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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Credit cards - convenience or harassment

Credit cards were started to make financial transactions convenient. One can not carry hard cash all the time. It is risky also. But over the period, credit cards have become a source of harassment.

Me and my son are member of RCI, the time sharing company. It got into an arrangement with Standard Chartered Bank and offered us a credit card. The bank issued us two credit cards, one for me and one for my son. My son travels a lot and he used the card very frequently. Slowly we discovered that it would be advisable for us to check the bills sent by the bank very thoroughly, as there might be wrong entries causing us financial loss.

We discovered that bank was charging interest from us for late payment, whereas we had made payments well before the payment date. Now, every time the bill comes, we will have to make two to three calls to the bank to tell them that we had made payment well before the date and how can they charge the late interest. They will check it, say sorry and interest will be reversed. This had become a routine.

Now the credit card was more of a harassment than any convenience to us. In November 2006, we asked the bank to cancel the card. They will give all sort of assurances but the process of adding late payment interest will continue. We will receive phone calls at inconvenient hours from different people. Some of them will call us defaulters in payment. The damn card had become a nightmare for us.

Now after many months, they had blocked the card. But the harassment continues. The phone calls keep coming telling us to make outstanding payment. The callers are not interested in listening to our side that we have made all payments and nothing is outstanding. When we ask them to send us their details of outstanding, they say that as per bank rules they can not send the details in writing. Such illogical stand by a multi-national bank is difficult to understand.

Sometimes I feel that our Indian system is best. No credit cards, no purchasing on credits, no tension, no harassment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

People suffer, as Delhi Govt is ineffective and inefficient

Capital is limping, commuters are suffering and waiting for hours, autos are picking up pockets, innocent citizens are being killed by killer buses, but Delhi Govt is saying "bear with us". A bus passes Delhi Govt Test, goes out and kills another innocent citizen, but Delhi CM says "bear wit us".

PM Manmohan Singh is not able to sleep as an Indian Muslim is charged for terror acts in distant countries UK/Australia, but his sleep is not disturbed by murders of innocent citizens on Delhi roads under his nose.

Is this a new problem? No, an age old problem. Everybody knows about it but Delhi Govt. had been unaware. Or was it aware but did not consider it a problem? The fact is that Delhi Govt has failed in its duty to provide a comfortable, punctual, reliable bus service to Delhi citizens and protect their lives from the buses licensed by it to run on Delhi roads. Delhi CM and her transport minister are responsible for deaths of many Delhi citizens caused by these buses. Along with the drivers and owners of killer buses, they should also be charged for allowing them to murder innocent citizens.

Life of Indian citizens is not that cheap as it is being considered by the Govt. A mother goes under lot of pain to give birth to a child, then parents take lot of pains to raise them, and one day a killer bus comes and kills them. AND DELHI CM SAYS BEAR WITH US.

Added on 28.07.07

Govt checks the buses and allow them to run on the road. Yesterday a bus, checked and cleared, killed a cyclist. Machine was checked but not the man. Has Delhi Govt fixed a target of people to be killed by these killer buses?

Added on 05.08.2007

In an interview
Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, India, says – ‘If I fail to resolve problems of citizens, there’s no point in my being in Chief Minister’s chair’.

If words have any meaning for her, she should have vacated the chair long back.

I am a citizen of Delhi, living here for last 32 years. I am proud of the city, but my pride has been hurt by Delhi Govt. When people say that Delhi is the crime capital of India, it hurts me. I can not defend my city. It is a fact that Delhi citizens are not safe on roads, not even in their homes. Delhi police, meant to protect citizens and their property, harass them, torture them in police lock-ups, and even kill them. Citizens do not get water and power to meet their needs. Babus sitting in Govt offices do not work without taking money under the table. Buses kill citizens as a routine.

Perhaps Sheila Dikshit, while saying above, had politicians in mind, as only politicians seem to the citizens of Delhi. Rest are unwanted intruders. You will not believe it but she said so recently.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harassment by Passport Office

Regional Passport Office at Delhi does not lag behind in harassing its customers. It talks of Tatkal schemes but for routine processing of passports it has no bench marks.

It has a most useless website. The page 'Status of your application' probably does not exist. Any time you click on it, it shows error 'Not Found'. For last one month I am not able to access it. When I decided to send feedback and clicked on 'Contact Us' the source opened and not the page. Webmaster seems to have forgotten to close the tag. WHAT IS THE USE OF HAVING SUCH A WEBSITE?

My son applied for renewal of his passport. The application was submitted at Pitam Pura District office on 08.06.2007. It was yet another unpleasant experience. Although all originals were verified, photo copies were taken, but after some days we were visited by a policeman. He said he had come for verification. Again all originals were shown to him, photo copies were given, forms were signed. But renewed passport has still not arrived.

When we visit their website the relevant pages do not open. A clear case of harassment, wasting time and resources of citizens.

Visit the link if you wish to have real experience:


Edited on 24.07.2007

After I could not get any positive response on the website I sent an e-mail (address provided on website) to, but it bounced with remarks - "The addresses had permanent fatal errors (reason: 550 5.1.1 <>... User unknown).

So, this is the website of India's External Affairs Ministry and its e-mail address. And they were considering the minister for making him President of India - rewarding for harassing the people.

Added on 05.08.2007

Site is still down. E-mail are still not be
ing accepted. Message shown is - ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors ----- <> (reason: 550 5.1.1 <>... User unknown).

Today I have sent an e-mail to Chief Passport Officer. LET US SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare - An Uninterative Website

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has a Website -, but it is not interactive. I wanted information whether the ministry has issued a circular to diagnostic centers to obtain third party accreditation from NABL. I also wanted to know how the ministry is implementing RTI Act and who are the Public Information Officers. These informations are not directly found on the website. When I searched the site, I came across a link Circulars and RTI Act. But on clicking a message came that these links are forbidden (invalid URL). How can information on RTI Act be forbidden?

Then I decided to send feedback on this. I clicked on the link and a form appeared on the screen. I filled it and clicked on Submit button. A funny message appeared - "
Sorry!! Pl. fill up the form first then submit. I checked again and again but could not find any blank in the feedback form but on submitting this message continued to appear.

What is the use of such a website? It is not interactive. Majority of Govt. websites designed by NIC are like this.

Ministry is also law bound to display information on RTI Act but it is forbidden.

Funny will you say? I think it is harassment.

On-line registration of complaints - how effective is this system?

Many organizations have installed on-line complaint registration systems on their websites. As per my experience these systems are either not properly designed and installed or not effectively managed. First problem the complainant faces is complaint does not get registered. If at all it get through, no response is received. No body knows where it goes from the website. The case in point is of the website of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), National Standards Body of India. The website has been designed by National Informatics Center (NIC) and supported by BIS Computer Center.

Last time when I registered a complaint on-line about sub-standard quality of ISI marked biscuits, it got through but was lost at NIC or BIS. This time my complaint was about Packaged Drinking Water manufactured and supplied by IRCTC, it did not get through. Following message is coming -

Microsoft JET Database Engine error '80040e09'.Cannot update. Database or object is read-only./cad/response.asp, line 177

First it will keep on telling me that description & remedy of complaint should be maximum 250 words, even though it was less than that. I had to cut short to 20-25 words only then it went ahead but then error blocked it.

What is the use of having such systems if the organization can not manage them properly.

Why waste time and resources of the people trying to register their complaints and failing in their efforts? It is nothing but harassment.

Edited on 24.07.2007

I has sent an e-mail to Director, Consumer Affairs Department of BIS to draw his attention to these problems and also about ISI marked packaged drinking water (see below). But he has failed to respond so far.

"I have purchased a bottle of drinking water from IRCTC approved caterer in Taj Express on 17.07.2007. The date of manufacture is 11.07.07 and batch number is 11 07. The paper strip (giving information about the product and ISI mark) pasted on the bottle was not properly pasted. It was detached as soon as I opened the bottle. No information is marked on the bottle. If this strip can come off the bottle how it will be ensured that this strip will not be misused by someone by putting it on another bottle and selling sub-standard water with ISI Mark?"

Yesterday (23.07.2007) same problem was observed with BISLERI water bottle. This seems to be a general problem but BIS is not taking action.

Call Centers and Customer Support

Service providers have put Call Centers between them and you. By doing this they have avoided any angry reaction from the customers for the poor quality of their services. The guys sitting at call center do not know anything about the service. They are paid to talk and only talk.

Here are some conversations:

Tech Support: 'I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop'.
Customer: 'OK'.
Tech Support: 'Did you get a pop-up menu?'.
Customer: 'No'.
Tech Support: 'OK. Right-Click again. Do you see a pop-up menu?' Customer: 'No'.
Tech Support: 'OK, sir. Can you tell me what you have done up until this point?'.
Customer: 'Sure. You told me to write 'click' and I wrote 'click'.


Caller: 'I deleted a file from my PC last week and I have just realized that I need it. If I turn my system clock back two weeks will I have my file back again?'.


There's always one. This has got to be one of the funniest things in a long time. I think this guy should have been promoted, not fired This is a true story from the Word Perfect Helpline, which was transcribed from a recording monitoring the customer care department. Needless to say the Help Desk
employee was fired; however, he/she is currently suing the Word Perfect
organization for 'Termination without Cause'.

Actual dialogue of a former WordPerfect Customer Support employee. (Now I know why they record these conversations!):

Operator: 'Computerperformance assistance; may I help you?' Caller: 'Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect.'

Operator: 'What sort of trouble??'

Caller: 'Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.'

Operator: 'Went away?'
Caller: 'They disappeared.'

Operator: 'Hmm So what does your screen look like now?'
Caller: 'Nothing.'

Operator: 'Nothing??'
Caller: 'It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type.'

Operator: 'Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out??'
Caller: 'How do I tell?'

Operator: 'Can you see the C: prompt on the screen??'
Caller: 'What's a sea-prompt?'

Operator: 'Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?'
Caller: 'There isn't any cursor: I told you, it won't accept anything I type.'

Operator: 'Does your monitor have a power indicator??'
Caller: 'What's a monitor?'

Operator: 'It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on??'
Caller: 'I don't know.'

Operator: 'Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that??'
Caller: 'Yes, I think so.'

Operator: 'Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall.
Caller: 'Yes, it is.'

Operator: 'When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one??'
Caller: 'No.'

Operator: 'Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.'
Caller: 'Okay, here it is.'

Operator: 'Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer.'
Caller: 'I can't reach.'

Operator: 'Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is??'
Caller: 'No.'

Operator: 'Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean over??'
Caller: 'Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle - it's because it's dark.'

Operator: 'Dark??'
Caller: 'Yes - the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window'.

Operator: 'Well, turn on the office light then.'
Caller: 'I can't.'

Operator: 'No? Why not??'
Caller: 'Because there's a power cut.'

Operator: 'A power......... A power cut? Aha, Okay, We've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in??'
Caller: 'Well, yes, I keep them in the attic.' Call Center Jokes

Operator: 'Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the shop you bought it from.'
Caller: 'Really? Is it that bad?'

Operator: 'Yes, I'm afraid it is.'
Caller: 'Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them??'

Operator: 'Tell them you're too ****** stupid to own a computer!

Source -


Operator: “Thank you for calling Pizza Hut . May I have your…”

Customer: “Heloo, can I order..”

Operator : “Can I have your multi purpose card number first, Sir?”

Customer: “It’s eh…, hold……….on……889861356102049998-45-54610″

Operator : “OK… you’re… Mr Singh and you’re calling from 17 Jalan Kayu. Your home number is 4094! 2366, your office 76452302 and your mobile is 0142662566. Which number are you calling from now Sir?”

Customer: “Home! How did you get all my phone numbers?

Operator : “We are connected to the system Sir”

Customer: “May I order your Seafood Pizza…”

Operator : “That’s not a good idea Sir”

Customer: “How come?”

Operator : “According to your medical records, you have high blood pressure and even higher cholesterol level Sir”

Customer: “What?… What do you recommend then?”

Operator : “Try our Low Fat Hokkien Mee Pizza. You’ll like it”

Customer: “How do you know for sure?”

Operator : “You borrowed a book entitled “Popular Hokkien Dishes” from the National Library last week Sir”

Customer: “OK I give up… Give me three family size ones then, how much will that cost?”

Operator : “That should be enough for your family of 10, Sir. The total is $49.99″

Customer: “Can I pay by! credit card?”

Operator : “I’m afraid you have to pay us cash, Sir. Your credit card is over the limit and you owe your bank $3,720.55 since October last year. That’s not including the late payment charges on your housing loan, Sir.”

Customer: “I guess I have to run to the neighbourhood ATM and withdraw some cash before your guy arrives”

Operator : “You can’t Sir. Based on the records, you’ve reached your daily limit on machine withdrawal today”

Customer: “Never mind just send the pizzas, I’ll have the cash ready. How long is it gonna take anyway?”

Operator : “About 45 minutes Sir, but if you can’t wait you can always com and collect it on your motorcycle…”

Customer: ” What!”

Operator : “According to the details in system ,you own a Scooter,…registration number 1123…”

Customer: ” ????”

Operator : “Is there anything else Sir?”

Customer: “Nothing… by the way… aren’t you giving me that 3 free bottles of cola as advertised?”

Operator : “We normally would Sir, but based on your records you’re also diabetic……. “

Customer: #$$^%&$@$%^

Operator : “Better watch your language Sir. Remember on 15th July 1987 you were convicted of using abusive language on a policeman…?”

Customer: [Faints]

Source -

It is not only auto drivers harassing common people, police are also with them

I have a question for you-

“In an argument with an auto driver, police will side with whom?”

If your answer is that police will side with you then you have a surprise for you whenever you face such a situation. My experience is that police always sides with auto drivers as they see them as a money provider whereas public will only say thank you and walk away. In fact what police is doing is as per the policy of the government – “Talk of common man’s interest but work for other party’s interest”. And this party can be auto drivers, taxi/bus drivers, power/water distribution companies and any other product or service provider.

Yesterday I visited pre-paid auto booth at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station. I wanted to hire an auto for Paschim Puri. The policeman asked me to pay Rs. 125. When I said that the fare by meter comes to between Rs. 90 and Rs. 95, he said that it if I want a pre-paid auto I will have to pay Rs. 125. He was visibly annoyed with me. I gave him Rs. 150. He threw Rs. 25 at me. And whatever talk he did was shouting at me.

I have been wondering, is it is essential for a policeman to be ill-mannered.

I monitored the auto meter. When I reached my residence, the meter showed 19.3 km and fare as Rs. 92.80. I showed it to auto driver. He told me that he can not give money to police from his pocket. Passengers have to provide it.

I will be happy if any one can cite an instance where police sided with common people.

See what Delhi Traffic Poluice say on their website (S. No. 2 for over-charging)

Delhi Traffic Police, New Delhi (India) - Prepaid Booths Delhi

Benefits of travelling in Taxi or TSR from Traffic Prepaid Booths :

  1. Prepaid booths are operated under the direct control of Delhi Traffic Police.
  2. It helps to avert over-charging, refusal, misbehaviour or harassment by the Taxi/TSR drivers.
  3. Taxis are presently operating from 3 booths i.e. Domestic, International Airports an New Delhi Railway Station (Ajmeri Gate side).
  4. Duly signed receipt indicating the Taxi/TSR number, destination, Service Charges, baggage charge if any and the fare is given to the passenger.
  5. Rs. 2/- and 5/- for TSRs and Rs. 10/- for taxis are charged for the services.
  6. This system is purely optional for passengers.
  7. One can SMS at 6767 for any complaint regarding misbehaviour by TSR/Taxi drivers.
In my case Delhi Traffic Police did the overcharging.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why schools and bus drivers do not follow SC guidelines?

The highest court of India has framed guidelines to be followed by schools and drivers of the buses being used by schools for carrying children to school and back. But it is seen that no school and no driver is following these guidelines. They also do not show any inclination to follow the guidelines. For them these guidelines do not exist. This problem is very acute where mini buses are being used for this purpose.

I want to share my personal experience on this issue. Minibus of the school where my grand daughter is studying is a typical example of the mess and potential threat to the safety of children. A school teacher travels in the bus but she is a total stranger to the kids, no hello, no good morning, no care of children whether they are sitting comfortably, no concern whether the bus doors are closed when the bus is moving, One helper travels in the bus but he only occupies a seat. He does not help children in getting in and getting out of bus. He does not help children to sit comfortably. He does not ensure that bus door is locked when the bus is moving. The teacher and the helper are totally irrelevant factors in school bus and only occupy the seats where kids can sit.

I had sent a letter to the principal. We have brought up this issue in PTA meetings. But no proper response and action. Whenever we have talked to Transport In-charge, his behaviour is highly in favour of the bus driver. To one parent, he has even gone to the extent of advising that if they are not satisfied with the bus service then they can take their child to another school. When I reminded him that only this statement is sufficient for de-recognition of the school, he kept quiet but no positive action.

Why schools and bus drivers do not follow SC guidelines? Why they are not concerned about the safety of children? Can such unconcerned people be good teachers?

The situation is bad. The safety of children is not ensured. Any time ant accident can happen. But is anybody bothered?

To know the SC guidelines please click on


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Whose responsibility is to provide safe water to people?

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and her minister Yoganand Shastri, in a half page advertisement (with their photos on top corners) have told the people of Delhi that Unsafe Water Can Give Diseases. This is one fact which all the people of Delhi already know. What they want to know is, “Who is responsible for providing safe water to them?” Whenever I have asked this question to myself two names have surfaced in my mind and those are the names of Dixit and Shastri.

Is this advertisement an admission that this government is not capable of providing safe water to Delhi people?

Why train is kept locked on the platform?

On the nights of 13 and 14 July 2007, I had traveled by Shram Shakti Express between New Delhi to Kanpur and back. On both occasions, train came on the platform but all coaches were locked from inside. Passengers were feeling very uncomfortable in sultry heat on the platforms and were looking forward for the train to come so that they can board the train and sit in AC environment. BUT TRAIN WAS LOCKED FROM INSIDE.

With passengers making lot of hullahulla the coach was ultimately unlocked. But to our dismay, we discovered that it was still being cleaned. Fans were not running. AC was not switched on. In was more hot and sultry inside than outside on the platform. Then again arguments and counter arguments with staff, Fan and AC were switched on.

Why all this? When train comes on platform it should be properly cleaned, fans and AC should be on. Why make journey uncomfortable at the beginning itself? Had the cleaning staff took this decision on their own, or it is the policy of Indian Railways?

Bedrolls given in Indian trains – most unhygienic manner

On the nights of 13 and 14 July 2007, I had traveled by Shram Shakti Express between New Delhi to Kanpur and back. Indian Railways provide bedrolls in AC coaches. IRCTC had given contracts to private operators for this.

The contractors are required to comply with following conditions:

a) One bedroll kit should contain two bed sheets, one pillow, one pillow cover, one blanket, one face towel,

b) Bedrolls to be stored and transported in specially designed canvas bags,

c) Bedroll kit to be provided to passengers in tamper-proof eco-friendly carry bags with IRCTC logo printed on bags,

d) Blankets should washed/dry-cleaned every month.

Contractor did not comply with above requirements. Face towel was not provided. No canvas bags, no carry bags, blankets never washed/dry-cleaned. No responsible person is present in the train. Delivery boys are not aware of the name of the contract agency. I wrote a complaint in the complaint book provided by Ticket Examiner.

Bedrolls were tied in the cloth pieces, and were dragged on the floor.

Why Government only reacts? Why it is not pro-active?

It is true that UPA government at the center is besieged by many compulsions, which have been named by Prime Minister as compulsions of coalition politics. But these compulsions do not force the government to ‘not being pro-active’. All round steep price rise, killings by blue-line buses, kids being killed by school mini buses, a child dying of electrocution by an open transformer, elder citizens being murdered….. the list is very long. Every person living in Delhi or aware of Delhi knows about these things, but Govt. had not taken any pro-active measures. It reacted very late in these cases and that too only after people started protesting on roads.

Why Govt. can not be pro-active and take preventive measures?

Indian Railways should show respect to Taj Mahal

Picture on right is of Taj Mahal in all its glory.
Picture on left is of the most colourful BG train of all in steam days, the New Delhi Agra Taj Express of the Central Railway, shortly after dawn in December 1980. The 11 car blue and cream rake included a restaurant car, and a luxurious Air Conditioned First Class Chair Car, pictured here in second position behind the locomotive. Two years later the rake was painted in standard colours and hauled by a diesel ( Now all the glory of Taj Express is gone, Today, it iis one of most dirty trains.

Taj Mahal, in a global on-line poll, has been selected as one of 7 wonders of the world. After this event, I got an opportunity to travel by Indian Railways Taj Express between New Delhi to Agra on two occasions. Like every Indian, I was feeling very proud about Taj and was quite emotional on this account. Somewhere in my mind, I was expecting the same grandeur in Taj Express. This train, as everybody knows, uses the name of Taj. Long back, this train was introduced for tourists to visit Taj Mahal. It will start in the morning from Delhi and will return in the evening, giving full day to the tourists to visit Taj Mahal and other places in and around Agra.

When the train entered the platform at Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station, I was shocked. The train was very dirty from outside. Perhaps it has not been properly washed and cleaned for past few months. With this shock, I entered AC Chair car. Inside it was no different. It was dirty. When I reached the seat assigned to me, another shock. The back rest of the seat was damaged. I never thought that Indian railways will press a coach in service when its seat was damaged. No person can travel for three hours sitting on that seat. Don’t they have a system of certifying that a coach is fit to travel? The window glass was broken. The concerned staff had covered the cracks with plastic tape rather than replacing it. Light in the coach was insufficient. Covers of tube lights have not been cleaned for quite some time. The toilet was dirty and stinking. Floor was uneven and Water was collected on it. No place has been provided for keeping food items before they are served to passengers. These are stored on floor near the gate below wash-basin and trash-can.

There is nothing on this train now which can justify its name as Taj Express. Indian Railways should show some respect o Taj. They should improve the train to make it deserving to have this name, or they should change the name. Naming this train as Taj Express is an insult to Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is a tribute to beauty and love. This train has no beauty and no love for its passengers.

Apart from the above, it is a clear case of harassment and putting passengers to untold inconveniences and a threat to their health. Also the train never runs on time. It is called Super Fast but it crawls. Calling it Super Fast is only for increasing the fare (cutting into passengers’ pockets).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Big Ad and mismanaged Event

I saw this ad in a newspaper, A half page ad from the school, tells you what happens when your son Rahul joins Mother’s Pride. Neighbours will think that Rahul’s grandma has magic powers, and his grandpa will become famous by starting a blog. All this will happen because Rahul will learn computer and Taekwondo in the school. According to this ad, when your child joins this school, the whole family joins it. And school charges only for your son. Family gets educated at no cost.

This school organized a Baby Show on Sunday last. Registration amount was Rs. 100. There were two batches, 9.30 AM – 12.30 PM and 2.00 PM – 5.00 PM. We registered our grand daughter for afternoon batch in I to 2 years category (she is 14 months old).

Parents were advised to get ready for Delhi’s most happening baby show, a show, that will allow us to showcase our baby’s most adorable qualities, be it a sweet smile, a curly mop of hair or sparkling eyes.

When we reached the venue at 1.45 PM results were being announced. We were told that the show is over. School has cancelled second batch, We asked them how can they do it? The reply was we have already done it. We asked them, why we were not informed, our phone number was on the registration form? They said we did not consider it necessary. So, this is the real school.

Now for managing the event. Hall was overcrowded. There were not sufficient chairs. The atmosphere was very stuffy. No proper arrangement for drinking water. School did not bother to plan a hall which could accommodate the people expected at the show. Number of children registered for show were known. It was known that at least mother and father of the child will also come.

It was nothing but plain harassment. Event was highly mismanaged. School has robbed parents of Rs. 100and lot of time, and the excitement in the family that their child was taking part in a baby show. Parents and children were mentally and physically harassed.

A highly misleading ad.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Call centres for customer service

A real situation cartoon
(source -

Misleading advertisements

Contrary to all expectations, the highly competitive nature of present day market has not brought any value to consumers in terms of either quality or price. India is a very big market and the number of consumers is so large that majority of products and service providers do not bother about the interest of consumer. In fact in today's India, consumer has become a king harassed by every body.

Providers of products and services rely heavily on advertisements. The money they spent on these advertisements is billed to the consumer resulting in increasingly higher costs for consumers without adding any value to their purchases.

This advertisement war has deteriorated to such an extent that a large number of advertisements are giving misleading information. There is no check on the contents of the advertisements. If any consumer wants to approach the advertiser they simply do not know whom to approach. If by luck the right person is located then he either ignores the query or gives some information which further misleads the consumer.

Should such misleading advertisements be allowed?

Is there any agency which overseas these advertisements?

Advertising Standards Council of India is a self regulatory voluntary organization of the advertising industry. The Role and Functioning of the ASCI & its CCC in dealing with Complaints received from Consumers and Industry, against Advertisements which are considered as False, Misleading, Indecent, Illegal, leading to Unsafe practices, or Unfair to competition, and consequently in contravention of the ASCI Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising.

Protect yourself against such misleading advertisements.

Ethics in laboratory medicine

"Ethics in laboratory medicine" is the title of an Annexure given in ISO 15189: 2003 - an international standard published by ISO for Medical Laboratories - Particular Requirements for Quality and Competence. This informative requirement is the special feature of this standard. It is expected that medical laboratories shall adopt ethical practices in their working, shall not engage in practices restricted by law and shall uphold the reputation of their profession.

Need for following this standard by Indian medical laboratories has been felt for long. It has now been underscored by a series of three articles in a major newspaper of India (Times of India of November 21 & 22, 2005) - "Footpath lab, sick report: Health hazard in test tube";
"A booming Cottage Industry"; "Short on quality, high on risk, some path labs make you sick".

The general principle of health care ethics is that the patient's welfare is paramount. The Annexure points out that the professional personnel of a medical laboratory are bound by the ethical codes of their respective profession. The laboratory should treat all patients fairly and without discrimination, and not simply as a source of income.

Laboratory should maintain transparency in various activities performed by it which include collection of information, collection of primary samples, performance of examination, reporting of results, storage and retention of medical records and providing access to them, use of samples for examination purposes other than those requested, financial arrangements etc. This transparency, no doubt, should not infringe on the right of an individual patient to confidentiality of any information related to him. An unholy nexus is existing between medical laboratories with doctors who send them patients for a commission. This is highly unethical and should be avoided.

Doctors should refer their patients to those laboratories only which have a sound quality & competence management system in place. This system should meet or exceed the requirements of ISO 15189: 2003. Patients, on their part, should insist that their doctors refer them to only such a laboratory.

Be careful while buying medicines

When I was studying in Allahabad, a chemist in Civil Lines market had written in big letters on the gate of his shop - We pray to God that you never need medicine but if you need it then purchase it only from us”. At that time I and my friends took it as a good joke but now I realize that a wonderful sentiment and concern for people was contained in the message. This ad had remained in my memory till now. Recently I came across an ad issued by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Department of Consumer Affairs. The ad has been inserted in popular daily newspapers about consumer protection and what precautions one should take while purchasing medicine.

The ad shows a picture where a consumer is saying to the shopkeeper at a chemist shop – “Got you, didn’t I !?” The shopkeeper is shown with folded hands with a paper in his hands. Perhaps he is feeling sorry, perhaps he is not. There is a line printed at the bottom of the picture – “Expiry date means there is no life after death”. Rather a grim reminder, don’t you agree?

How many of you have not noticed this ad? How many of you have noticed and read it? How many of you read it and felt concerned? How many of you have decided that in future you will be more careful while purchasing medicines? Being careful means what? Let us review this. I will also like to share with you my experience I had gained while designing, implementing and auditing of Quality System in pharmaceutical companies.

First of all Ad says, “your awareness is your protection”. How right it is? To protect yourself you must be aware. You must have the right information.

BE CAREFUL WHILE MAKING PURCHASES - Never purchase medicine without prescription of a registered medical practitioner. Buy it only from a reliable shop. In case of any doubt you must immediately consult your doctor who had prescribed the medicine. Sometimes chemists suggest another make saying that it is the same medicine manufactured by another company under a different name. Don’t assume or presume things while buying and taking medicines.

INSIST ON A CASH-MEMO - Don’t pay more than the mentioned M. R. P. You must also ensure that purchase of medicine is legal, and the best way for making a purchase legal is to take a cash-memo. You may need the cash-memo any time in future. Check and verify that details of medicine have been properly recorded on the cash-memo, such as, name of the medicine, manufacturer’s name or brand, potency, tablet-syrup-powder, batch No., date of expiry, name of doctor, name of patient.

Now let me tell you what precautions should be taken for manufacturing medicine. Manufacture and distribution of medicines is regulated under the provisions of Drugs & Cosmetics Act, Rules and various Notifications issued from time to time by the Government. Under this Act a manufacturer has to obtain a license from Drug Controller of respective State or Union Territory. Without this license no body can manufacture and distribute any medicine. The Manufacturing and Quality Control Chemists appointed by the manufacture are approved by the Drug Controller and their names are mentioned in the license. The chemist who is selling the medicine is also required to obtain such license. You may ask the chemist to show you the copy of the license. These licenses are renewed at regular intervals and should be valid on the day of manufacture and sale.

Manufacturers are required to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as notified in the Act while manufacturing medicines. These GMP cover the building (clean and free from any source of contamination) , the machinery, the quality control instruments, the people (should be free from disease and practice personal hygiene), purchases (only approved materials), production (clean environment to prevent any contamination), packing, distribution, in short controlling everything which may contaminate the medicine. The Act also provides for immediate recall from market of all such medicines, which may have some quality defect.

Some medicines may require specially controlled environment for storage. Such as, low temperature. Such medicines should be kept in freezers or refrigerators pending sale and consumption. In case of such medicines special instructions are given on the strip containing tablets, bottle containing syrup and any printed material packed with the medicine. Check, verify and follow for storing and consuming such medicines.

So friends, be very careful while purchasing medicine. Also take them as per instructions printed on the label and as advised by the doctor. Remember you are not eating the medicine for fun. It is as per the necessity to cure. A spurious medicine or a good medicine but taken in a wrong manner may prove harmful.

In the end I repeat the message of my university days – I pray to God that you never need medicine but if you need it then purchase it only from a reliable chemist”.

How safe is food served on trains and other Indian Railway premises !!!

Passengers consume various food items during their journey by Indian Railways. Many passengers carry with them food items prepared at home and consume them during the journey. Then there are vendors and food stalls/plazas approved by railways who supply food items on platforms and also on trains. Food items are also served in refreshment rooms on platforms.

On many trains food items are served by pantry car. There are also a large number of unapproved vendors serving food items on platforms and on the trains. Then are the food items served by Indian Railways Catering Organization. One such organization is Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) which is a public sector company set up and fully owned by the Ministry of Railways. IRCTC runs catering services through their own employees and also through contractors.

If you ask passengers about the quality of food served and manner of serving during their journey you will find a mixed response. Some will have complaints to make and some will express general satisfaction. All these responses are based on their perception about food, its taste, amnner of serving, and whether they fell ill or not after eating the food. Most of the passengers in India will also say that once you are in journey you can not expect home like food.

Hardly you will find a passenger who had examined the issue from quality and safety point of view. I accept that for a long time I also used to think like this. But due to my current profession of providing training and consultancy on management systems including food safety management systems, I have gained a large experience on this aspect of quality and safety of food. Through this review I wish to share my experience with the people.

If you visit the Website of IRCTC, you will only find material related to booking of tickets and a horde of advertisements. No direct reference is available about catering although the name of the organization has the word catering. At the bottom of Home Page you will find a toolbar giving three links. is the official Website of Indian railways. It also does not provide any information on catering. Then there is a link to ?Air Tickets to India?. In the middle you will find the link to ?Other IRCTC activities?.

When you click on this, you will see a list of these other activities. One out of these is ?Empanelment for on board catering in Trains, Management of Food Plazas and Refreshment Rooms over Indian Railways?. Click on this and you will see an advertisement ?A Grand Business Opportunity? stating terms and conditions for empanelment. One of these conditions is ? ?In addition, the organization must have strict quality control mechanism with mandatory external food quality and hygiene audit comparable with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) or equivalent Good Industry Practices.? Friends this is the result of my extensive search ? the only reference I could find on Indian Railway Websites on food safety.

Now let me talk something about this food safety. Food safety management systems are based on the concept of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). In simple language we can describe it as ?ugaane se khaane tak? or in English as ?from field to dining table?. In other words under this system quality and safety of food is ensured at every stage of procurement of raw materials, production, packing, transportation, storage and consumption.

This is ensured through systems of various practices, such as, Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Laboratory Practices, Good Hygienic Practices. Safety means preventing any form of contamination in food ? Physical, Chemical, Microbiological. If you remember incidents of finding pesticides in packaged drinking water and other cold drinks ? it was chemical contamination. In case of living organisms found in Cadbury chocolates- it was microbiological contamination.

During my recent trip to Chandigarh on Shatabdi Express I noticed that the paper placed in the food tray had this matter printed on it ? ?Indian Railway?s First ISO 9001: 2000 & HACCP Certified Catering Organization?. Paper packets containing spoon, fork, knife, and tea kit were also printed with this statement. It was a pleasant surprise for me. It is a matter of pride for any Indian that Indian Railways are giving so much importance to safety of food being served to passengers on the train. It has also aroused my interest, as it is not an easy job to Implement ISO 9001and HACCP on a running train.

The first thing I wanted to know was the name of the agency, which has audited the systems and certified them to ISO 9001and HACCP standards. I tried my level best but could not learn the name of that organization. Waiters belong to a contractor?s organization and were not aware of what ISO 9001and HACCP mean. So was the case with train executives.

The manner of serving food was also not of required standards. It has killed my joy. I wanted to find out more. I sent e-mail to IRCTC but received no reply. I searched the Websites and found only a passing reference to food safety.

All this has created a doubt in my mind about the credibility of this claim of Indian Railways, being first ISO 9001:2000 and HACCP certified organization, and also the quality and safety of food. There are so many items served, tea, sugar, milk powder, samosa, biscuits, toffees, butter, jam, tomato ketchup, cooked vegetables, dal, rice, soup, roti. All these items are supplied by different organizations.

How their quality and safety are ensured. Also how the personal hygiene is ensured when people are not aware of the system. I do not want to spoil pleasure of eating in Shatabdi Express but this is the situation I thought I should share with you.

I am still searching and any information if found I will share with you. In the meantime, carry your own food even if the charge of food served in Shatabdi Express is included in your ticket.

How safe is packaged drinking water !!!

Water is essential for human survival. Humans use water for satisfying their various needs, such as, bathing and washing, cooking food, drinking etc in addition to various industrial and other applications. Water for drinking is available from various sources. With increasing industrial activities and also changing life styles, humans themselves have posed a danger to drinking water quality and its fitness for safe human consumption. Like any other commodity water is also now being sold. Government sells water under public water supply system. Drinking water is being sold by both public and private sector industries in packaged form. Water so supplied is required to conform to pre-decided standards of quality. India’s national standards body, Bureau of Indian Standards has established national standards for drinking water.

Consumption of packaged water for drinking purposes has been increasing considerably in India. Packaged water supplied for drinking purposes should be produced, packaged and marketed in a manner to ensure its safety for human consumption. Microbiological, physical and chemical safety of the water should be guaranteed to the extent expected. It should be ensured that packaged water offered for sale in the market is safe and free from harmful organisms.

Bureau of Indian Standards have published following Indian Standards for drinking water:
a) IS 10500 – Drinking water (from any water source including public drinking water supply systems),
b) IS 13428 – Packaged natural mineral water,
c) IS 14543 – Packaged Drinking water (Other than packaged natural mineral water).

These standards prescribe microbiological requirements, organoleptic & physical parameters, limits of undesirable substances, radio-active and pesticide residues. Standards also specify hygienic practices to be adopted for collection of raw water, processing, handling, packaging and marketing.

Packaging of water should be done in clean, hygienic, colourless, transparent and temper proof plastic/glass bottles/containers suitable for preventing possible adulteration and contamination of water. Plastic used for making plastic bottles/containers should be of food grade quality.

Bottles/containers should be marked with information about name of product, name & address of processor, brand name, batch or code number, date of processing, treat of disinfection, best for consumption date, net volume, direction for storage and any other marking(s) required by Weights & Measures Standards, Packaged Commodity Rules and provisions of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act & Rules.

Considering that above safety aspects should be ensured in the interest of public safety, Government has regulated manufacture, packaging and marketing of packaged drinking water through a quality control order. Under this order Packaged Natural Mineral Water and Packaged Drinking Water should meet all requirements of IS 13428 and IS 14543 respectively. In addition bottles/containers containing water should bear ISI Mark. Any violation of this quality control order attracts a fine of Rs. 50000 and imprisonment of six months. Provisions of this order apply equally on the processing and packaging unit, distributor, stockiest and retailer.

ISI marking on any bottle/container of drinking water provides an assurance by Bureau of Indian standards that water meets the requirements of specified Indian Standard and is safe and free from harmful organisms.