Can we add revenue and improve traffic?

As per website of Bangalore Traffic Police there are around 336 junctions across Bangalore City. I am assuming among these atleast 200 would have signal. Let’s also assume that each of these works only between 9 AM in the morning until 9PM in the night which is 12 hours in a day. Now in order to make calculations easier, the signals are set for 120 seconds and each of these signals are four ways.

On an average during these 120 seconds × 4 atleast 2 cars and 10 bikes violate traffic norms and this continues until 3 months.

Assuming 100 rupees for bikes and 200 rupees for cars/autorickshaws/buses for violating traffic rules. Repeat offences will see doubling of fines for every time (not included in calculations).

Simple maths says every 8 minutes at every signal INR 1200 will be earned. Now in 12 hours this will become INR 1,08,000.  Since people are so used to violating traffic norms I am assuming atleast this revenue would work for 3 months. Hence in 90 days each traffic signal would earn INR 97,20,000

Approximating this to be INR 1 Crore, with 200 traffic signals this number would work out to be INR 200 crores.

Every time I see a person violating a traffic  I see revenue lost. With this revenue better facilities for automatic traffic violation and detection should be implemented.

With so much of time getting wasted in traffic in cities all across India it is very important to ensure that people don’t commit traffic violations and escape. There needs to actual zero tolerance.

I know we need manpower to do this, internships should be given to young graduates in all discipline and no fine should be taken in cash. All transaction should be made digital either by cards, wallets or violation account maintained based on Aadhar numbers that can settled online.

I know this will create a lot of problems all across the city but this is for public good and hopefully brings in change maddening traffic.

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Toll Problem with Uber: Personal Experience

On 8th of Feb 2017, I got down at the Bangalore International Airport (KIAL) and booked a Cab with Uber. It was late at night and by the time I collected all may bags and confirmed the ride it was already beyond 11:30 PM. There were few changes at the airport due to construction of Rapid Exit Taxiways from Feb 19th to April 30th. App based pickup locations had changed and looks like there isn’t any parking left for them and they need to be hovering around near the toll plaza until they get a ride. The distance between toll plaza and parking at KIAL is about 6KM and the riders need to wait depending on traffic situation.

The Uber driver started a chat and started talking about two days strike by the Uber drivers. He said after the strike it has been decided the toll needs to paid by the rider from now onward. I was already skeptical about what he was claiming and asked him that Uber has toll charges included in the fare itself. Uber help clearly states the following

uber_help
Uber Help Snapshot

But the driver was adamant on me paying the toll and he was not moving the car out of toll plaza. I saw that the traffic was building up. I reluctantly gave him money for the toll. Since I was not happy he took 80 rupees and returned 20 back, not sure why. The toll is 120 for cars. I felt cheated and was trying to convince him that I don’t need to pay toll additionally. He agreed that if toll is listed on his receipt he would return my money.

uber_receipt
Uber Receipt

So at the end of the trip, I showed my receipt which had the toll charges were included.

The driver was trying to understand what I told or rather knew that whatever I was saying was correct. According to him all other riders have been giving him toll in cash and he showed his receipt where there was no toll included. It was already 1 AM and I decided let him have the toll money that I had given. I raised an issue on Twitter as well on the App and here is what Uber had to say which means that I was correct.

uber_message
Uber Message on my complaint

Hopefully I will get the refund but it was a hassle. Its not about 125 rupees. It is about what is right. I like using Uber or any other app based taxi services because they are transparent and upfront with the fares. They were able to control the behavior of drivers through technology but in India there needs some more effort.

Lets not fall into the demand of driver just because he can be more rash than you. Atleast we can stand so that Uber can rein in the unruly drivers. Hope this experience help someone else facing a similar situation. I know this isn’t something really big but necessary for the transparent system to work

Demonetization: A Chance to learn new things

It was night on 8th of November and as usual I had switched to DD NEWS to get my daily dose of news. For couple of years I have stopped watching any other NEWS channel due high intensity noise that raises anxiety levels in me. DD NEWS has its own problem being forced to highlight government moves as well air NEWS related to Information & Broadcasting Minister who these days is Venkaiah Naidu, even when related NEWS are not of that importance. But anyways let me not digress and to my surprise I saw Mr. Modi addressing the nation live. I did not believe initially when heard that from Midnight of 8th November 500/1000 denomination of notes would not remain valid.

Now this was something of a radical move for our generation as we had never heard of steps like that. Later I realized it has happened in India earlier once in 1946 and another time in 1978. The effects of this move  on the economy, on reduction in corruption, terrorism funding, real estate and so many other things is a moot point. I think its better to wait and see how all this pans out in coming future.

But there is one thing for sure, there is a chance to learn new things for everyone. I am sure there are many views that the poor uneducated people in our country who will face lot of difficulties and there is no denying of that fact. In today’s world lot of people are not comfortable with online buying, e-wallets, online banking and so many such things that can make their life easy.

Here I would like to write about United Payment Interface (UPI) which I understand can be a revolutionary in taking mobile banking to another level. National Payment Commision of India an umbrella organization for all retail payments system in India setup under guidance of RBI and IBA.

UPI is an interface which allows users to transfer money instantly from their bank account to anyone else’s bank account without worrying about which banking company the account is held.

In a laymen terms it is like creating an e-mail address first which is done by installing any of UPI apps on the App Store. Once you have a valid e-mail address you can send e-mail to anyone without worrying about if account is with Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or any other e-mail.

When one installs a UPI app of any bank, one is assigned with Virtual Payment Address (VPA) which is more like e-mail address. Once you are logged into app, it can add bank accounts based on mobile number that is attached to the Bank Account automatically. In order to do transaction user needs to create a MPIN which can be done through the App itself. With MPIN created the money can be transferred to one bank account to another though the App using the MPIN directly. Money can be transferred based on VPA or mobile number but one needs to make sure that the user with the mobile number has any UPI app installed. Also if multiple accounts are mapped to the same mobile number the first account which is added on the app is used by default to credit money back into account.

UPI transaction happens directly to account and hence your money doesn’t get stuck in various e-wallets. Currently UPI transactions are not getting charged but eventually it will incur charges similar to IMPS transaction which around Rs 5 per transaction.

UPI is a neat idea and is backed by NPCI which is a Government of India body with full support of RBI. As far as security is concerned I believe it is no worse than any other existing wallet. The transaction are controlled by MPIN and as soon as it happens you get a SMS/e-mail regarding the transaction, so any security breach can be identified and transaction blocked

Current limits on transaction are  1 lakh limit per day. 20 transactions max in a day.

I have used PhonePe App and it has worked well for me. If you  install the app do the first transaction you make Rs 50. So go ahead and use UPI. With less Marketing Budget than PayTM, UPI was not able to get Modi Ji on front page of TOI but hoping word of mouth creates enough traction for it

Featured Image attributed to: By National Payments Corporation of India – http://www.nearex.com/first-impressions-of-upi-as-an-user, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52097360

Purging of Black Money hits real Estate Hard

The real estate prices are bound to go down if the black money is sucked out of the system which may be good news for all the people looking to buy their dream house. Imagine a situation that people don’t have black money to buy flats after flats and with excess capacity already in the real estate, it may be the best time to get your hands dirty and keep your research going on. There may not be a better time for people wanting to invest their hard earned white money to get their dream home.

The litmus test of demonetization is going to be its affect on real estate prices. There are many in the country today supporting the move and many against the move but something at this scale can be only analysed by its after effects.

It is popular belief that there are two things that have the so called “black money” invested mostly in real estate including land, flats, villas or any office buildings and the aurous metal called “Gold”. In this article I would concentrate on Real Estate.

Demonetization of 500/1000 currency notes is going to affect individuals who have unaccounted money in these denominations stashed somewhere in the homes or safes. Since at the face of it, it looks like there was not a lot of opportunity for such people to take that money and do something about it and hence it cannot be used to buy stuff unless the sellers accept such money. For something like real estate where money involved is much larger than gold so that possibility is there but I believe builders will not be able to do something of that sort.

If all this is true, then in coming times the price of real estate is bound to go down as buyers would not have excess cash lying to be invested. Any home buyers or investor of real estate should wait and watch as to what is going to happen the prices. In the real estate industry price changes take time, so delaying the process of buying the home for about 6 months looks to be a good bet.

The correction in prices of already inflated property prices is going to be the criteria for passing the litmus test.

Hopefully it takes time to generate black money afresh and probably it may have gestation period of 1 to 2 years depending on the efficiency of the system(which I am sure is very efficient). Until the point when the coffers are again filled with loose cash , all buyers with white money can look for better deals and once in a lifetime opportunity.

If  this does not happen then the assumption of black money stashed and its role in real estate may have to be looked upon again. All this pain that the country is going through, all this enthusiasm in the middle class and all the 16.5 billion 500 rupees and 6.5 billion 1000 rupees that are getting culled will go waste 🙂

PS: I don’t like classification of Black and White. It is really racism of sorts where we treat ill gotten money as “black” and hard earned money “white”. We should find better terms for these .. whatsay 🙂

Not So Amazing Experience at Wagah Border

Recently I visited Wagah Border which is most famous point on the border between India and Pakistan and there is definitely a scope of making things much better than how it is being handled currently. This is my experience and probable things that can be planned in order to make it a pleasant experience for everyone.

According to the limited historical reference this Beating Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah boarder started in 1959 and is conducted every day  by the Border Security Forces in India and Pakistani Rangers in Pakistan. I am sure everyone would have seen this on TV and I am not going to explain the ceremony per se but share my experience of my visit.

“VIP culture”  – India is infamous for VIP culture and it is more than evident on the Wagah border. It seems that if you know someone in Defense or Border Security Force your name can get listed in the elite list that is created daily and then you can just jump the whole line of “commoners”, get the parking closest to the gate and get picked by the small electrical vans running and also get an entry into the auditorium without much of fuss.

Someone like me who has come all the way from Bangalore to have a glimpse of the ceremony could not even see it. I reached there around 3:30 PM and since I did not get the VIP pass, I was on the line of commoners which had quite a huge rush. The number of BSF personnel maintaining the lines were very few and there was no way they could handle such a crowd. After standing in the queue for more than an hour we reached at the auditorium gate which was already closed. There was a small gate on the back side where it seems they were allowing some people. Seeing that many started running towards it and since it was such a small gate that there was a stampede like situation already. We somehow came out of it and then spent rest of time looking at the  single LCD screen which off course isn’t that great.

“Lack of Support Staff” – I know BSF has no business of helping the touristy interests on the citizens and they have more important roles to play. But Wagah has become a tourist point now and anyone coming down to see Golden Temple which is a must while visiting Amritsar will definitely visit Wagah. As many people come from all over India to see Wagah border, they are aware that it is once in a lifetime experience and they want to get into the viewing area and this creates a stampede like situation which BSF personnel are  not equipped to handle.

“Suggestions for improvements”

  • Remove any VIP allocation of the seats in the viewing area. Make all the facilities available for everyone visiting the place rather than create differentiation based on acquaintance with defense personnel. Stop the so called “elite list”
  • Constitute an entity that will take care of such tourist destinations like Wagah within BSF
  • Create online ticketing provided by IRCTC or anybody else so that the seats will be allocated beforehand and tourist will not create stampede like situation and coordinating agency can prepare to handle the crowd. A fixed amount of people can go inside and rest can see if from the outside knowing that they will not be allowed.
  • Create better lounges and standing areas with shade from the sun as it does got very hot in these areas
  • Donations for government schemes and merchandise can be sold at the site making the entity self sustainable

I have seen that people have a patriotic feeling which can be enhanced greatly by giving a streamlined experience rather than what I have seen this time. Hopefully this can be piloted in Wagah and then moved to other border areas like Nathula Pass, Rohtang Pass and other places which are sensitive areas but there has been tourist influx.

 

Passport Reissue -> Here is firsthand experience

I still remember the struggle of getting my first passport. I had applied seeing few of my friends in the final year of college and time it took I had already passed out and was not there to collect it. Eventually my dad tried with some of his friends as one had to go to Guwahati in order to collect. Somehow that didn’t work out and Guwahati Passport office suggested that the passport can be sent over to Bangalore, where I had moved, and can be collected there. I will tell you this small problem became a ordeal which lasted more than 6 months. Unaware of the process, just to handover the passport that has been issued to me by Guwahati Passport Office where the police verification was already done, Bangalore Passport Office again wanted a police verification. And this led to multiple issues and so many visits to Police station and Passport office that I was really sad with the whole process. My police verification file was misplaced which I could figure out only by getting someone who knew people in Commissioner’s office (fortunately my elder brother knew someone who knew someone in Commissioner’s office) and it was re-initiated. After so much of hassle I got my passport and it took couple of years to get it.

That was year 2006 and I will fast forward to 2016 and my passport was up for renewal and this write-up gives you all that you need to know about the present process which is far more streamlined and cannot be compared to anything that we had in those days. So this is my experience in Bangalore during the month of Feb 2016.

The process now starts online by registering on this link. This maybe a little difficult task for people who are not computer literate which can be the case for many but hopefully there is a helpdesk setup for such people or volunteers can be encouraged to help them out. Possibly the agents that used to be earlier can take part in such case and still make some money by helping people as now there job is in trouble.

http://www.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/welcomeLink

The application can be filled online or by downloading a pdf file where all the details needs to be included. You also need to choose as Normal or Tatkaal Passport application. The application fees of 1500 rupees needs to paid online and in case you are applying for tatkaal another 2000 rupees needs to paid at the Passport Seva Kendra. Please make sure if you want a Tatkal application, choose a Tatkal appointment slot only. It so happened that I had applied in Tatkal but somehow was not getting a Tatkal appointment and hence took a normal one and because of that I had to do some extra rounds that was not required if I had not done that. There will be an option to enable SMS on the application for which you need to pay 40 rupees, please make sure you do that,it is very helpful as you get SMS updates for all major things.

A day before your appointment you will get a SMS on your registered number.

Appointment_Confirmation
SMS Reminding Appointment

Once online appointment is booked come at your alloted time, probably 15 minutes early should be fine otherwise you will not be allowed to enter. The first step at Passport Seva Kendra is to take a Token for which there may be queue. There are 4-5 counters in PSK on the outer ring road in Bangalore, one reserved for elderly, disabled and families with young kids and there is one reserved for Tatkal applicants. The person there would check for all your documents and filled application printout and would suggest to get any photo copies required and they have a copier machine inside the office which has normal charges. Once you have all the documentation according to their requirement you will be given a token number after which you can proceed to inner chambers where further processing will happen.

There are three counters that normally you will have to go through each one doing some checks, accepting fees for SMS and for Tatkaal applications. Once you enrol for SMS services you should get another SMS

SMS_Confirmation
SMS Services Enabled

The first counter will scan your documents for address proof and all relevant documentation. Ideally you should take as much documentation as possible Aadhar card with current address (you can update the address online by uploading a self attested proof on UIDAI website), company letter, phone bills attested copies by Airtel or any other  (if you have stayed one year in that place this can be given as a proof for that), signed and sealed bank statement and passbook (one year statement if it has the current address) , LPG gas card and relevant documentation. Take all documentation that has current address mentioned. If you have not completed 1 year at the current address then you may have to go through multiple police verification on all the locations that you have lived in last one year. Its the first counter where you need to pay the Tatkaal fees as well but the decision to give you Tatkaal passport is based on the officials. The second counter is where they take your bio-metrics and if you are giving Aadhar it actually queries the Aadhar database and matches your bio-metrics and if successfully authenticated  you will get an e-mail. Probably a day will come when Aadhar database and Crime Database can be integrated and police verification can be made easy. Here is the mail that I got instantly

 

Aadhar_Auth.JPG
Aadhar Biometrics Authentication Mail

On the third counter your files will be verified again and will be kept by the official. Existing passport will be cancelled. Once this is done your process is completed and you can go out. At the exit there is a feedback collected and receipt of your application handed. Once this done you should get another SMS giving the final status of your file. For me they had given Post Police Verification which mean Passport will be issued first and then police verification will be done. There can Pre Police Verification or no police verification based on your application

Application_Granted.PNG
Final Status SMS

Here are some SMS that you should receive giving the status

Other_SMS

Within a weeks time if Police Verification needs to done you should get a message like this Police

For me it was HSR layout Police Station and I got this message two times. First time I went met the officer and filled up the required forms. When I got the message again I went to meet him again and he said that application has come back for my previous travel details and he reconfirmed with the the travel. I had to go there couple of times and there was bribe or money involved. I was expecting someone to come down to my flat but I never heard back from them but I received this message which I hope completes the processVerification

Meanwhile I received my Passport within a weeks time of my appointment and I did get another message

Ship

All in all I am satisfied by the process and it has been streamlined to a great extent. This is good way of implementing IT in government services for citizens. My only worry is what about people who are not comfortable with computers and online. I believe there is an opportunity to start a helpdesk which takes a fees and help everyone who is looking for a support.

In snapshot

Time Taken at PSK –> 3 hours 30 minutes (12:15 PM to 3:45 PM)

Number of Police Station Visits –> 2

Bride Paid –> Zero (Post man did ask for some “Baksish” and I gave him Rs. 50)

Hope this helps anyone else and not get into Agents as it can be easily “Do It Yourself” stuff.

 

 

The Other India: Story of Post Office Visit

In the year of 2010 I followed footsteps of one of colleague and took a National Savings Certificate popularly known as NSC and it is one the tax saving instruments and as far as I know it is sold by the Post Offices all over India. According the official website of Postal Department and here is copy of that

” India has the largest Postal Network in the world with over 1, 54,882 Post Offices (as on 31.03.2014) of which 1, 39,182 (89.86%) are in the rural areas. At the time of independence, there were 23,344 Post Offices, which were primarily in urban areas. Thus, the network has registered a seven-fold growth since Independence, with the focus of this expansion primarily in rural areas. On an average, a Post Office serves an area of 21.22 Sq. Km and a population of 8221 people”

The reach of Post Office is amazing and its really commendable to see how it caters for complete spectrum of Indian population. Normally whenever I go to a government institution I make sure I am never short of patience. I would like to reiterate that there is nothing that is going to help other than your patience. So it was a Saturday morning and I decided to cycle that morning from my place which is in HSR to Post Office in IIMB which is round about 8KM. Its been a while I have cycled so directly went to the petrol bunk for getting right amount of air in the tires. I always make sure that I pay to the guy there as much as Bike or Car guy so that he never refuses to pump. Taking cycle to petrol bunk is kind of antithesis.

Nonetheless I started my ride and it was all fine. I usually try to find some tree or some post to lock my cycle. I could convince a security guy there to at least lock my cycle to a rod which was on the pavement. It was about 10:30 in the morning and as expected there was huge rush and unfortunately for us there were three guys in the front of the line with reams of NSC  and there was only one counter with probably a new guy who had to literally struggle with all of the NSC by entering into the system and cross verifying and the line wasn’t moving at all. It was already 11:30 and the line has moved only by one due to the guy having some issues with the NSC  maturity and he was called inside to resolve directly with the post master who was a nice elderly lady.

Incidentally there was another counter that was dealing only with Speed posts, Registered Letters and all that kind of stuff. The lady on that counter was saying that normally on other days there are no people at all and see today there are so much of rush and her tone was more of cursing the people. Probably she may be right that “Finacle” software was available only on one counter and even after request from people she couldn’t help the other guy. The guy on the banking counter was probably from north and newly posted into this post office. So he was having lot of difficulty dealing with both outside and inside people and also with the language.

Though slowly but people started to lose patience as the queue wasn’t moving at all. And as usual you start to see murmur growing in the room. There were quite old people in the line standing probably to withdraw money from the pension account. There was one really old guy who was made to stand for so long probably drawing a sum of 500. In our country the  dignity for the elderly is missing though he was allowed by other people to jump the line and reach at the top but even then it took a long time. There was a lady who started advocating for the old guy but then there was young chap who was sure that he was in the line as well and can’t wait anymore. Both of them were right from their standpoint . That lady and the young guy were  fighting for sometime but no one backed off. None of the Post Office people intervened and they kept doing their work like nothing has happened. Then there were lots of people who were just talking so that they can kill time. Now there was a lady probably in her early thirties and this crazy guy behind me started asking that lady ” Have you come to collect pension” to which lady replied “Do I look so old” and this eased the atmosphere as everyone started laughing.

Post Offices are must in our country because banks don’t have reach like them and I feel people who belong to lower middle class feel more comfortable doing banking with them.

So finally my number came and since I had only one NSC of 10K I requested them to give me cash rather than a Cheque for which I need to come again and be in a similar line which I would have not liked. I was fortunate enough that they could give me cash.

Anyways here is what you need to take care while encashing your NSC

  • The easiest way to encash NSC is to go to the same Post Office from where you took otherwise there is a procedure of transfer and it will take lot of time.
  • NSCs  have a maturity date and after that you can go any time and collect you money. If it bigger amount then you may have to make two rounds of Post Office, once to submit your request and then to collect the cheque
  • NSC itself is tax free but the interest has tax implication and you have to pay tax on the final year interest if you have been declaring the accrued interest and claiming deduction under Section 80C

I think it is too much of hassle of getting a NSC and then encashing it after 6 years. If you remain in the same city it can be easy otherwise it may be little more tricky. If you have a good friend who will take pain to going to Post Offices and stand in the queue then probably with an undertaking your work can get done.

Hopefully in future Post Offices learn and be little customer oriented towards the older citizens who are either drawing their pensions or having Savings Bank Account. I really feel Post Offices are doing a good job of financial inclusion and have been able break into lower sections of the society which Banks have not been able to due to reach or due to hassle of servicing huge customer base with limited benefits.

That day it took me almost five hours getting this job done which includes my cycle ride. You can reduce it by probably two hours if you go by some motorized travel options 🙂