November 25, 2007

life in financial markets: the myth of rehabilitation

In India, to placate any and all opposition to large projects like dams, seaports, mining, SEZs (special economic zones), airports, industrial zones etc., that will not only destroy the ecological harmony but also displace large numbers of villagers or tribals, the government of the state or the central government will use the 'rehabilitation' word. 

This is nothing but a bogey. In over 90% of all cases, where government has forcibly acquired the lands of villagers and tribals of India to use it itself or give it at heavily-subsidised rates to private companies, the rehabilitation, if taken place at all, has been on extremely poor substitutes. The promise is made of habitable or fertile rehab lands but it is never kept by our bureaucrats and politicians.

In my view, in a situation where political/bureaucratic will is missing, its naive of urban and educated affluent sections of India to lull themselves into believing that rehabilitation of displaced villagers andtribals justifies all the massive projects in the country. Isn't it easy for us to be casual and believe any falsehoods told to us because after all those large projects cater to our and export markets' consumers' demands?

November 19, 2007

life in general: (part 2) left's modi on rampage again, centrist congress leeches off the situation

West Bengal state's Communist Party (Marxist)-ruled government's involvement in--and defence of--this month's massacre of villagers in Nandigram district, is unfortunate though not unexpected. There is no political party of India who is clean or even least manipulative -- none whatsoever, not Congress, none else.

Newreports last week continued to highight the horrors perpetrated by CPM goons in Nandigram:

Smash and grab

Photo: ABP

Hundreds killed, raped and driven out, and the remaining made to join victory marches. The CPM was unwaveringly brutal in Nandigram

Night without end
'I was raped by CPM men, my two girls raped and abducted’ Gangrape victim’s house vandalised, police say can’t go there, ‘too tense’
‘CPM imposing fines on those willing to return’
Editorial: Nandigram’s spectre
Helped by officials, CPM cadres strike fear to control Nandigram

There are newsreports on the prior involvement of Maoists in Nandigram. See Maoists admit presence in Nandigram and In Nandigram, Maoist newcomers take over ‘resistance movement’ . But I think Maoists involvement is not predominant, otherwise CPM would have provided hard evidence to back up their allegations. They have provided only conjectures uptil now.

Even assuming that Maoists were involved in some aspects then the question still stands as to why weren't state police authorities arresting them after having got the necessary evidence that Maoists were breaking the law of the land in Nandigram. What business had CPM's party goons in Nandigram to indulge in large-scale violence and atrocities against all villagers that opposed them? All villagers opposed to CPM were--and are--not Maoists.

The actual opposition group in Nandigram, Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), is not comprised of Maoists. One can read an insightful write up by one of their members in Tehelka's latest issue -- "They kill people like birds".

November 10, 2007

life in general: left's modi on rampage again, centrist congress leeches off the situation

This is the dark reality of the largest democracy on planet Earth. The right-wing and left-wing parties are prone to commiting ugly violence on the people -- the right-wing targets Muslims frequently and the left-wing targets the rural population.

Few months back two posts of mine, here and here, had covered the issue of the communist government of West Bengal state of India behaving in a manner that will make the most false capitalists in the world proud. The state's chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, is indulging in violence against villagers because villagers are standing up against forced displacement from their homes and fields at the whims and fancies of Bhattacharya's extreme industralisation drive in the state. He is the Indian-Left's version of Indian-Right's Narendra Modi, both of them representing the darkest side of human nature. Dick Cheney would be pleased to know that the Indian sub-continent has people like himself.

The central government of India, a Congress-allies government, headed by a Prime Minister who has not even been elected to India's Parliament by the people, meanwhile, continues to leech off every situation created by India's Right and Left. It would be happy that the Left government is doing its job of extreme human-rights violating industralisation

Rule of law has evaporated once again in the villages of Nandigram district in West Bengal. For a country that claims to be a democracy, the media is being prevented by the state authorities to even visit the district.

Here is an update on the development in Nandigram:

9th November 2007
Press Release
Nandigram Under Fire
Thousands Forced to Flee from Nandigram, Activists Under Arrest
Memorandum Submitted to Governor of West Bengal
Dharna begins in Kolkata, Two Day Protest Fast to Commence Tomorrow

Nandigram is under fire and scare. On the festive days of Kalipuja, the light emerging from the land of Martyrdom is not of the lamps women would light in their 'badis' (houses) but from the burning houses, put on fire by cadres entering village after village and occupying land forcibly.

The reports coming from the land and the citizens as members of the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee indicate that AT LEAST 20,000 FAMILIES ARE MADE TO FLEE FROM THEIR HOUSES IN SATANGABARI, SAMSABAD AND OTHER VILLAGES which are either demolished or looted. We met Taslimadi in Kapasberia with Minudi, who have taken shelter in their relatives' houses. But the tears in their eyes and choked voices brought to us the pain and anguish for being made destitute and homeless which could not be hidden. While thousands of families and more than a lakh people have shifted either to the schools and other public buildings, or to the open grounds where huge camps are set up by the committee where most of the people are being fed, if not left hungry.

Tens of people, from the villages that laid their lives for land in 2007, the very year of remembering of Gandhiji's Satyagraha, the Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and 150 years of the Sepoy Mutiny, saw their victory in the cancellation of the Chemical hub to be brought on the lush green land in Nandigram, East Midnapore. But that was not all. They are facing worse of the battles, a war. Beyond throwing small bombs, firing across the Khaals (naalas) and rivulets, demolishing 60 houses in Satangabari (May 2007) and such other attacks threatening and targeting villagers; boycott of labourers and hawkers going to work and customers going to nearby market is also a serious concern. Resistance to this also became violent, as people and some of the supporting social and political activists claimed that they could not survive without it.

A new phase began, with steady increase in the large number of persons, known to be Harmad Vahini, CPI (M) cadres, and an open attack on the houses and villages and also persons, started in October. Persons of both sides seem to have been killed but no one is sure of the final tally. The information from the area was in parts and parcels and delayed but now it's clear that CPI(M) cadres from outside the area, as they are identified with goons, have been marching, beating, hitting ……. forcibly occupying territory. News conveyed and flashed clearly indicate that Satangabari, Samsabad, Sonachura and few other villages are partially or fully vacated, occupied and houses looted and damaged, even burnt. Beyond this, the total picture of the fight going on among the unequal forces is not coming out but it's certain that unlike what is presented from the ruling quarters in West Bengal, there is no infiltration of Maoists that has caused all this. There may be a handful of activists belonging to various ideologies – Gandhian to Maoism – reaching Nandigram, but we have not doubt that the battle was started, led and is carried forward by the local residents, women, men youth and children included.

We know that hundreds and hundreds of families have been left without livelihoods who are only crying halt to snatch away their land, asserting their rights but also appealing for peace. They, in thousands, are innocent, they are challenged but they are committed even to lay their lives but not bent or submit. They are beyond party lines, accepting the leadership of Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee with representatives of villages' communities, peoples' organisations such as Gana-unnayan and Jana-adhikar Raksha Samiti and also local residents representing SUCI, TMC, PDCI and Congress as parties and Jamait-e-Ulema-i-Hind. This must be understood by all.

What is going on in Nandigram is undemocratic, criminal and also inhuman. People on both sides are losing lives while property and livelihood in the area is irreversibly damaged. This is unacceptable.

The West Bengal Government has been repeatedly appealed by various organisations, to control the situation by compelling the CPI (M) cadres to withdraw the siege and stop forcible entry and occupation, but to no avail. THE POLICE, INCLUDING SENIOR OFFICIALS, SEEM TO BE INACTIVE AND APATHETIC AS PER ORDERS AND UNDER THE POLITICAL CONTROL OF LAKSHMAN SETH, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND CHAIRMAN OF HALDIA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY.

It is all these which necessitates an urgent intervention by not only the Central Government, the Home Ministry but also the Constitutional authorities and the National Human Rights Commission, to say the least.


We, representatives of Peoples' Movements, Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti and New Trade Union initiatives, NAPM, APDR, Forum of Artistes and Intellectuals, Teachers and Scientists' forums, representatives from SUCI including Tarun Sanyal, Sunondo Sanyal, Tarun Naskar, Sujata Bhadra, Meher Engineer, Amit Bhattacharya, Debaprosad Sarkar(MLA), Anuradha Talwar ,Swapan Ganguly and Medha Patkar, decided to visit Nandigram on being invited through repeated calls and messages from the people facing the onslaught.

Yesterday, November 8th 2007, we proceeded towards Nandigram accompanied by tens of policemen and officials, who warned us of security problems but also assured us of being there to protect. On their conveying to us a possibility of having a dialogue with the Chief Minister or Chief Secretary in the Government, we agreed to hold the dialogue after visiting the area and assessing the situation there. We took the Haldia route instead of the route we took earlier, where CPI (M) cadres had stopped us.

We reached Kapasberia More at about 12:30 p.m. A gathering of 30-40 CPI (M) cadres with Red flags stopped our convoy and started shouting abusive slogans against us. Interestingly the police pilot car leading the convoy stepped aside and made way for the goons so that they can have a free hand on us. A few cadres specifically targeted Medha Patkar, Tarun Sanyal, Debjit, Deboprosad Sarkar and Meher Engineer as well as a few media persons in other vehicles. They started attacking Medha Patkar with fists, violently pulling her out of the car by holding her hair and Sari. They broke the specks of Debjit and partly tore the clothes of Sunondo Sanyal. They also broke the camera of a media person.

All the while, the cadres were encircling all the cars (except the police ones) and breaking the glass panes, shouted abusive and filthy languages to all of us. Even at this point, police chose to be silent spectators who are watching some fun for free. Five vehicles were able to turn back and move a few yards. One sumo car (WB 02H – 4402), carrying Meher Engineer, Amit Bhattacharya and Hindustan Times reporter Alok Banerjee, was severely damaged and the passengers including Alok Banerjee were badly beaten in this unprecedented act of violence by CPI(M) terrorists. The driver somehow managed to move forward towards Kapasberia School where the local residents gave the passengers first aid. Medha Patkar and others began to stage Dharna on the Kapasberia bridge and had a protest sit-in for 3 hours and more. We handed over a letter addressed to the Superintendent of Police and asked to make way for our visit to Nandigram and to book the attackers under law.

Local residents came out in large numbers and showed their support and solidarity towards us and to the struggle of common people of Nandigram and condemned the CPI (M) attack on us. They also condemned the deliberate and directed police inaction. Subsequently we lodged two complaints with the local Mahishadal Police Station, one relating to breaking down of the above mentioned Sumo car, and the other regarding the physical attack on Medha Patkar, Deboprosad Sarkar (MLA) and others by CPI (M) cadres. We returned to Mecheda for further action where Medha Patkar and Tarun Sanyal addressed the local residents.

- We condemn such undemocratic and criminal tendencies by the ruling party and demand as free and concerned citizens of India as well as representatives of peoples' movements that we should be allowed to visit Nandigram where more than a lakh people have become homeless and need our immediate support and relief.
- We are shocked by the apathy, inaction and both direct and indirect support of the police to the CPI (M) hooligans, indicating a break-down of State Machinery resulting in non-availability of any channel for security and redressal of grievances of common people.
- We urge an urgent intervention by the Governor of West Bengal as well as the Union Government of India to open up Nandigram by ensuring withdrawal of siege and stopping outsider-attackers from entering Nandigram.
- We demand that peaceful defenders of Human Rights' belonging to known Peoples' organisations should be allowed and protected and their entry to Nandigram area should be facilitated.
- We hope that all concerned and progressive citizens, civil organisations as well as political parties will protest against the onslaught on Nandigram, forcible occupation of their territory and violation of basic human rights and civil liberties, compelling the Constitutional authorities and government to intervene in this battle between the State and people for freedom, democracy, right to life and livelihood.

Latest News:
1. Three People including Sadikulla from Jamat-e-Ulema-Hind, Schoota Das and Samar Das, have been arrested while going towards Nandigram today.
2. Activists and intellectuals including Medha Patkar met the governor today and submitted the memorandum to ensure the freedom of the people of Nandigram and also the protection of their Constitutional rights.
3. People across India have written to the WB government condemning the attack and the situation in Nandigram.

Press Conference

Sukhendu Bhattachrya - Sanhati Udyog/NAPM
Anuradha Talwar - Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti/NTUI
Sujata Bhadra- APDR
Tarun Naskar/ Dilip Chakraborty- Forum of Artists and intellectuals
Meher Engineer- Teachers' and Scientists' Forum
Shyam Bihari Singh- Janata Dal (Secular)
Kartik Pal- CPI (ML) Liberation
Shaktiman Ghosh- National Hawkers' Federation
Amit BhattaCharya- Prof. Jadhavpur University
Gautam Sen- Intellectual
Medha Patkar- National Alliance of People's Movements

life in financial markets: icici prudential mutual fund's opaqueness in disclosures

There are some players in the financial world have a negative record when it comes to transparency in disclosures mandated by regulators. I came across one such instance recently.

Mutual Funds (MFs) in India have to be registered with the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Sebi regulates the MFs through specific regulations for MFs. In these regulations, Sebi requires all MFs, among other things, to disclose once every six months their unaudited half-yearly financial results.

Now, these half-yearly results include giving of notes to accounts of which one relates to disclosing investments made by any scheme of the MF in debt/equity of a company where the company is holding more than 5% of the corpus of any of the MF's scheme. For instance, if company 'A' has invested Rs 5 crore in Scheme 'X' (say, a liquid fund) that has a corpus of Rs 100 crore and if any of the MF's scheme has invested in a debt or equity instrument of company 'A' then the MF has to make two disclosures:
– name of the scheme in which company 'A' has invested (and where it holds more than 5% of the corpus), and
– names of schemes that have invested in company A's debt/equity and exact scheme-wise details like cost of investment during the six month period and the outstanding market value of the investment at the end of the period.

For the six-month period ended September 30, 2007, the MFs made their unaudited financial
statements disclosures towards the end of last month (October). I went through most of them and discovered that ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund was perhaps the only MF that was acting smart with the disclosure I described in the previous paragraph. It was not giving the name of its schemes in which the companies (like 'A' referred to in previous para) were holding more than 5% of corpus. Also, while it gave gave scheme-wise detail of the outstanding market value of the investment as on September 30 it did not give details of the cost of investments made from April 1 to September 30.

ICICI Prudential clearly is trying to hide something by not disclosing the details in their entirety. And, I think, it is the second or third largest mutual fund in India currently. Sebi, as usual, is sleeping, not interested in enforcing their own regulations on the big players in the stock market except against those where its chairman or member would have a vested agenda to do so.

November 08, 2007

life in journalism: wily PR machine

First of all the official full form of PR should not be Public Relations. They should change it to Press Relations because interaction with the press (media) is the only thing I encounter them doing. They might argue that they are reaching out to the Public through the Press but that's ingenious because they can reach out to the Pubic in a guaranteed manner through advertisements. The only relation the PR industry tries to cunningly build is with the Press and not with the Public.

Anyways, thats not the thrust of this post. What I am sharing now is the sheer frustration a journalist is faced with to handle when dealing with PR people. They bombard you emails with photo/lword file attachments with embedded logos (these emails are generally more than 500kb-1mb in size) without first checking with us whether we want to receive them all or some only. In addition to email, some send faxes to us, again without checking with us whether we are ok or not with this environmentally-unfriendly use of paper. Just today, I received an email as well a fax on half-yearly result of 3i Infotech by Phiroza Choksi of its PR agency, R&PM Edelman. When I called her up to tell her not to send a fax as the email was enough she started making stale excuses of other journalists wanting it. I had to tell her that some journalists wanting to receive an email+fax DOES NOT mean that ALL journalists want it that way and that she should have done her job of calling each one of us to find out our individual preferences. Thats their job. The sooner so-called professionals working for the large PR firms realise the better it will be for their clients. Their clients do not know the cost of irritation and harassment caused by their PR firms to journalists.

Then there were recent examples of PR companies sending me large-sized email attachments that were not sought for by me nor was I asked before-hand. I have a problem with any attachment that is an image file of more than 100 kb in size. Or it could be a word file but with embedded logo images of the companies that jack up the file size by 10-20 times. So if a word file with just text would be just 30 kb in size by adding the tiniest of logo image file inside it would jack up the file size to 300-600 kb in size. Irritating to say the least because why should we journalists (and in particular magazine journalists like me) care what the logo of the companies look if if we are not particularly seeking it for publishing purpose. Also photo files attached will have some official of the client company cutting a ribbon here or lighting a lamp there over an inauguration ceremony, or just the photo of the official. Tell me, what am I to do with these photos?

The most notorious PR company that does this to me again and again is Perfect Relations whose senior image executive, Heena Uttamchandani, keeps sending me large-sizes attachments of their client, Multi-Commodity Exchange of India. Recently, when it happened it was the third time and I had already called her on the earlier two occasions to tell her to stop this practice. Another PR company with whom I had this problem recently was again R&PM Edelman but thankfully after telling them once they have not yet repeated it. My fingers are crossed!

Why can't PR companies officials just do some hard work and prepare different emailing and fax lists of different journalists with different preferences? It does not involve rocket science. Just some hard, honest work will do. Will the lazy, inefficient and inept among the PR companies wake up, please?

life in general: noise pollution all around

Drill and shrill! Deafening, nerve-grating sounds! That is the ugly reality of urban India that supposedly has the most educated industrialists, businessmen, affluent citizenry. In Bombay, noise levels are at their highest noise. Be it the daytime-&-nighttime heavy-duty construction machinery of builders or the tile-cutting drill machines used in affluents' homes or society compounds. Or be it is the loud prayer calls emanating from loud speakers in mosques, or the relentless clanging of temple bells. Or be it the annual torture of nerve-grating bombs during Diwali.

But they are fast asleep -- not just the police or municipal authorities but also the high-income citizenry -- oblivious to the serious harm they are causing to everyone's health by their actions (citizens) or lack of it (enforcement of the noise pollution laws by the authorities). Till they wake up, those who don't indulge in these things will have to stay awake on account of the noise pollution. How much more great can high-class urban India get?

November 07, 2007

life in financial markets: number game

In terms of number of orders disposed off, the appellate authority to the orders passed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), is catching up after a very sluggish period in the first nine months of this year. In October, SAT, has passed orders in about 42 cases of appeals against Sebi orders, more than the number (40) of orders it passed in the entire nine month period from January to September.

The problem for the market is that it would not know the nature of the 42 October orders. On Sebi's website where SAT orders are posted in addition to Sebi's own orders, only four SAT orders are seen for the month of October and none till 4 November. "Whatever soft copies of orders we receive from SAT we upload it on our website," says a Sebi official. "Maybe there are delays or technical problems causing this," says a SAT office official.

This year has unusually seen the number of SAT orders subdued as compared with previous years (see table below). Therefore, the October surge holds significance. Provided, of course, all of them get uploaded on Sebi's website anytime soon.

SAT orders' history

No. of orders passed











a - till October

The SAT orders are important because they tend to highlight how many Sebi's orders are upheld fully, partly or not at all, and give a rough indication of Sebi's enforcement efficiency levels. Data released by Sebi last month showed that out of 283 Sebi orders that were appealed against and on which SAT ruled in 2006, only 131 were upheld fully, 101 partly, 29 not at all and 22 were remanded back to Sebi for re-working.

November 03, 2007

life in general: pakistan’s martial law, problems, hypocrisies et al

So, Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf has imposed martial law in Pakistan today. But, in my view, he was already by and large a one-man dictator. But whatever little democratic rights the people of Pakistan had now stands threatened. The judiciary has been suspended. I just hope the best for the common Pakistani citizen who would face the most problem on account of this new development.

The development also exposes the machinations behind US government’s long-standing support to Musharaf. The US government has of late been harping about the lack of democracy in Iran. But in supporting Musharaf it has allowed democracy to be subverted n Pakistan. The US government will not genuinely oppose Musharaf’s imposition of martial law/emergency and instead harp on Musharaf’s endeavour to take on the Taliban in north-west provinces of Pakistan. Surely, Musharaf’s action today wouldn’t have happened without a green signal from US government.

And this is just the latest example of American government’s hypocrisy. The last 30 years has been peppered with many more such examples.

Another aspect of today’s development that raises strong suspicion of fraud in my mind is the news of Benazir Bhutto being in Dubai and coming to know of Pakistan’s emergency when she was boarding a plane to Pakistan. This appears very shady. She came to Dubai 3 days ago knowing very well what was going to happen in Pakistan. One needs to remember that Bhutto is also US government’s favorite.

India, where I live, will as usual hem and haw. It will toe the US line since it has surrendered itself to US interests. India’s record with other dictators in the region is no better – Burma being the most prominent one. India’s right-wing party, the BJP, will criticize Pakistan for its lack of democracy when the most shameless quasi dictatorship is going on in the Indian state of Gujarat where its chief minister Narendra Modi is in power.

India’s left party will also criticize Musharaf easily forgetting that their own Chief Minister in West Bengal state is doing deeds like shooting villagers which would make a Musharaf proud.

The people of the world will, in the meanwhile, pray for sanity to prevail.

Here's a look at the excuses Musharaf used in his statement of Emergency:


Text of ‘Proclamation of emergency’

ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (APP): Following is the text of the Proclamation of Emergency declared by Chief of the Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday:
“WHEREAS there is visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, IED explosions, rocket firing and bomb explosions and the banding together of some militant groups have taken such activities to an unprecedented level of violent intensity posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan;
WHEREAS there has also been a spate of attacks on State infrastructure and on law enforcement agencies;
WHEREAS some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive nd legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the Government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;
WHEREAS there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;
WHEREAS constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralized and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and Intelligence Agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;
WHEREAS some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released. The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;
WHEREAS some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;
WHEREAS the Government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the Honourable Judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administration;
WHEREAS an important Constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, made themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability;
WHEREAS the humiliating treatment meted to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralized the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;
WHEREAS the law and order situation in the country as well as the economy have been adversely affected and trichotomy of powers eroded;
WHEREAS a situation has thus arisen where the Government of the country cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution and as the Constitution provides no solution for this situation, there is no way out except through emergent and extraordinary measures;
AND WHEREAS the situation has been reviewed in meetings with the Prime Minister, Governors of all four Provinces, and with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Chiefs of the Armed Forces, Vice-Chief of Army Staff and Corps Commanders of the Pakistan Army;
NOW, THEREFORE, in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff, proclaim Emergency throughout Pakistan.
2. I hereby order and proclaim that the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance.
3. This Proclamation shall come into force at once.”

November 01, 2007

life in general: abysmal service standards in india of telecom & broadband companies

I do not know about the levels in other countries but, here, in India, the service standard levels of telecom and broadband companies are very low. This, I say, based on my experiences as a mobile phone customer of Vodafone (earlier called Hutch), and a broadband subscriber of Tata Indicom and Sify.

The most jarring note is the very low competency of the first-level customer service staff -- whether on phone or at their physical service centres. If your problem is even a tad beyond a basic problem (like bill not received or opting for charged-for new features) then you will encounter sheer incompetencies and disregard for your time.

Then there is the issue of inflated bills. Recently, Vodafone charged me for 35 Mb interent usage(around Rs 200) in a month when I was already a subscriber to that internet tariff of theirs (fixed Rs 500 per month) that provided for 500 Mb free usage .

I don't blame the front staff really. It is really the vice-presidents and other senior managers in the customer service divisions of these companies who are oblivious to their responsibility of ensuring adequate training to the front staff and then actively monitoring them on a daily basis. They are the ones who need to be taken to task. But who can do that? Their bosses? That is, the CEO or MD? Problem is, more often than not, these CEOs or MDs are also not interested in monitoring their vice-presidents or other senior managers.

The above description might even hold good for most of the rest of the corporate world.