Retirement Regulations Almost Through, says Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri 9th Anniversary. Release Reverse Mortgage Report
Greetings! Let me start by thanking all of you who participated in our 9th Anniversary Celebrations at BSE International Convention Hall and joined us to hear an excellent speech by Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs', who was our chief guest this year. Those of you who are not in Mumbai can see the event on our YouTube channel here. But I hope you saw it on facebook live.
We are delighted at Mr Puri's formal announcement that his ministry is all set to write to chief ministers of various states and issues guidelines for the regulation of Retirement Homes. This is a big move forward to protect senior citizens who have opted to spend the rest of their years in retirement townships and communities. At the moment, they are at the mercy of management and builders. Those fortunate enough to pick the right ones are having a marvelous time, and others stuck with bad management are discovering the horrors of their situations.
Like all regulatory efforts, this will require time, effort and modification to make things work, but it is a huge beginning and the fruition of nearly three years of hard work on our part.
The Hon. Minister was also gracious enough to formally release our study on Reverse Mortgage report that was researched by former bankers Shriniwas Marathe and Pradeep Bhave. Reverse Mortgage is going to be an important financial product in India in the future as the rising population of senior citizens who, for various reasons (including bad financial planning or wrong decisions) may be asset rich but cash poor. A product like Reverse Mortgage, would allow senior citizens to draw down the value of their home in the form of a monthly payment, which supplements their income and provides much needed liquidity.
As always, I presented a list of our activities, over the past year at the Anniversary Event, which I would like to share with you in this newsletter. I request you to spare a few minutes to read these edited highlights of my presentation or you can also watch it on our YouTube Channel where it would be published soon.
Our PIL on Bank Charges:
We had a big breakthrough with our public interest litigation at the Supreme Court on banks gouging unfair charges from individual borrowers, on floating rate loans. We were forced to go to the apex court, when a long campaign about unfair bank charges and repeated representations to RBI fell on deaf ears. RBI was ordered to respond to us in six weeks and when it eventually did they ignored most of our issues. They later did accept a part of our plea by announcing that banks will have to peg their lending rates to an external bench mark, instead of their practice of creating self-serving internal benchmarks to cheat borrowers. The new benchmarks is supposed to kick in by April, but banks are lobbying hard against it. It is a hard and demoralising fight, because banks and lobbyists always have the ear of policy makers, leading to regulatory capture. We are not giving up and will probably have to go back to the Supreme Court again.
Right to Information:
Our RTI Centre is going strong in its second year with support from Mr Dinesh Thakur. A large part of the effort within RTI Centre, is led by former Central Information Commissioner and RTI evangelist Shailesh Gandhi. We have also benefited from workshops conducted by other eminent RTI activists such as Anil Galgali (on civic issues) and Sulaiman Bhimani (on real estate issues).
Vinita Deshmukh, advisor of Moneylife Foundation is also a RTI expert and has helped spread awareness with her weekly column on RTI and helped organise several seminars in Pune. Last year the RTI Centre reached out to special groups such as journalists, NGOs, students across Mumbai and Pune, and the police, especially the Civil Defence department.
We also had a few RTI sessions with the maverick CIC Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu at Mumbai and Pune.
On the financial literacy front, we had two major workshops at the Police Training Schools at Akola and Dhule. My colleague Yogesh Sapkale and former banker Mr Abhay Datar conducted these successfully with support from Reserve Bank's Depositor Education and Protection Fund.
Two Special Initiatives:
We ran a campaign to provide non-cash support, largely medicine, for victims of the Kerala Flood. We coordinated with the Vivekanand Kendra at Trissur and sent over 3000kgs of material to affected people.
When we saw a heart-breaking video of Bandu Markad, destroying his pomegranates crop because it fetched a pittance, we decide to highlight his plight and raise funds to help him pay his water bills for the last season and the next. People opened their hearts to him and within a few days we raised almost Rs2.5 lakh.
You, our regular readers are already aware of the excellent work done at our Free Daily Clinics and Helplines. Our Daily Free Guidance Sessions continue to remain popular. On Tuesdays, Shirish Shanbhag guides people on all realty related issues, Wednesdays we have RTI with Shailesh Gandhi, Thursdays are for all consumer issues with Abhay Datar and AV Shenoy and alternate working Saturdays, are for banking, credit and loan related issues with DG Kale.
Programmes in the New Year:
The month of January has also been busy for us as we started new year fresh with a slew of talks, seminars and workshops. Aside from RTI workshops with Shailesh Gandhi, we had an important talk given by Ms Varsha Raut on the expected new charges of your Cable TV and DTH subscription.
We also had former banker and CGM at RBI, D G Kale give a fantastic talk on travelling abroad while on a budget. The talk was an eyeopener for all of those who attended, with Mr Kale sharing hidden tips and tricks that are not as apparent when considering a trip abroad. Everything from pre-planning the trip to the sights that one should see were covered in excruciating detail in his two hour talk. If you could not attend this talk, you can still reap the benefits of it by watching this video.
You will find a list of activities and programmes conducted in January below. Also, feel free to write to us if you have suggestions for other future workshops or want a repeat of any of those conducted earlier – if there is a lot of interest, we will surely arrange another session. Watch out for announcements in January by becoming a member and getting on to our mailing list.
February 21st: "Do's & Don'ts of Fire Safety" -Adv. Bapoo Malcolm Keeping in mind the recent slew of fire incidents in Mumbai due to "short circuits" or other electrical failures, Mr Bapoo Malcolm, practicing Advocate Bombay High Court, will educate citizens on fire safety.
Venue: Moneylife Foundation's Knowledge Centre
2nd January: "Understanding RTI and Filing Effective Applications"
Shailesh Gandhi conducted a RTI workshop at Moneylife Foundation's Knowledge Centre on understanding the RTI Act and filing effective applications.
10th January: "How much will you pay for your Cable TV & DTH" - Varsha Raut
Veteran consumer activist Varsha Raut conducted a special seminar for Moneylife Foundation on the new costs that a consumer will incur with their Cable Tv & DTH subscriptions with the change in TRAI rules. Read here.
Shailesh Gandhi conducted another workshop explaining the basics of the RTI Act, its power in promoting transparency within the government and also how to phrase queries in the right manner in an RTI application.
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Thank you for your support and look forward to your good wishes always.
Founder-Trustee, Moneylife Foundation
Trustees: TS Krishnamurthy, Dr KC Chakrabarty, Walter Vieira, Sucheta Dalal, Debashis Basu and Dr Anupam Saraph. Special Invitee: Adv Jamshed Mistry
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