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February 26, 2001 - February 28, 2001

Damning the Beneficiary Wednesday, February 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: You receive a gift from someone. Something goes wrong with it, can you, the beneficiary, file a complaint or should the company or the person who gifted it do it? This interesting case under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) first cropped up at the district forum and then before the State Commission.

J Subramaniam is a journalist and author. He was gifted a pager by M/s Computer Consultancy Centre in return for his services. The pager was in the possession of the journalist from the time it was purchased.

According to the Consumer Protection Act, Section 12, Clause (a), a complaint can be filed by the consumer to whom the goods are sold, delivered or to whom services are rendered and not the beneficiary. Subramaniam, the beneficiary, who received the pager on November 29, 1995, the day it was bought by Computer Consultancy Centre, hence couldn't file the complaint. It should have been filed by the Computer Consultancy Centre. This dispute arose over whether the journalist could file the complaint or the company which had gifted him the pager.

M/s RPG Paging Services Ltd, which sold the pager to the Computer Consultancy Centre, maintained before the district forum, Chennai South, that the centre, and not the journalist, should have filed the complaint when the service was disconnected. The district forum concluded that Subramaniam was a consumer under section 2 (1) (d) (ii) of the Act which defines a consumer as one who hires or avails himself / herself of any services... and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or himself / herself avails of such services.

Subramaniam's complaint, which the district forum upheld as he was considered a consumer, was that the RPG Paging Services had disconnected the service although he had paid Rs 1,470 as registration and subscription charge on August 17, 1996. The service was resumed on August 20, 1996. This amounted to deficiency in service for which he was awarded Rs 3,000 as compensation and Rs 500 towards costs. The paging company appealed against this award to the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Redressal Commission, Chennai, presided over by Justice JE Bellie with SV Kandaswami and Angel Arulraj as members. The case was decided on April 13, 1999.

The Commission upheld the district forum's verdict. One of the three members in the State Commission, SV Kandaswami, while concurring with the other two, was of the opinion the compensation should be higher for a journalist as disconnecting a journalist's pager without prior intimation would interfere with his work. As journalists are the "eyes and ears of a democracy", the disconnection resulted in non-receipt of important, timely and urgent messages.

The RPG people, on the other hand, explained the reason for delay as payment for reconnection was made after office hours of August 17, 1996. And, the next day was Sunday. On the following Monday, the amount was credited to the journalist's pager account and the pager was reactivated on August 20, 1996.

In a different case at Ahmedabad, a consumer activist was invited to France. Their bank in Ahmedabad delayed crediting the cheque money to him. The foreign bank demanded permission from the sponsor that he should be allowed to file a complaint. Once the letter was obtained from the sponsor in France, the dispute was resolved amicably without taking the arduous course of litigation to a consumer court.

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No new trains for Saurashtra in rail budget Tuesday, February 27, 2001

RAJKOT: Mamata Banerjee's second railway budget on Monday evoked mixed reactions in Saurashtra region. While the commonman heaved a sigh of relief as there is no hike in fares for any class of railway travel, the trade and industry was not very appreciative of the budgetary proposals, as freight on many items has been increased. Residents were also unhappy over no new trains being granted for the region.

Rajkot residents have welcomed the proposal to increase the frequency of trains between Rajkot-Ernakulam and Rajkot Secunderabad. Residents were however unhappy over their demand for a superfast train between Rajkot and Mumbai not being fulfilled.

D K Patel, vice-president of the Rajkot Engineering Association said, "injustice to Saurashtra region continues as far as giving new trains is concerned." He, however, chose not to directly blame the railway minister but instead said, "it was failure on part of MPs from Saurashtra who had failed to persuade the minister to give new trains, adding freight hike would jack up prices of raw material and hamper economic growth in the region."

Shirish Joshi, secretary of the Gondal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while welcoming the budget said, "it was a good gesture of the minister not to increase fares considering the fact that rail finances were in mess." He also said that the Rajkot-Veraval broad gauge conversion would also get a boost with a budgetary allocation. It was expected that the project would be completed by 2002 or a year later, Joshi said.

The completion of gauge conversion between Gandhidham-Bhuj and Wankaner-Morbi by March this year was also welcomed by Joshi. "This will boost economic activities in the region", he said.

Rashmi Shethia, a housewife said, "atleast we can now afford to go out on a holiday without tension." She was not very happy over the increase in freight charges as that would push up the prices of essential commodities, which in turn would upset her domestic budget.

Harikrishna Joshi, member of the divisional railway users consultative committee here said, "The rail minister has made a good effort in not going in for a fare hike despite the fact that the railways were making a daily loss of around Rs 10 crore. He said that the shortfall from not increasing the passenger fare could be realised by selling railway properties. The demand of the people of Rajkot for having a superfast train to Mumbai has not been fulfilled which is painful".

Mahendra Rajvir, treasurer of the Rajkot Chamber of Commerce had termed the railway budget as an "election-oriented one as the railway minister's constituency will go to polls in near future. The hike in freight charges of coal and furnace oil would hit the small-scale sector in Saurashtra. Besides, the three per cent increase in freight rate would also push up the cost of production as raw material would be expensive," he said.

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Truck runs over two on VIP Road in Vadodara Tuesday, February 27, 2001

VADODARA: A speeding truck knocked over two persons on the VIP Road here on Sunday afternoon. Harsha P Patel and her son Dhruvesh were riding a two-wheeler when the accident happened. The accident took place near Bright School.

The deceased were the wife and son of Vadodara Municipal Corporation counsellor P C Patel, who is a resident of Karelibaug.

An offence has been registered at the Karelibaug police station against the driver, who is absconding.

According to local residents, the area near the Bright School on VIP Road is notorious for several road accidents. In a similar incident a few months ago, a girl was killed by a speeding truck, they say.

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Civic bodies get nod to float bonds Monday, February 26, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Barely three days before the Union Budget, the Centre on Saturday issued guidelines allowing municipalities to issue tax-free bonds up to Rs 50 crore for expansion and improvement of urban infrastructure in the country.

The norms issued by Union urban development minister Jagmohan exempted bonds floated by municipal bodies if the funds were used for capital investment like setting up new projects and expansion and augmentation of existing urban infrastructure services, official sources said.

Under the ministry guidelines, a municipal body floating these bonds will have to contribute at least 20 per cent of the project cost either from internal sources or from grants or a mix of the two. The maximum amount of tax-free bonds as a percentage of the total project cost will be 33 per cent or Rs 50 crore, whichever is less.

The guidelines also provide for income-tax exemption on money earned by way of interest rate up to 10.50 per cent.

The bonds shall have a minimum maturity of five years. The issuer will also have to create an escrow account for debt servicing of bonds proceeds with earmarked revenue.

Sources said the guidelines were expected to motivate urban local bodies and development agencies to develop commercially viable projects which would instil confidence in investors in the projects.

Union urban development minister Jagmohan clarified that not all municipalities would be allowed to float these tax-free bonds. Prior to floating the bonds, it would be mandatory for a municipal body to obtain an investment grade rating from a RBI-approved rating agency.

Also, the Union urban development ministry would act as the nodal agency for screening and processing the proposals received from municipal bodies for floating these bonds.

With the ministry acting as the nodal agency, the proposals from municipal bodies would be placed before a committee constituted by it. The committee will have representatives from the department of economic affairs and the Central Board of Direct Taxes. It will forward its recommendations to the department of economic affairs which will then notify the specific bonds in the official gazette with the approval of the finance minister.

US surgeon, NGO all praise for Kutchis Monday, February 26, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Chip Squaron, a leading orthopaedic surgeon from Boston (USA), and Andrew Hedach, director of a New Canon-based non-government organisation (NGO), who are assisting relief operations in the quake-ravaged Kutch, have decided to extend their stay in Bhuj as they are highly impressed by the tremendous stamina of Kutchis to withstand the calamity.

In a courtesy call on Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, they conveyed their decision to him. "We have seen reaction of people in Turkey and Koba in Japan during our mission there but Kutchis are unique in all respects impressing us the most," they said.

They also appreciated relief works undertaken by the state government with the help of voluntary organisations in the quake-hit areas of Kutch and Saurashtra. "They have expressed willingness to participate in the long-term relief and rehabilitation measures," said an official press release.

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