Traffic problems are everybody's problems.

But, whats YOUR excuse, o educated, civilized, well-paid, law-abiding (we hope) citizen?

Dr. Adhiraj Joglekar is trying to bring about a change in the driving attitudes, habits and cultures of Indian road users. Please applaud him for his effort, and give him all the support you can. NOT by just glancing at his blog, Driving India, but by actually watching the videos, forwarding the link to other people, linking from your website and by making an attempt to actually follow what he's so painstakingly put up.

PS: Yes, he's got videos for all you compulsive vidisordered (I coined this phrase myself, so if you use it, I must be paid royalty!) people, who have forgotten to read.

This is what he says:

Almost 10% of the global road traffic accidents occur in India. Much of the world wide web is full of sarcasm & mocking of the indisciplined driving on Indian roads. Unfortunately in since 60 years since independence the authorities have failed to publish a National Highway code. Licences are given to anyone who can demonstrate an ability to use the clutch-accelerator, consequently the motoer driving schools teach just that and no more. Concepts such as - blindspots, principle of MSM, the tyre & tarmac rule, 2 second gap and most improtantly giving way are not known to the average Indian driver.

The Driving India site has been created with the purpose of providing driver education and training to all Indian road users. It is by far the most comprehensive website providing training in defensive driving. Learning simple road habits can make our roads safe and also free up congestion caused by traffic chaos.

At present 17 driver education videos aimed at changing the driving culture on Indian roads are available. The video are unique in that the footage is real life action from streets of London. We have copied the Western habits: Replaced the dhoti with denim, high rise buildings for Indian cottages, burgers and coke instead of Indian breads and perhaps sugarcane juice. Surely we can copy the Western ways of travelling too.

To watch the videos, interested readers may visit: http://driving-india.blogspot.com/

The videos cover the following topics:

Video 1: Covers the concept of Blind spots
Video 2: Introduces the principle of Mirrors, Signal and Manoeuvre
Video 3: At red lights, stop behind the stop line
Video 4: At red lights there are no free left turns
Video 5: The Zebra belongs to pedestrians
Video 6: Tyres and Tarmac (rather than bumper to bumper)
Video 7: Merging with the Main road
Video 8: Leaving The Main Road
Video 9: Never Cut Corners
Video 10: Show Courtesy on roads
Video 11: 5 Rules that help deal with Roundabouts
Video 12: Speed limits, stopping distances, tailgating & 2 seconds rule
Video 13: Lane discipline and overtaking
Video 14: Low beam or high beam?
Video 15: Parallel (reverse parking) made easy
Video 16: Give the cyclist the respect of a car
Video 17: Dealing with in-car condensation

Pardafash

I've joined Purdafash, have you? Nothing like people power, huh? So its run by a bunch of ex-IIM nd ex-IIT grads, with fire in their belly and stars in their eyes. Or so we think. After a while the fire is doused and the stars stop twinkling. (If you haven't guessed it already, I'm quite the cynic.) May the force be with this group. Or so we hope.

PS: Hullo, why are you still reading this? Get your 3-letter word over to their website, sign up, read the reports, be aware and CONTRIBUTE.

Charging over MRP at airports - 14

I've written to many newspapers about this recent case so that they might put in a small article about it, but till now I've not heard from even a single one... am I surprised? Not really. They are too busy figuring out which esteemed leader of men/mice (take your pick) had prefrontal lobotomy, which page 3 joker had unnatural congress with mutant members of other species and who crawled into whose smelly bottom. Sigh, it must suck to be a journo in India.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Charging over MRP at airports - 12 (Victory!)

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 11 first.

There was some political upheavals occurring in Karnataka and the orders were finally passed on 18th October. The orders were in my favour! Victory. Finally.

The judges have examined both sides of the issue and have held that the O.P. has indulged in "Unfair Trade Practice amounting to deficiency in service by charging the packaged items over and above the maximum retail price printed on the items." and have awarded some monetary compensation.

So, its been a good learning experience for me, a lot of hassle, a lot of time and energy spent as readers of this blog might well know, but well worth it in the end. BUT, it doesn't end here. If more and more people are not aware of this landmark judgment, its simply of no use. It doesn't change anything if people are not aware and don't fight for their rights. Last year I had promised readers of my blog that I would go after the MRP overcharging issue, and I've done that. Now its up to you to follow and use this judgment where you can.

I will try to publicize the judgment in whatever way I can. (I have relocated to Germany last month and I no longer stay in India, so my options are limited) I will put up a link to the actual judgment so that it is available to all. NakedDesserts in Bangalore is very generously helping me and if you'd like to help with this, please drop me a comment here or contact her on her page. Any help is appreciated, especially if you know media people who are willing to pick up this issue.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 13.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Charging over MRP at airports - 11

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 10 first.

Its quite unfortunate that such an important case judgment has not been picked up by all the newspapers and made public. What are the newspapers doing, sleeping on their collective asses? Stupid b*s*a*d*. This kind of behavior makes me mad; people are running around spending their time, money, energy, fighting for something that concerns all of us and does anybody care? Does anybody KNOW of this landmark judgment. This is exactly what I was trying to do, and this person has done it, and he actually got a judgment passed for overcharging on MRP in a frigging RESTAURANT, something that I was loath to try.

PLEASE PASS ON THE WORD to all you know. I will try to put a scanned copy of this other judgment as soon as I can for all to see. Guys, please use it everywhere, and tell everyone you know about it.

Ok, back to my case:

In the next hearing on 27th Sep, I submitted the certified copy of this judgment (its called "citation"). And finally, the Judge set 11th Oct for the date for passing the Orders. Ah, finally! I've done all I can, made all the arguments, given umpteen "evidences", newspaper articles, rebuttals, versions, rejoinders and subrejoinders and what not. Spent 6 long months fighting the case. Now lets see what happens. If I lose, it will be a crying shame, and quite crazy really after the other judgment has direct relevance to my case. Lets see, keeping my fingers crossed. Tomorrow is the date.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 12.

Charging over MRP at airports - 10

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 9 first.

On 21st Sep, I submitted a copy of the newspaper article that had details about a recent judgment delivered by the Karnataka Consumer Court against overcharging. But the judge said that he can't take cognizance of a newspaper article and I should get a copy of the actual case judgment at the next hearing. Next hearing date was set for 27th Sep, 2007.

Ok, this was interesting. How do we now go about finding where the judgment was passed? We had no details about the case, no case number, no mention about which court it was handled in. All we knew were the names of the complainant and the O.P. [Digression 1: The stupid newspaper copy writer of that article should be fired. When one writes a case that has public relevance, it makes eminent sense to provide contact details of the complainant for people to contact him regarding the case. At the very least, all details about the case should have been provided like the case number and the name of the Forum which handled the case. We had such a bloody tough time finding the details ourselves, and if we weren't so persistent we wouldn't have managed. And of course, thanks to quite a bit of luck. Anyway, read on... ;)]

There are five locations of the Courts in Bangalore: Sheshadripuram, Cunningham road and KG Road. After the hearing, we talked to various people in the Sheshadripuram court, but they could not remember such a case being handled in this court. [Digression 2: What kind of strange IT city do we live in? Its quite unbelievable that they don't have an online database system in which they can put in a few key words and locate the case details. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.]

Fine, so then we go bitching to the next court on KG Road. Spoke to a guy we had nodding acquaintance with there, but he also said that such a case was not handled by that court. Whew. Nothing else to do, but to go trudging all the way to Cunningham Rd and hope that it was handled by the Courts there. Sh**. We came out of the Court office and were waiting for the lift when lady luck decided to shine on us again. There was a lawyer who had overheard us inside and he asked us what the problem was. We explained, and he said to go back and ask them for the complaint register. That would have a list of every complaint that has been filed. Look backwards day by day, until we find the name of the complainant. Cool, so there was a way. We went back inside and explained what we needed. Lady luck now positively shone on us now. One of the guys suddenly said, no problem, they'll locate it on the database. [Digression 3: Database? Huh? Whats that? They have a bloody online D A T A B A S E? Whatdfuck, and we go donkeying all over town on a working day when I should be in office. ~#@$%^**()#@#!!! and @$#@^%**&)*()#!!!]

Voila! In a few seconds they looked up the key words and retrieved all the case details. I would have jumped off the 6th floor if it turned out that the case has been handled by the Sheshadripuram Court. Turned out that it was in the Cunningham Court. So off we went there next, armed with all the details. The case had been filed in May (after my case) and was disposed off in Aug (before mine!). Thats why I keep saying that next time I will try to get the Cunningham Forum.

There's an amazingly helpful lady in the Cunningham Court, and she got the case file out and we read the judgment. She needed an affidavit from me explaining why I needed a certified copy of this judgment, and why it had relevance for my case. It would take 2 days normally, but she promised to give it to us in a day.

I got the affidavit made from the same notary in Koramangala BDA complex, and my wife submitted it on Monday, and on Tuesday we had the certified copy with us. More power to us, yeah!

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 11.

Charging over MRP at airports - 9

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 8 first.

Whew! Been a long time without updates. I've been busy updating my life. More on that in a later post. Here's whats been going on with the case:

In the hearing on Aug 24th, the lawyer from the O.P. didn't turn up, only the usual paper delivery guy came. The Judge was not very happy and scolded the fellow. The judge had asked me to get an empty package of the item showing the MRP. I'd throw away the original package after drinking the juice thinking that I would easily get it from outside in any shop. But unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a packet of Bejois juice from any shop. So instead I submitted a newspaper article saying that the 200 ml Bejois juice has been introduced at Rs 10, and another printout of an online shop where the same juice was being sold at Rs 9 instead of the MRP of Rs 10.

I presented my arguments, and another hearing date was set for 14th Sep. I would be traveling again and would not be in India on 14th Sep, so I asked the Judge if my wife could come instead of me. He said, yes, I was not required.

Next hearing on 14th Sep, my wife attended instead of me. For the first time a lawyer from the other side showed up, from Bombay. OK, finally I'm squeezing them. He submitted another of their usual blah-blah documents, this time quoting from various MRP case judgements, and spent more than 1/2 hr reading from this document to the Judge. At the end of it, the Judge asked him if he knew that the Karnataka State Commission took a different view of overcharging on MRP than the Delhi High Court, and the lawyer said "yes".

This was the most interesting piece of news... the first piece of good news I'd heard in this case, considering its been dragging on for more than 6 months. The next hearing was set for 21st Sep.

I returned from the US, and then tried to figure out what the Judge has meant when he said that the Karnataka State Commission took a different view of overcharging on MRP than the Delhi High Court. After searching online for more than 3 days, I struck gold on just one website, the New Indian Express website article "Hotels cannot charge more than MRP", dated 27th August, 2007! This article said that an advocate Shankaranarayana Rao had fought for the cause of the consumer over pricing of bottled water served in a hotel, and won. This was really awesome. Here was a case where the Consumer Court in Bangalore had very recently upheld a complaint against overcharging in a restaurant, even against the stay order passed by the Delhi High Court. This was fantastic news, so in the next hearing on 21st Sep, I submitted a copy of the newspaper article with some more arguments.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 10.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Noise pollution

Response to a comment from a reader (the reader didn't leave a trackback URL, so posting it here):
"WHy does one constrcut a house with the utmost details on the ventilation? Cos one wants to enjoy sitting in the Verandah and open the windows to let the fresh air in. After constructing a beautiful house in Bangalore taking huge amounts of loan, we are uinable to enjoy these little joys of life. The problem: our neighbor who runs not one but two machines that make some kind of printing balls( in a residential area!). We have tried to reason with him saying that we need our peace for atleast Sundays and if his livelihood depends on the Machine running, then he should do so between 10 and 5 pm. T othis the man takes huge offence and brags about the heft bribes he has paid to get his'licence'!
My spouse says that since we both work,come back at odd hours, have a little girl and our house is made of a lot of glass, we should not take "panga" with the neighbour and let his "factory" die a natural death( he is an alcoholic and often gets drunk and abuses everone around- so my spouse assumes that he is self destructive too!).
Everyday life is becoming touger with the volume from his factory/house increasing. what can we do?"

Well, the first step is to understand your rights. A bit of search on the net will throw up various cases of noise pollution dealt with by the courts around India. Hopefully, you have already read the bit about noise pollution in the post (Fight for your rights! - Sidenote 2) on which you posted the comment. I have tacked noise pollution earlier against a temple opposite my house and the details are given in that post.

In your case, I would say that the Pollution Control Board can help. You can have a look at this notification from the Supreme Court regarding noise pollution. Please also see the KSPCB Citizen's Charter and KSPCB Grievance Redressal mechanism.

Best of luck, and please keep me informed about what steps you take and what happens.

Charging over MRP at airports - 8

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 7 first.

Got a simple affidavit done on Monday, just cost Rs 30 to get the notary to stamp it. As usual he wanted me to get it printed on stamp paper, but I'm getting smarter everyday. I printed it on plain paper and it was quite fine with the court. At least they didn't refuse it when I submitted it on 14th.

14th was another donkey hearing. All I did was get there and submit the affidavit. The judge asked me to submit an empty package of the item. The O.P. submitted a sub-rejoinder to my previous response. This time they threatened to complain to AAI about taking of photographs in a highly sensitive area. Ohhh... what will they do next, threaten to cry? Anyway, much of the rest of their statement was the usual yabba-dabba-do. They are a restaurant, they are allowed to overcharge, etc etc. However, there was one point of minor interest: now they are saying that this case does not come within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Court. Huh?

So Aug 24th is D-day. I have to present my arguments and try to convince the judge. Gonna be tough, but gonna be fun as well. I got an interesting request from NakedDesserts. She wants to attend the hearing when they start arguments. So that be 24th August. Time 11am. Address: Seshadripuram Consumer Court. If anybody is interested, pls drop in. Its an open house, the judge and I and God knows who from the O.P. will be having a friendly chat over chai and fags. Ho ho ho ;)

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 9.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Charging over MRP at airports - 7

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 6 first.

On 17th July, my wife went to the Consumer Court. Someone from the O.P. showed up and gave the court and my wife a 20 page legal document filled with B.S. They blatantly claimed the following:

(a) Incident did not occur
(b) They did not overcharge
(c) They are allowed to overcharge because they are a restaurant, and provide "starred" service
(d) They will sue me
(e) They, NOT the AAI, are the one providing the service and the ambiance that passengers enjoy at the airport
(f) They pay huge licensing fees to AAI an they are "justified" in over charging

This document was signed by the Port Lounge president, sealed by their attorneys and has been sent from Mumbai. So what is this, scare tactics for the simple minded?

It also quotes from a previous judgment by the High Court regarding this issue of overcharging by restaurants.

The Federation of Hotels & Restaurants Associations of India has also obtained a stay order from the Delhi High Court on the MRP matter, which overrules the previous judgment given by the State Commission. More about this matter can be found in the newsletter of FHRAI. This stay order prevents consumer protection bodies from awarding compensation to consumers who complain against hotels and restaurants.

So, I am fine with this. As I've posted before, this is correct... one pays for the service and the ambiance when one goes to a hotel or restaurant. But its not the same with a snack bar in an airport.

In the next hearing after that on 27th July, I submitted a rejoinder to their response giving my arguments and evidences. I argued that the premises in the airport of the O.P. cannot be called a restaurant, can only be called a snack bar. There was no service, etc. I've also asked them to provide me a copy of the contract that they signed with AAI to check what it says regarding payment terms, and pricing of items. I also submitted photographs of the shop by a phone camera, taken by a friend who was passing through B'lore airport the night before the hearing. He took the photos late at night, mailed me the next morning. I printed them out and attached them to my rejoinder before rushing to the court in the morning! In my rejoinder, I submitted copies of two articles that had appeared in newspapers earlier: Overcharging costs cineplex dear and MRPs take-off at the airport.

The representative from the O.P. gave me an affidavit claiming that the incident never occurred and I gave him a copy of my rejoinder. Next hearing was set for 7th August. Dunno what happens then. As usual, the judge likes to say or explain things as less as possible. So I am totally in the dark about what happens next. Next case I will try to ensure that I get the Cunningham Court, at least the judge explains whats going on.

7th August turned out to be one of those donkey hearings. I went all the way to the court to be told to submit an affidavit in the next hearing, on 14th July, saying that the incident had occurred and giving the facts of the case. Later I was talking to the court attendant. He said that now it will proceed quickly. Next hearing I will submit the affidavit. The next hearing after that is marked for arguments, and the ruling will be given at the next hearing after that.

So lets see what happens. On Monday I have to run around getting an affidavit done and then submit the same on Tuesday.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 8.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Class action suit against Air Deccan - 2

I've decided not to pursue this for two reasons:

1. Its been one month since I put up this post, I left messages on various websites where people have posted messages complaining about Air Deccan. I send personal messages to people who has posted messages complaining about Air Deccan. After all this, only TWO people have contacted me. Crazy. If I needed more proof that people in India only like to talk and when it comes to actually doing something, can't be bothered, well I have it now. And in this case, they were not even required to *do* anything, just send me their story. Even that didn't happen. Shame on you guys, all you can do is talk and bitch on websites, but do nothing to fight for your rights. May I say politely that you deserve whatever shit happens to you.

2. After quite a few mails to Air Deccan threatening them with consumer court action, they refunded my money completely a couple of weeks ago, within 1 month of the canceled flight. This is indeed quite fast, compared to various complaints I've read. So of course, I do not have a case anymore to go to the court with.

Charging over MRP at airports - 6

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 5 first.

On 18th June, I went to the Court and told the Judge that I would like to change the address of the Opposite Party. He set the next hearing for 27th June. And it was done. Simplicity itself, right?

Wrong!

What a bloody waste of time. I don't understand what is going on. Without even hearing me properly, the judge set the next hearing date for 27th. After the court went into recess, I went into the judge's chamber and met him. This time I didnt bother to ask the idiots outside whether I could go inside. I told the judge that I had met the airport officials and they asked me change the OP address and have the summons sent through the Airport Director. He said, fine, just meet the Court officials and get the address changed.

I met one of the Court officials, who asked me to get a letter saying that the OP address should be changed. So I immediately wrote a letter in hand on plain paper and brought it back to him. He said, no, I need to do this on 27th. Thats what the next hearing date was for. What crap. What a sheer waste of time. All the way to the court just to be told to come back on 27th, and there would be nothing anyway done on 27th except for me to give them the changed complaint with the new OP address. Stupid stupid stupid.

So like a donkey, I went back to the court on 27th for the next hearing. The Judge asked if I'd brought the new complaint letter; I submitted it. The next hearing date was set for 17th July. I asked for a change of date since I would be traveling on that date. He said, date can't be changed (weird, totally weird), but someone can come on my behalf. So tomorrow, on 17th, my wife will attend instead of me. Lets see what happens next.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 7.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sleep deprived on Questionable Content

Got a Counsumer Court hearing tomorrow morning... shit! no... today morning. Why am I still awake? Got some marathon driving to do to the other end of town in the morning. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaak.

Was tripping out big time today on this comic strip my wife discovered: Questionable Content. Check it out, its so totally fantastic... started sometime in 2003, and I've only managed to get to 2005. Its real addictive, some nice artwork, some wise crack and quips a`la Calvin and Hobbes, and very real characters. Boo to Friends.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Class action suit against Air Deccan - 1

I am planning a class action suit against delayed refunds by Air Deccan. This is a call to anybody who has faced/is facing a problem with delayed refunds. Go to the end of my post, if you're quite familiar with Air Deccan and its mischief.

---

Story so far:

After much trepidation, I planned to travel Air Deccan for the first time. My family and I (4 pax) had planned to take a flight from A to B on 18th May, 2007. Needless to say, the flight got delayed by more than 4 hours and as per the policy Air Deccan is supposed to repay the full amount. Since we had a train to catch from B for which we already had reservations, we were forced to cancel the Air Deccan tics and book more expensive tics. We spoke to the Air Deccan station manager and asked them to cancel the flight and refund the amount. They said that their system is down, so I got them to give me a letter, all stamped and signed, with all details of the flight and the delay and that I wanted a cancellation and full refund.

After 18th May, 2007, I tried in vain to reach customer care and talk to somebody, but the stupid system would keep saying that I was some 30th or 35th or a billionth in the queue. I would wait in vain for as much as half an hour and then give up. A week later, I went through the reservation option, rather than the cancellation option on the automated system and voila! I was connected. After explaining the problem I was told to send a copy of the letter to one Eswar Singh. But even after a couple of reminders, I got no reply.

Called up customer care again. They gave me 10 numbers, 41148190 - 99 to call up and speak to the supervisors. I tried all these numbers for many days at various times of the day, but nobody picked up the phone even once.

Again called up customer care, and was given a special number 41585225, the "direct" refund dept number. This number is always busy.

Finally, mailed and on 6th June, where I categorically stated that I would file a case against them in the Consumer Court if I didn't hear from them by 8th June confirming that I would get the refund back with due interest. I got a mail back from them on 7th June, saying that the "case has been forwarded to the concerned department" and that I should mail for further clarification. I did this, but I got the usual automated email reply asking me to send all blah blah details, which I have already done more than once.

I've also been told, in the course of my chats with customer care, that refunds will take 40 WORKING days from the date of being logged.

---

A bit of search on the net threw up hundreds (if not thousands) of complains from consumers who have been waiting months and in some awful cases, upto a year, to get the refund. So the time is quite right to start a class action suit against delayed refunds by Air Deccan.

If you think you have been put to grief by Air Deccan, and have been given your due refund after unacceptable delay, or have not been given your refund, please let me know.

Ground rules before contacting me:

1. You should have been put to inconvenience, made calls, send e-mails, letters, whatever. I need proof. I will ask you to send me e-mails/letters that you have sent to them, I will ask you to scan and send me the ticket print out, etc. If you haven't called up customer care and threatened/begged/whatever them yet, DON'T contact me. I need proof of inconvenience to build up a strong case.

2. Read the conditions of your ticket very very carefully before contacting me. If it says non refundable ticket, DON'T contact me. If you have a doubt that Air Deccan owes you money, DON'T contact me. I require you to be fully convinced that you are in the right and Air Deccan is in the wrong. Please don't waste my time with frivolous complaints. I need water tight cases.

3. Write the case out clearly, crisply, giving ALL details, dates, persons talked to, phone numbers, flight number, sector, what happened, who said what, what has been done so far, what was promised. Please don't lie and don't bull shit. Don't use profanity. I need just a few very tight complaints with as much detail as possible. Be prepared to support me with information as and when I ask. No money or credit card details are required.

I can be reached at zehawk at gmail.com. Please forward this information to anybody you can.

Feedback, as always, is most welcome.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"MRPs take-off at the airport"

Just chanced across this report in the Mumbai Mirror, entitled about a raid done by the Weights & Measures at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.

I found the Delhi Dept of Weights & Measures website giving a lot of information, but can't find anything for Karnataka. Its called Department of Legal Metrology here. As usual, the govt is sleeping. If anybody can find the website for me, please drop me a comment.

Charging over MRP at airports - 5

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 4 first.

Since I'd missed the hearing scheduled for 24th May, I called up the Consumer Court some days ago. They informed me that the next hearing is on 18th June. Seems the court summons had been returned, and the judge needed a confirmation of the address, else the case might be dismissed.

So I needed a proper address, and somebody at the B'lore airport would be able to help me. Anyway it was about time I met the officials there. Finally, on 6th evening, I went to B'lore airport and met the Duty Manager. He was very encouraging and happy that I was taking up this issue. He was surprised that I gone to the Consumer Court and the Dept of Commercial Taxes, but not complained at the airport yet. (Yeah, yeah, I know, but time is at a premium.) He knew that Port Lounge (the shop against which I'd filed the complaint) was overcharging, but was powerless to do anything about it until people came forward to complaint and follow these things up. He remembered a Consumer Court summons being received, but the person serving the summons would not have been allowed inside the security area, and hence would have gone back. He asked me to come the next day morning at 10am, and meet the Airport Director in person.

After some hesitation I agreed. Coming back another day meant driving all the way over from BTM Layout to the Airport in peak traffic, then driving all the way to Electronic City (my office), spending time and money, getting bugged by traffic, and spending another Rs 60 for parking at the airport. Sheeesh. Sometimes I wonder whether the pains my wife and I take for all these are really worth it. Anyway, on with the story.

Next morning after fighting with traffic all the way from Koramangla, through the Inner Ring Road, up and down the flyover, and horrible horrible Airport Road, I reached a bit late. The Duty Manager was on an inspection round and came at 11:15. While he was telling me where to meet the Airport Director, into the office strolled in another gentleman who wanted to know what the problem was. He turned out to be a senior manager with AAI, and for various reasons cannot be named. He was also very pleased and appreciative that I was doing this and told me his story....which used to be mentioned here and now I've edited it out for various reasons.

He asked me not to meet the Airport Director in person; instead he asked me to fax the Airport Director a brief of the case, and asking him to help serve the summon to Port Lounge in future, since Port Lounge was in a secure area where a normal person is not permitted access. He took my phone number and asked that we stay in touch in the future.

All in all, a most fruitful meeting. Next step for me is to draft the complaint letter to the Airport Director and fax it on Monday morning.

Continue read Charging over MRP at airports - 6.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Charging over MRP at airports - 4

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 3 first.

The Consumer Court hearing was yesterday in the Seshadripuram Consumer Court. I had never been to this part of town and didn't have the slightly clue how to get there. The night before I spent two hours pouring over Google maps, figuring out which route I would take from BTM Layout (where I stay) to Seshadripuram. (For those who have done this in other countries, you would know how easy it can be.) Not so with Bangalore, a jumble of roads and one ways made my life hell. The hearing was at 11; I left at 9:30 to leave plenty of time for travel. I managed to make it to Seshadripuram following my written directions with little trouble by 10:30, but finding the Consumer Court after that was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Nobody seemed to know where it was, I spent half an hour searching through the jumble of roads and one ways, finally found it at 11, took me 10 mins to find a parking and ran into the court at 11:15. Just in time. In a couple of minutes my case number was called.

And in 10 seconds my file was put aside by the court reader and I was told curtly that the next hearing would be on 24th May. Whatdf...? What happened? I couldn't talk with the reader since the Court was in session.

So I went and spoke to the Consumer Court officials who told me that the next date of hearing had been set for 24th. I wanted to know why, they didn't know. Said only the reader would know. Ok. So I had to wait for the session to get over. I was starting to get mad now. All this way for nothing.

Finally, the session got over at 12. I went and spoke to the reader. He said that the summon had been sent to the opposite party and the next hearing was on 24th. I will not be in town on that date, so I asked for a change of date. He rudely refused, said that was procedure and there was nothing he can do. My appeals fell on deaf ears.

By now I was completely pissed. I had taken a lot of trouble to get here, spent my time, energy, money. All for nothing. There was no hearing, the next hearing date was set to date when I would not be present, the reader refused to change the date, and top of that was showing me his arrogance. This is the problem with babudom everywhere, the small fry think they are the smartest cats around, while the real big shots are people who listen, understand and are reasonable.

Again went back to the Consumer Court official and told him that I would not be there, so could he please change the date. This guy also started showing me his bad attitude. Told me if I would not be present, too bad. They wouldn't change it. So I told him that I want to meet the President. For a moment he was shocked... then he said "impossible, nobody can meet him", sounding all pompous and officious. I told him everything was possible and I want to meet him immediately. So he told me to wait, since the President was meeting somebody. After 15 mins or so, my patience began running out and I pestered this guy again. He took my file inside, spoke to the President and came back and said that the date was fixed, it cannot be changed. I was quite surprised. This was very unusual. In the last Consumer Court case, the dates were changed to suit our convenience. Now I could imagine the babus acting self-important and not changing the date, but for the President to say the same thing seemed strange. So I told the guy that I was going inside to meet the President, whether he liked it or not. The guy forbade me from meeting him. Can you believe the gall of this fellow? He told the guard outside the door not to let me in. Unbelievable! I told him I was going inside and he could do whatever he wanted to try and stop me, and I stepped inside the President's chamber.

The President (who is the presiding judge of one of the forums, BTW) was talking with another judge, a lady. I explained the problem to them. They said, no problem, get the date changed. However, I need not be present. The summons had been sent to the opposite party, and on the next hearing they would come and argue the case. That was all there was to it. Such a simple thing, problem solved. Now why couldn't the pompous fools outside have explained this to me instead of being over smart? And these two judges were extremely nice, they explained the procedure to me, said I need not have come today either. I complained about the behavior of the people outside and that their behavior was markedly contrasting with the judges behavior. Couple of minutes later, I was done chatting with the judges and left.

Persistence, Watson, persistence gets one everywhere. Now to wait and see what happens on 24th May. I am really excited about this case. In the meantime I have to follow up on the complaint I'd made to the Commercial Taxes Dept.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 5.

Fight for your rights! - Update 20

Yesterday the milk vendor came to the house at night. Mr sweetness himself. He wanted to know whether we have not dropped the case against him. I told him we had dropped the IPC case after he gave his apology, but the Consumer Court case had gone against him and he has to pay a fine. First he denied knowing anything. So I told him that its OK. If he says that he has not received anything from the court, he should not pay. The court will deal with him. Then he started his story of poor man, he didn't know what he was saying, he was very sorry, blah blah blah. Since the day of the incident bad luck has been following him around. He is a very helpful person in the neighborhood, in fact, he has helped the owner of my house build this house, he helps people out of a genuine feeling, doesn't even ask for money. When he saw that I wasn't convinced, he said to come to his shop and collect the fine money from him. Indeed? Nothing doing. I told him to come and deliver to my house, which he said he will do next Monday.

Then he said that "if he had known that we would file the case, etc against him he would never have behaved this way" and repeated this a few times. This to me is the most important learning from this incident. This is an amazing thought. The reason people like him act and behave this way is because people like you and me do not raise an objection. Is this surprising? Of course not. Its something I have known... and I wanted to prove, as I mentioned many posts ago, that I wanted to call his bluff. It pains me that we don't raise a voice against the many injustices we face everyday. The next time this guy will be very very careful with everybody. A small victory but one I hope that will help other people to emulate.

This story is not over though. In the order passed by the Consumer Court, the judges have written a very strong statement against KMF for allowing this incident to happen and for the overcharging. We intend to get this published in the newspaper. KMF people were very afraid of the bad publicity resulting from an adverse Consumer Court judgement, which is why they had visited us many times to ask us to take back the case. We had refused. My wife had met the Managing Director of KMF over this incident. Now we have to meet him again and give him a copy of the judgement. Let the fun begin.

Do the meek inherit the earth? Yeah right, and pigs have wings and can fly.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 19.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Update 19 (Final update?)

The last hearing happened on 10th April. Today was the judgement, and I have some awesome news. The Consumer Court has ruled in our favour! After investigation, they found the milk vendor guilty of overcharging. Since we had not asked for monetary compensation, they have fined him Rs. 1000 to be paid to us within 30 days, as cost of litigation.

Read Fight for your rights! Update 18.

Charging over MRP at airports - 3

Read Charging over MRP at airports - 2 first.

Finally, managed to make a visit today to the District Consumer Forum at Cavery Bhavan and submitted the complaint. 4 copies, et al. And retained an acknowledged copy for myself. The first hearing is scheduled for 30th April in Seshadripuram Consumer Court.

Then went to the Commercial Taxes Department, which is close by. Met the PRO there. He was a very proactive gentleman, listened to my complaint and immediately faxed a copy to the Intelligence and Vigilance department. He gave me an acknowledged copy for my reference. Said he would follow up and let me know what transpires.

Finding parking around Majestic is a pain, spent an hour in a traffic jam around the court area and finally got done with everything by 2pm. What a hassle, but it was worth it. This work was pending for quite some time.

Finally, I've to submit another complain letter to the Airport duty manager with copies of the two other complaints. I'll do that one of these days.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 4.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Charging over MRP at airports - 2

Read Charging over MRP at airports first.

I've been a bit busy and haven't found time to drop in my complaint at the District Consumer Forum. The Rs 100 draft is done, 4 copies of the complaint are ready. I was all prepared to go there last Friday, but at the last minute realized that it was a government holiday. Am planning on going for sure on 11th, Wednesday.

I also wanted to follow up on the tax and the incorrect bill angle, but I didn't know which government department to complain to. I searched a lot on the Internet but couldn't come up with the information. I knew that it was illegal not to provide a complete bill with all details to a consumer, but try as I might I could not get any laws or information on the same. A few days ago, completely by chance I saw this big advertisement behind a telephone directory by the Commercial Taxes Department, exhorting consumers to report to the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes if a dealer refuses to issue a sale bill with all tax rates and details. This falls under Section 29 of the Karnataka VAT Act, 2003. This was a marvelous piece of luck. I've also prepared a complaint letter to submit to this department in Gandhinagar on Wednesday.

And finally, I have another complaint letter to submit to the Airport duty manager regarding the same.

This is a huge issue, if I can get this one shop to stop overpricing, think of the ramifications for all shops in malls, multiplexes and airports!

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 3.

Fight for your rights! - Update 18

The court hearing on 26th March was uneventful. The judge told my wife that the milkman had refused to accept the court summons and it was returned. He set another date, 10th April, thats today, for the final hearing. He asked her to get an affidavit with all the details and all supporting documents and to submit that in court. She's got one done. Lets see how this last hearing goes.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 17.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Update 17

Last week we went to the police station and met the Sub-inspector. He was very helpful and asked us to meet him on a certain day. On that day, my wife went to the police station herself (I was traveling). The milkman was there too. He apologized and signed a statement saying that he had done such-and-such and was sorry and would not repeat such behavior in the future. So ends one chapter in this story.

Tomorrow is the Consumer Court hearing, but we have no witnesses, no affidavits, nothing. We do have the signed statement from the milkman where he had admitted that he had overcharged and misbehaved, but I wonder if such a statement can be admitted to court. And somehow I can't help thinking that it would not be right for us to give his statement to the court.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 16.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Traffic problems are everybody's problems - 3

Yet another B'lore blogger joins the fight against rash drivers. Check out The Write Nonsense, where Nisho describes how he took a driver of Sapient to task. Absolutely marvelous! Nisho, keep up the good work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On all search engines

The search string "everyday bloggy" throws up this blog as #1 on all the usual search engines: google, yahoo, ask, msn, lycos, altavista. I've my ego massaged for the day, heh heh heh.

Charging over MRP at airports

We all know about the rampant overcharging of packaged items at airports/malls/multiplexes etc. This is clearly illegal and we as consumers must take this up with the required authorities. See my earlier post "Hotels can charge extra for bottled water, says HC", where the high court ruled that hotels can do so because they are offering a "service". But by no stretch of imagination can we say that airports/malls/multiplexes are offering a similar service.

A few days ago I was at B'lore airport, where I bought a 200ml packaged juice with an MRP of Rs. 10. The guy at the counter sold this to me at Rs. 30! This time, instead of keeping quiet like other times, I decided to take on the shop which was selling everything above MRP.

I asked the guy at the counter whether he knew that he was committing an illegal act by selling above the MRP. For those who don't know, overcharging is illegal under the Packaged Commodities Rules (PCR), which states that any trader charging more than the MRP mentioned on the package can be prosecuted. He said that they have to sell above MRP because of "taxes". When I asked him what tax, he said "airport taxes". He first gave me a bill which didn't even have the name of the item on it. It said "Power failure" and "Item 1 --- Rs 30". Unbelievable! I asked him to give me a bill with the name of the item on it, so he gave me another tiny bill with just "Juice --- Rs 30" printed on it.

I then asked him to give me a hand made bill mentioning clearly the exact item that I'd bought, the printed price of the item I'd bought, and what were the exact taxes that were being charged. He, of course, refused. Then I asked him to call his manager. He said to wait for half an hour, his manager would come. Yeah, in half an hour, so would my flight. I asked for the name and phone number of his manager, but he refused again. I continued making a racket, all the while he continued serving other customers. Then I told him that I would take out my camera and take his photograph and take that as proof. Finally when I did take out my camera, he said that I can't take his photo without permission. I said I would unless he gave me a proper bill. Finally, he called his supervisor.

The supervisor came and I asked him the same stuff and asked for a bill. He refused to give me a bill as well. I told him that I would not only complain to the consumer court about overcharging, but I would make further complaints to the IT department and the consumer court about not giving an itemized bill and not mentioning the exacts taxes that are being charged. This guy said that he didn't know anything, his manager set the prices, etc, but refused to give me his manager's name/number as well. Finally, I got him to write the name of the juice packet on the bill itself with ink and made him stamp it. Hopefully that will do as proof. I got his name and phone number as well.

I fully intend to take this up with the Dept of Legal Metrology, the Consumer Court and whoever else I can as soon as I am back in India in a week.

BTW, a bit of search on the net turned up this wonder article "Check before you pay" about a woman complaining about a similar incident at an airport. She had complained to the Airport duty manager. I didn't know that one could do this. So on my way back through B'lore airport I will additionally also give my written complaint to the duty manager.

Continue reading Charging over MRP at airports - 2.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Do autoricks in B'lore get your gall? - Part 3

On 28th Feb, the article "Legal metrology: only a feel good factor" came out on page 3 of The Hindu:













Right after this article came out, the DLM responded to my wife's e-mail and said the following:

"Based on your information i.e., Police Serial number & DL number the dept. has undertaken investigations but unable to find the addresses.

However the Police Complaint has been lodged at Kadagondanahalli Police Station on 05-03-2007 with a request to trace the address & produce the driver along with the autorikshaw to this office for further inspection.

Your e-mail complaint has been forwarded to the DCP, Traffic east & Transport Commissioner with a request to investigate & take suitable action.

Yours faithfully

Controller
Department of Legal Metrology"


And I'll post another part to conclude this series.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Hotels can charge extra for bottled water, says HC"

As I've said earlier, hotels are allowed to charge extra for bottled water, etc since they are charging consumers for establishment costs and the ambiance. There's a difference between service and retail sale. There is not a thing you can do about it, and it is legal.

Yesterday, the Delhi HC said the same thing in so many words. Read this article: Hotels can charge extra for bottled water, says HC.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Do autoricks in B'lore get your gall? - Part 2

In a previous post, Do autoricks in B'lore get your gall?, I'd highlighted some problems faced by auto rick users in B'lore "city". So what happens when you actually try to make a complain? My experiences from some months ago:

1. I called up the central RTO with the license plate number of the auto rick which had refused to ply. They advised me to call up the RTO that the license number was registered with and place the compliant there. The license number was a Jayanagar one. I tried calling up the Jayanagar RTO many times but nobody picked up the phone. I gave up.

2. Similar to the last incident, I called up the concerned RTO for another case of overcharging which my wife faced. The RTO people said that I should have got the Police Serial number and the DL number of the driver. The license number is not useful to track the driver. OK, we're wiser. Next time we'll get those details.

3. Once I wanted to take an auto from Madivala-silk board into BTM Layout. No auto was ready to go. Exasperated, I told one auto driver that I would complain to the police. This guy was brazen enough to say that he will take me to the police station himself, so I took him up on his offer and we drove over to the Madivala traffic police station. When I went inside, this guy disappeared; guess he realized that I was serious. Anyway I spoke to some constable there. This time I had all the details. He said that I should put in a written complain at some "main" traffic police station and that he would not be able to help. And that was the end of that.

4. Yet another time I did put in a written complain on one of these little yellow or pink cards and submitted it to one of the "main" traffic police stations at one of the BDA complexes. He dutifully put it along with a bunch of other complaints.

Things went on like this for many months... we never did follow the complaints up. Time is always a problem for working people. But a couple of weeks ago there was an article in The Hindu about this department called Department of Legal Metrology (DLM) which takes up auto-rick complains. See my previous post What do you do if you are short-changed?. This article had a couple of phone numbers that one could call to complain. We were extremely pleased that there was a department that was dedicated to take care of consumer complaints.

Right after this article came out, my wife had another problem with an auto rick. She travels by the same route many times and always uses an electronic meter. The meter was rigged and came up with an amount which was more than 10 rupees the usual. On top of that the auto driver refused to return the change.

My wife had noted the name of the driver, the Police Serial number and the DL number and she called up DLM to make a complaint. But the person who took the call expressed her inability to register the complaint since my wife didn't have the license number of the auto. (Remember, earlier the RTO had said that the license number is not useful.) She talked to a couple of people at DLM and told them that the RTO had asked us to take down the other two details, but DLM said that they would not be able to track down the driver/vehicle with the Police Serial number and the DL number! Exasperated, my wife gave up and mailed Hindu instead and CCed DLM.

In part 3, I'll post about how my wife has taken this issue further.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Traffic problems are everybody's problems - 2

Over at Bangalore and Bangaloreans Ravi has been writing about how he got a BPO driver suspended for rash driving. He has been facing a lot of flak from people over this. The usual argument is that a call center driver drives rashly because of the work pressure, or pressure from the admin people/travel agents. Like I said before in Traffic problems are everybody's problems, this is not a very concrete argument for the reasons I have summarized in that post.

If you belong to that misguided camp, here's my take on it: Offer constructive suggestions, instead of your negativism. We don't need it, we have enough of our own. Ravi is spending his personal time and doing a bit to make the city safer, and you guys are busy discouraging him and making the usual disparaging remarks. If you are so concerned about the driver losing his job, go do your bit in whatever way you can to prevent rash driving on B'lore roads, instead of whining about what someone else did. If you lead by example rather than vacuous talk, people like Ravi will surely follow.

And here's the bottomline: Its very easy for you to preach today. Heaven forbid that tomorrow one of these taxis should ram your vehicle, injure or kill your wife or children or you. Then we will see where all this generosity and misplaced magnanimity towards the driver goes. Then you will be frantically calling up the police, your "connections" and who-have-we to get the driver punished to the greatest extent possible. Lets see how generous you are then to say "poor guy, he was driven to rash driving because of the admin people or the travel agent, lets go after them instead". Ha ha ha.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Creating Passionate Users"

If you haven't already been reading Kathy Sierra blog, Creating Passionate Users, then you really really must start. In a time when most bloggers have really nothing much to say, or talk about humdrum personal stuff, or comment on bits of news from round the world (the worst), Kathy picks up thought provoking topics, cooks it up with nuggets of information, illustrations and humour, references to research stuff and dishes it out with dollops of her secret sauce. Hmmm, yummy. Do give it a dekko.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Traffic problems are everybody's problems

Is going after the driver of passenger yellow-plate vehicles incorrect? Should one go after the company admin guys or travel agents instead? Is it a case of treating the symptom rather than the cause? P-e-r-h-a-p-s. I am skeptical about this argument. Here's why:

1. If taxi car drivers are exploited, and perhaps they are, should that be used as an excuse for rash driving on the roads?

2. BPO vehicles are not the only ones who drive rashly. Thats just one class of vehicles. Every passenger vehicle with a yellow plate drives rashly, zipping along with little regard to road sense or safety. What about vehicles employed by non BPO companies, what about private taxis? Is everybody exploited? I take a taxi every time I have to catch a flight, and every time I've had to ask the driver to follow traffic rules.

3. Its easier to catch the drivers and take them to task. If enough people do that, these drivers might just start refusing to work crazy shifts. Though this might be easier said than done.

4. I've seen these drivers break every single rule in the book, from wrong U turns, to weaving in and out of traffic, honking from behind, driving with their headlights on full beam, overtaking from the left, using intimidation tactics to cut into one's lane, etc. I cannot believe all this is because of bad working conditions. I don't buy that argument. And time and time again, I've seen these guys violently arguing with traffic policemen and getting away with it.

5. Do an experiment next time. Drive normally, follow traffic rules, measure how much time it takes. After than, in the same traffic conditions, drive rashly. Do all the things that drivers do. Measure the time. You will take at most 5 mins less in the latter case. Your blood pressure will be higher, you will suffer from road rage, you will be panting and harassed and, of course, you would have caused great annoyance to others. All at the cost of reaching 5 minutes earlier. is it worth it?

6. Why do we have traffic rules? In any civilized country that follows some semblance of traffic rules, the public good is greater than individual good. So while each individual person might take 5 mins more or less, society as a whole will be more productive and efficient. This is well understood by people, or enforced by the police. When will this understanding come to Indians? By following traffic rules, you make traffic flow smoothly, without snarls and thus everybody benefits.

Blog commenting etiquette

This is probably not a new experience for many bloggers. Have you ever noticed that most snide comments are left without a name/URL (anonymous), while the comments which are have something worthwhile to say are left with a name/URL? It does not matter whether you agree or disagree, if everybody had the same opinion the world would be a lot less fun. But I'm talking about trite, silly or discouraging, disparaging comments which are always left without a name. What are such people afraid of? They want to express an opinion but are afraid that other people might recognize them and look down on them, they are afraid of being found out. These are probably the same kind of people who raise a leg every time they see a tree stump to mark their territory, who push little kids for the pleasure of it, who are rude to people just for the sake of it, who beat up wives and demand dowry, who deep in their little hearts are fixated on caste, religion, language, ethnicity and all such petty things, who would just ruin other people's lives with the bad vibes they spread around.

Reminds me of a post I'd written a long time ago about angry/negative people who can be bad for your brains. Kathy Sierra wrote her post after Robert Scoble announced that he would moderate his comments and steer clear of unhappy people and hang around happy people.

Update: I have been wasting a lot of time responding to individual comments and thinking about what each person has said. This is not an efficient usage of my time and is distracting me from getting on with my life. I don't need BS from people. Henceforth, comment moderation has been enabled. If you leave me a silly comment, be absolutely sure that I will not publish it. I quote from Robert Scobe's post:

Yes, I am now approving every comment here. And I will delete any that don't add value to either my life or the lives of my readers.

This is a huge change for me. I wanted a free speech area, but after having a week off I realize that I need to make a change. That, I'm sure, will lead to attacks of "censorship" and all that hooey. Too bad. I'm instituting a "family room" rule here. If I don't like it, it gets deleted and deleted without warning — just the same as if you said something abusive in my family room I'd kick you out of my house. If you don't like that new rule, there are plenty of other places on the Internet to write your thoughts. Start a blog and link here. Etc. Etc.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Another bothered Banglorean starts his "fights"

Looks like the stuff I've been upto has really inspired at least one other person, a close friend of mine :) He's gone on the warpath. And he attributes it to my wife and I... very flattering.

A couple of days ago, Ravi saw some Tata Elxsi buses parked on the road as usual, narrowing the road and causing traffic congestion. Instead of doing what he usually does, grumble and pass them, he decided to do something about it. Read his post: The Responsible Corporates.

This gets even better. Today morning he took a call center driver to task for rash driving. This is what he says on his post The usual rash driving cab:

...The security did not allow me in. I talked to the head of admin department, he invited me in. He requested me to give a written complaint, i did. Within 10 mins he showed me a letter, which was suspension order for cab driver.

Will the driver really be suspended? We don't know. Ravi will follow up tomorrow.

Fight for your rights! - Update 16

Last Thursday, 22nd, the milkman came again to our house late evening. This time he caught us both together and again he apologized profusely to both of us. He said the usual stuff I've posted earlier in Fight for your rights! - Update 13. It was because of the "Cauvery verdict", because of "family problems" that he behaved this way with my wife, etc etc. Its a wonder he didn't blame the phase of the moon for his behavior.

Anyway, at it stands, we are almost certainly not going to pursue the police case against him. I've been getting comments that we "should not discontinue", or "give up", that we "need to teach the milkman a lesson", that we "shouldn't chicken out". But there are valid reasons why we think that we should not take the matter to court. We've given this a lot of thought.

First the lawyer said that our chances of conviction are slim, we don't have direct proof or witnesses.

Second, this guy, for whatever reasons, has come and apologized three times already. He has completely changed his tune from bluster to abject apology. For sure, it was not a change of heart that made him tender an apology... still, how many times does something like this happen? Unheard of. You know the adage, to err is human...

Third, my wife feels that his punishment has already been commiserate with the "crime".

Fourth, we feel that if we refuse to accept the apology and reach a "compromise", he might feel spurned and there's no telling what he might do then. He's humbled himself and if we don't accept the apology, I might risk some harm to my wife. That I'm not willing to do.

Of course this is a good chance that all this is a good bluff, he knows that he will be arrested, he has to spend money on a lawyer, post bail, run to the court, etc. He might even be convicted. So the easiest way out is to apologize. For that we will take our lawyer's help to draft some kind of undertaking, or confession or admission of guilt and get this guy to sign it at the police station with our witnesses. We will have the same filed with the FIR at the police station and another with the complaint we submitted at KMF. This will help the next time anybody makes a complaint about him to the police/KMF/court.

We are still following up on the Consumer Court case, lets see how that goes.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 15.

Do autoricks in B'lore get your gall?

Do I really need an answer to that question? Not really. My wife uses ricks all the time, and she travel around B'lore a lot. She's faced a great many problems with errand auto drivers; nothing uncommon:

1. Doctored meters, even the new electronic meters are doctored.
2. Refusal to ply.
3. Overcharging/not returning change.

Time and again, I've heard people complaining about the bad attitude of auto drivers. Comes out time and again in the newspapers. The authorities claim to be doing something, they publish statistics time and again: so many auto drivers booked, so many tampered meters corrected, etc. But the problems simply do not go away. What can YOU do about it? A lot, to start with you can be more proactive in complaining to the correct authorities.

1. Note down what the facts of the complaint are: date, time, distance, pickup place, drop place.
2. Note down the License number AND if you sitting inside, the DL number and Police Serial number.
3. Call up the Assistant Controller of Legal Metrology @ 22207750 or 22284917 or email: [email protected] or [email protected]
4. Call up the RTO based on the license plate number, for instance KA 01 belongs to a certain RTO, KA 05 belongs to another and so on. There are five RTOs, you can get the phone number of Bangalore RTOs here. You can also mail the Transport Commissioner @ . If you are really irritated (in fact this holds good with other traffic problems), call up the various numbers of RTO Officers given here.
5. Go personally to an RTO and make a written complaint against the auto driver giving all details as I mentioned in #1 and #2.
6. Follow up, follow up, follow up.

I'll post an update on what happens when you actually try to use the options I've listed above to make a complaint.

Update 11/06/07:

Bangalore Centre - Koramangala BDA complex - 25533525
Bangalore West - Rajajinagar Corporation Complex - 23324388
Bangalore East - Indiranagar BDA complex - 25253726
Bangalore North - Yeshwanthpur corporation Complex - 23376039
Bangalore South - Jayanagar Corporation Complex - 26630989

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Update 15

We went to the Consumer Court today morning. Its 2 floors in the KMF building, which is at the end of Cunningham Road. The irony of the bringing a consumer complaint against KMF in the KMF building ticked us.

The courtroom is a hall with chairs along the wall for people to sit, chairs in the middle for lawyers to sit and a raised dais for the panel of judges to sit. We awaited our turn. When our number was announced, my wife went up to the judges and explained the case to them. To their credit, they listened patiently, then they said that they really appreciate her boldness as a consumer in bringing this matter forward. They asked her if she had proof, she said no direct proof, but we knew some people who had been overcharged before but did not want to come to court. The judges asked if we could at least produce the affidavits of such people, else it would be our word against the milkmans. So we said we would try. Seeing the gravity of the case, the judges didn't dismiss the case outright. they said they would admit the case, they'd send the summons to the milkman to appear in court. The next date for hearing is 26th March.

Read Fight for your right! - Update 14.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Update 14

We spoke to our lawyer and he said it was completely our decision, whether to pursue the FIR/IPC 509 case further or to compromise with him. He said that since the evidences and witnesses prospects are weak, a compromise is a good idea. So, we need to make the guy take an undertaking at the police station. (We're very tempted by this... its the easy way out. The milkshop guy had come to our house again, a little while ago. My wife is alone in the house. She didn't open the door, and it seems he was shouting his apologies from the street.)

The lawyer also said that the Consumer Court case is interrelated to our decision on this. If we are reaching a compromise with this guy, he doesn't see much point in pursuing it further. But, I disagree here. Anyway, he said that we should go to the court tomorrow and hear it out. The Consumer Case was starting to look strong since we found 3 "witnesses"! We are in touch with 3 girls who were overcharged by this guy before, a few months ago. They had fought with the guy and taken back the money. Good for them. Unfortunately, they are not interested in getting involved with this guy again. Bad for us. We are trying to find out if any other people have had similar problems with this guy, but nobody wants to be a witness in court.

The last option is to make a document, get it signed by these girls and give that to the judge. But the lawyer does not think much of this. He said anybody can make and sign the document. Its not really valid, but still, we can take it and see how the judge responds.

Update: Seems these girls have left for their home town to attend a marriage, so no document from them. Lets see what the judge says.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 13.

Fight for your rights! - Sidenote 4

Catch me on Radiocity 91.1, a local FM radio station between 8am and 9am today morning, on a show called "By Two Coffee with RJ Vasanthi". I've been invited to shoot off at the mouth and provide some "inspiration" on a segment in this show called "Bangalore Inspires". Live. May I have the wisdom not to put my foot in my mouth.

Update: Turned out to be two hours in the end, 8 to 10, and still the calls/mails poured in. Hopefully I managed to get people to think, and perhaps in the future act. I was overwhelmed by the response from people. Its amazing... there are so many grievances that people have, so many injustices faced everyday. People asked about me about overcharging, about illegal parking, land encroachment, pay not received from company, broadband problems, noise pollution, traffic problems, auto-ricks overcharging/not plying, even one about dust in Marthahalli! Wow!

Some brief (?) gyan that I perhaps didn't manage to share on the show:

1. Ordinary people can make a difference. Knowledge is power, as hackneyed as it may sound. The only way you can protect your rights is by being knowledgeable. There is no excuse. We live in the Information Age. There is such an immense amount of information available on the Internet in India. Just search and you will find government sites (yes government sites), private sites/blogs, NGO sites, et al.
2. The government/civic authorities are not as "bad/horrible/uncaring/corrupt/slow" as they are perceived to be. I have talked to people from the police, traffic police, BMP, BESCOM, BWSSB, you name it. Every single time I have had courteous conversations, people from these departments have called me back, apologized for whatever trouble I've faced, done whatever they could to put right the problem. And I don't speak Kannada. I am absolutely amazed at the response from all the civic authorities. Not many states/cities in India can boast of this.
3. There are a great many number of laws, rules enacted by the government. Please look these up. Read about previous court rulings, find out about experiences of other people, see how you can escalate matters. The most powerful law is the RTI Act, 2006. If you find that *any* government agency is not responding, or asking for a bribe, or delaying, anything at all, please please use the RTI. Its a weapon in the hands of ordinary citizens. EVERY government agency, the smallest to the largest can be taken to task using the RTI. Many times, the threat of using the RTI is an even bigger deterrent to malpractices.
4. Network, network, network. There is a vast network of bloggers/agencies/NGOs/sites/SHGs/lawyers/journos in India who can be contacted for any help. These people ask for no money, they will extend any possible help for making a small difference to the society we live in. Use these networks to the full extent possible.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Update 13

On this 13th update, I have some strange news. Today morning we went to the police station to get an update on the case. The Head Constable said that the Sub-Inspector would meet the milkman today, and we should meet the Sub-Inspector in the evening.

Today evening, I dropped into our house on the way to the police station. While I was there, the milkshop man came to the house along with two other guys. No no, not to fight, but to reach a, ugh, compromise. Maybe the Sub-Inspector met him and he finally realized that he might be in a lot of trouble and that we would not give up the case. One of the guys with him said he was the brother; the other a friend. They said they had brought him along to apologize to us! Unfortunately, my wife was not there. So she missed the show. She might have figured out whether it was an act. I'm a sucker for sob stories.

In great filmy style, these two other guys asked me to forgive him, said he had some "family problems" that day, as soon as they heard that he had done such a thing they berated him and dragged him to us to apologize, he was an uneducated fellow, he didn't know what he was saying, they tut-tutted him in front of me, scolded him, told him he should respect customers and women, that behavior like this is unforgivable and he looked suitably ashamed. This guy in turn apologized profusely for having said such things. He said they he would apologize to "bhabhi" (!) in front of everybody, he was sorry, yada yada yada. Then the other two guys pitched in again: he has been a milkman for 15 years, nothing like this has happened before. He is the only earning member of his family. He will never do anything like this again. The "brother", Venkatesh gave me his phone number and requested me to call him night or day if this guy ever did anything like this again and he would personally beat him up. Ok, take it easy guys. Don't pour it too strong else I might catch on.

The guy said that we should drop the police case against him, he would never behave like this again. He said that "he didn't think that we would turn this into such a big matter". (Oh, and would he have come apologizing if we haven't done all this?) He said that we should start buying milk from his shop again. They were humbly requesting us to compromise and drop the case and would leave it to us to decide what to do. I told them that I could not say anything at the moment... we have filed a Consumer Court case and an FIR. These are not playthings that we might just retract them at will. I would talk to my wife, we would consult our lawyers and then we would decide.

Whew!

Well, I didn't go to the police station after that. My wife returned later and we discussed this. We think that it might be an act. Obviously he was not apologizing out of his own accord. So what was the need to eat humble cake? Perhaps the police have told him that he can go to jail and be fined heavily, perhaps the KMF have threatened to take away his license. He said he has been under a lot of tension since the event occurred. Yeah, like we don't know. That was the intention.

Now the most important question is whether we should take the offered olive branch, or should we continue with the IPC 509 case? We'll discuss with the lawyers and lets see what they advise. One thing we want to continue on with is the Consumer Court case which is on 23rd morning. We think that the overcharging is a separate issue and must be dealt with.

Update Fight for your rights! - Update 12.

What do you do if you are short-changed?

An excellent article came out in Hindu (Bangalore edition) today: What do you do if you are short-changed?

It has been a nice evening. You and your family have just had great fun watching that mindless fare from Bollywood. You have paid through your nose for the tickets, but who cares? It has been a nice occasion after a long while. But something is niggling you. You know you have coughed up more than the marked price for all what you ate and drank at the mall. But you do not want it to curdle your mood and prefer to keep quiet.

But wait. There is a platform for redressal. There is something called the Department of Legal Metrology, formerly the Department of Weights and Measures, that is supposed to hear you and act as well. The public is largely unaware of this department which raises questions about its effectiveness.


It is a must read for all consumers. And this is a wonderful coincidence, right when we are having all this hassle, out comes this article exhorting people to watch out for their rights and complain to the authorities.

Fight for your rights! - Update 12

Yesterday morning the Assistant Marketing Manager of KMF came to meet us again at our house. He had said that his boss wanted to meet us, but he turned up alone. It was a strange visit. He wanted to know whether we have given up the Consumer Court case. Huh? He said it was bad for the company, etc etc. Could we "compromise" by not following up the Consumer Court case? Compromise for what? Why? Was he solving our problem, was he offering anything in return? No. All he said was that the image of KMF would be tarnished. Now what kind of stupid justification is that? "Sorry your honour, please don't prosecute me, my image will take a beating." And how do I care? Am I a KMF employee? He said that we don't have proof, so what would we achieve in court? We told him that he doesn't know whether we have proof or not. If we don't have proof, the court will dismiss the case. Its for the court to decide.

Anyway, I hate the "compromise" word, half the bloody problems in India are because people are so ready to bend over backwards into compromising positions. So we politely told him to bugger off and that we wouldn't, um, "compromise".

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 11.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Update 11

My wife met a criminal lawyer and a consumer court lawyer yesterday. They cautioned us from talking about the case in public anymore, and gave us a bunch of instructions on what to do next. The police have to take a "Voluntary Statement" from my wife before filing the charge sheet against the guy. We didn't mention in the FIR that we know this guy for more than a year, so we have to do that. Else, we have to identify this guy from a line up, which is a needless procedure in this case.

Anyway the consumer court hearing is on 23rd, this Friday. Lets see what happens. I'll update after that.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 10.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Do you want Abu Salem in Parliament? - 2

Here is what I've mailed across to the two people mentioned towards the end of the previous post. Please write something similar and mail the Committee members. It is no use talking about corruption if you are not willing to do something about it yourself.

"There are 11 Ministers and 98 Members of Parliament in the current Lok Sabha that are formally charged with some crime. I think this is horrendous and does not bode well for the future of this nation. I believe it is high time that we as Indians stamp out corrupted, tainted ministers, criminals, and various anti-social elements from the Parliament and State Assemblies. It is wonderful that The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, presently considering the subject “Electoral Reforms” is asking the general public for their opinion.

In my opinion, it is extremely necessary for any person formally charged with a crime carrying a sentence of TWO years or more by a competent Court to be barred from contesting elections. A person who has been charged by a competent Court should be barred from contesting election even if he has not been convicted. We all know that the due process of law in India can easily be subverted and cases drag on for decades without conviction. Hence the Committee’s recommendation of disqualifying a person only after being convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of 5 years is very wrong, and goes against greater public interest.

I also suggest that legislators who are so CHARGED after being elected should mandatorily seek fast track disposal of their cases within six months of charges being framed. Legislators who are CONVICTED after being elected should automatically be disqualified even if they go on appeal in a higher court. In case a candidate is charged six months prior to the date of elections, he or she can approach a competent Court asking for swift disposal of the case."

Do you want Abu Salem in Parliament?

If you don't, act today (and at most, by tomorrow).

This is a copy of a mail from Prof Trilochan Sastry to IIMB:

Dear Friends,

The Prime Minister and the Election Commission have expressed concern that persons with grave criminal charges may become Members of Parliament (letters dated October 27, 2006, and November 21, 2006). They have asked The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, presently considering the subject “Electoral Reforms”, to examine the matter. This Committee in turn has asked the public to send in their views on this matter before
February 16, 2007. The correspondence goes to the extent of naming two persons - Abu Salem and Dawood Ibrahim - as examples of persons who might wind up in Parliament or some State Assembly.

If anyone wants a copy of the communications, please let me know. I am putting below a short paragraph of a draft that you might like to send today itself if possible over email. The matter has come to a head because of the large number of disclosures of criminal records in recent times as a result of the mandatory disclosure required by the Supreme Court. The suggestions below are in line with what the Election Commission, the Prime Minister, the Law Commission, and the National Committee to Review the Working of the Constitution have said on this issue. For the record, their recommendations say crimes carrying sentences of five years or more alone should attract disqualification. We are suggesting two years or more. The reason is that the Representation of People Act disqualifies those convicted of crime carrying a sentence of two years or more. We (and the various committees mentioned earlier) are asking for disqualification even before conviction, where after due process, a competent court has framed charges and trial is in progress. The peculiar situation in India is that such cases drag on for decades and the person is never convicted.

Draft:
"We recommend that persons formally charged with crime carrying a sentence of two years or more by a competent Court be barred from contesting elections. The recent disclosures of the criminal charges faced by several candidates reveals that this is a reasonable restriction in the greater public interest. There are 11 Ministers and 98 Members of Parliament in the current Lok Sabha that are formally charged with some crime. At the same time, legislators who are so charged after being elected should mandatorily seek fast track disposal of their cases within six months of charges being framed. Legislators who are convicted after being elected should automatically be disqualified even if they go on appeal in a higher court. In case a person so charged six months prior to the date of elections wishes to contest, he or she can approach a competent Court asking for swift disposal of the case."You may like to send your suggestions to :

Smt. Sasilekha Nair,
Under Secretary,
Rajya Sabha Secretariat,
528-A, Fifth Floor,
Parliament House Annexe,
New Delhi- 110001 (Tel: 23035308, Fax: 23016784),
[email protected]

Also, the Chairman is:

Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan,
M.P. Rajya Sabha
[email protected] ,
011-23794015, 23793907, 23766540, 9868181909(M)

The next fight

I want to take a bank locker on rent. So you think that its an easy task? Ha ha. Wait till you try to get a locker. Just try renting a locker from any bank and they will tell you that there is a great scarcity of lockers and hence banks are "prioritizing" the locker service for customers who might be willing to keep a certain sum of money in their account. My wife walked into a number of banks in the neighborhood and all said the same. The certain sum of money varies between Rs. 1 lakh to a nonsensical Rs 5 lakh (this is what a local Vijaya Bank manager told her). I then called up at least 10 other banks and all said exactly the same thing.

Think about it. You have an account with a particular bank, but they don't have lockers free. So now, just because you need a locker, you have to open an account with another bank which has lockers, and should give it on first-come-first-serve basis, but are exploiting the need for lockers by forcing people to keep Rs 1 lakh with them. So you'd have to leave at least Rs. 1 lakh lying in the account, underutilized, earning a measly interest of some 5% when you could invest the money and easily get 20% or more.

Now this clearly smacks of malpractice, so I started searching (again on the Internet) on any RBI rules/regulations/guidelines about this matter. I found a draft circular, Draft Circular on Safe Deposit Lockers issued by the RBI on Dec 4th, 2006 (RBI/2006-07/198, DBOD.No.Leg 5049 /09.07.005/2006-07). It says:

In this connection, the Committee on Procedures and Performance Audit of Public Services observed that linking the lockers facility with placement of fixed or any other deposit beyond what is prescribed is a restrictive practice and should be prohibited forthwith. We concur with the Committee's observations and advise banks to refrain from such restrictive practices.

It can't be told in any clearer language than this. But this was a draft circular, and comments from all banks were invited by 23rd Dec. So I've to find out what the validity of this "draft" is. In any case, the RBI is aware of the problem, so I can complain to the Banking Ombudsman. A prerequisite to doing this is to complain to the bank first and either not get a reply within 30 days or get an unsatisfactory reply. So this is what I'm going to do after I'm done with the current case: start writing to the bank managers of the banks we talked to and ask them why I should not complain to the Ombudsman about this non-adherence to the fair practices code.

Let me preempt the usual comments about price rise because of supply-demand economics. I know all that. I'm sure the RBI does too. If it is still calling this a case of restrictive practice, then it jolly well knows what it is talking about.

Fight for your rights! - Update 10

My wife talked to a lady who is very familiar with consumer court proceedings for advice. Here's what she said:

1. We need physical evidence that we have been overcharged - a receipt. (But we didn't buy anything, and even if we did, he doesn't give receipts.) What about witnesses? She said it completely depends on the panel of the day. We can take a few people who can stand up and say they have been overcharged by this guy before and doesn't give receipts. But its not guaranteed that the panel might give us the chance - so we have to ask them to do it. Tell them that we can't wait for another date as we can't keep on coming for the case, that we have got witnesses and we need to be heard. They will give adjournment and only one adjournment is given per law. She advised that we should go and watch some proceedings first. Some judges can be pretty bad and throw the file away saying that there is no case at all etc. But if we are lucky, we can get a pro-consumer judge who will listen to us and work favorably. She said the opposite party hardly turns up.

2. She was surprised that we were given such an early date and that we were given a hearing even without evidence. She said that must be a sign that there is some validity in our complaint for them to give a date easily. Usually it takes around two months. and she said we should just go to the hearing and take it from there. There isn't much for us to do.

3. She said that she has tried following up with KMF on the rampant overcharging (50p more on account of "cooling charges"). Seems there was no response from their side and they washed their hands off saying that its a problem of the retailers. She was surprised that my wife managed to meet the various officials of KMF.

Read Fight for your rights! - Update 9.

Fight for your rights! - Sidenote 3

I've been thinking about a comment from Ashish on a previous post of mine: Fight for your rights! - Sidenote 2.

Yes, there are cases where the complaint didn't get resolved. For instance, some years ago I was given a gift voucher from HSBC to use on a new e-commerce website that was being launched. I used this voucher to buy a book on the website, but the book wasn't delivered. I waited for nearly 2 months (There was a 4-week delivery period) and then wrote to them. They said that the book was out of stock, and they put the money back into the voucher. I selected another book and amazingly the same thing happened again. The book wasn't delivered for a couple of months. This time it took quite a few emails (and months) to get the money back into the voucher. The voucher had a validity of a year, and while this was going on, it expired! So again I fired off email after email to them referring to the previous problems. It was quite clear that the voucher had expired through no fault of mine. But try as I might, I never heard from those buggers again.

The same is true of the traffic complaints that I make. I suppose the only thing that comes out of it is my personal satisfaction. Does the police really do something about it? Your guess is as good as mine. I would have to follow up each of the complaints that I've made. I definitely don't have that kind of time.