Vistara take-off delayed

Vistara, the Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture, will miss its October deadline to hit the skies, as it is yet to get the mandatory Air Operators Permit (AOP) due to “some new developments” cropping up with respect to guidelines of regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The airline, in which the Tatas have 51 per cent stake in the USD 100 million joint venture, had announced in August that it expects to launch its service in October but it is “taking a little longer time” than they anticipated as it appears to have hit the DGCA wall.

Vistara CEO Phee Teik Yeoh said the airline is making “rapid progress towards operational readiness” with the acquisition of two new A320 aircrafts. “As a team we are quite focused and concentrating all our energies towards operational readiness,” he told Deccan Herald.

Asked about AOP clearance, the Vistara CEO said, “there is an approval process that every new airline needs to go through and we are also following the same process. It is however taking a little longer time than we anticipated. There have been some new developments with respect to DGCA guidelines and we are working to swiftly comply with the same.”

However, he did not elaborate on its interactions with DGCA on the AOP. In August, he had said that Vistara was in the “last lap” of the process of securing the AOP.

On Vistara’s plans for first year, he said the airline would be focusing on growing operations in metros and non-metros where there is a demand for full service airline. He also said they have not been allotted slots in Delhi airport as it is done upon the receipt of the AOP.

Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines announced the joint venture in September last year and got the NOC from Civil Aviation Ministry in April. It announced the brand name in August after applying for AOP.

Existing airlines had opposed the clearances for Vistara citing that the relaxation in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in aviation was not for new ventures. They had also approached Delhi High Court against the government nod. Low-cost carrier AirAsia, in which the Tatas are a minority venture, also faced similar opposition.

Vistara has already taken delivery of two A320 aircraft on lease besides unveiling the livery in the past one month. By 2019, it hopes to have 20 aircraft by 2019.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 29, 2014)

‘Freedom fighters may have to pay more’

Freedom fighters enjoying cheap accommodation in a government facility during a visit to the national capital have reasons to worry.

The Union Home Ministry has warned them that continued stay in Freedom Fighters House on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, which leads to Connaught Place, beyond the stipulated time may result in “complete stoppage” of pension or recovery from pension amount.

The Ministry has come up with fresh guidelines earlier this month for admission in the facility where accommodation at cheap rates is available for the freedom fighters.

The guidelines comes, as it has been felt that due to “certain incidents and instances of continuous long stay by certain freedom fighters”, there is a necessity to have certain condition for admission at the facility. The Home Ministry, however, refused to elaborate on “certain incidents” that led to the fresh directions.

Officials said overstay is causing problems as they are not able to accommodate others who reach Delhi for various.

Freedom fighters eligible for ‘Central Samman Pension’, their spouses and daughters, who are getting the pension, are eligible for stay in the Freedom Fighters’ House. However, from now on, “no permanent or long stay” will be allowed.

It said the freedom fighters could stay for a maximum of 15 days at a stretch for free while for a medical visit, they can stay up to 30 days, after which they will be charged at a higher rate.

For first 15 days, freedom fighters can stay for free but will have to pay Rs 100 per day as room rent and Rs 50 per meal for stay between 15 and 30 days.

“If they overstay beyond 30 days, they shall be charged Rs 1,000 per day and no meals shall be served,” the Ministry document said.

For spouses and daughters, the room rent is Rs 100 per day for first seven days besides Rs 50 per meal. If the stay is beyond a week, they will be charged a room rent of Rs 2,000 per day and no meals will be served.

For other invitees, the room rent will be Rs 200 per day for five days and Rs 50 per meal, “after which they will be evicted”.

However, the Ministry said the freedom fighters or their dependents can come for any work and not necessarily relating to medical treatment. “They need not submit any request through state government or any affidavit to get a booking in the Freedom Fighters’ Home,” it said.

“Any unpaid bill shall be recovered from the pension of the pensioner,” it added.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 29, 2014)

Tenure of middle-level officers may increase

Middle-level central government employees may get a chance to stay in a particular department for more time if a draft policy on rotational transfers is adopted.

An Under Secretary may get six years in place of the existing five while a Section Officer could get ten years instead of seven in a department. However, officers serving in PMO, Cabinet Secretariat, office of Solicitor General and Attorney General will be exempted under Rotational Transfer Policy.

The government has come up with a draft policy for Central Secretariat Staff (CSS) for which comments have been invited from ministries, departments and individual officers by November 7, a senior official said. The CSS provides a permanent bureaucratic set up in the Central Secretariat and its officers provide continuity.

The new draft admits that there are divergent opinions on rotational transfers with one section arguing against it saying it would result in “loss of institutional memory” besides creating work related difficulties. However, the other side of the view is that it helps avoid developing vested interests.

The government views rotational transfers help for the overall growth of an officer as he get exposed to different organisations and aspects of working of the government.

However, there are riders too. On promotion, the draft said, an officer will be posted out if he has served in the same place for a period exceeding the prescribed tenure for the promotion post. However, an officer who has not completed the prescribed tenure will also have to leave on promotion if there is no vacancy to accommodate him there.

In a gesture to officers who are on the verge of retirement, the draft policy said that they could continue in the same place even after promotion if there is an existing vacancy of the promotional post.

“If the officer is due for superannuation within six months on promotion he or she will not be transferred as in such a short period one cannot be expected to contribute usefully in another Ministry or Department,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 27, 2014)

Consumers tell more people about their bad customer service experiences : Survey

Consumers tell more people about their bad customer service experiences than good experiences, a new survey has claimed.

They also believe that company reputation is most likely to influence a consumer to try a new company, the ‘American Express Global Customer Service Barometer: India Findings’ said.

It is not that they would not talk about good experiences but nearly nine in ten or 86 per cent talk about their bad shopping experiences, with 50 per cent reporting that they talk about these experiences all of the time.

On average, consumers tell 41 people about their good experiences — it was 44 in 2012 and 32 in 2011), and 48 people about their bad experiences — 46 in 2012 and 35 in 2011.

Companies should take note that positive word-of-mouth via recommendations from friends and family is among the most likely ways to get consumers to try doing business with a new company (22 per cent) behind a company’s reputation (33 per cent), which is impacted by the service they provide.

“The highly networked Indian customer presents a phenomenal opportunity as he wields a wide sphere of ‘word of mouth’ influence and is willing to pay a premium to companies providing great service. So focusing on delivering outstanding service will ultimately help companies to grow,” Sanjay Rishi, President of American Express (South Asia), said.

The survey also showed that social media is becoming a more common channel for consumers seeking a customer service response. Seventy-one per cent of the consumers say they have utilized social media to get a customer service response, up significantly from 54 per cent in 2012.

However, consumers still prefer to call customer care for complicated services and want to talk to an executive while they prefer going online for simpler issues.

For simple inquiries, such as locating a product or checking an account balance, consumers prefer using a company website or email (18 per cent), followed by social networking site (14 per cent). But for an inquiry like returning a product or getting assistance with a product issue, 25 per cent prefer speaking with a “real” person on the phone.

“For even more difficult or complicated inquiries, one in five consumers prefer speaking with a ‘real’ person on the phone (22 per cent) or a face to face interaction (21 per cent) and 13 per cent prefer a company website or email,” the survey said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 27, 2014)

MHA makes u-turn on Aadhaar

In a complete reversal of stand, the Union Home Ministry under Rajnath Singh has favoured ‘Aadhaar’ numbers as it “eliminates” the threat of fraud and bogus activity while identifying beneficiaries of government schemes.

The Ministry’s change in mind on Aadhar comes out in identical letters written to states asking them to start enrolment process in jails to enable prisoners to get such identification numbers.

The volte-face on ‘Aadhaar’ comes months after Singh told Deccan Herald in April during election campaign that BJP would “review” the project if it comes to power at the Centre. The Home Ministry under P Chidambaram and Sushilkumar Shinde had been against Aadhaar and had preferred National Population Register (NPR).

The BJP had been critical of UPA’s flagship Aadhaar scheme and a Parliamentary Standing Committee, then headed by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, had found fault with its duplication with NPR exercise and security concerns arising out of its enrolment process.

In the letter, three out of the five paragraphs to sing paeans of the scheme while just mentioning NPR, which was once the pet project of Home Ministers, including Singh. Singh had earlier set a three-year deadline to identify genuine Indian citizens through the NPR.

While acknowledging NPR is also a national identity programme run by the government, the letter said the benefits of Aadhaar are many.

“Aadhaar can be used at multiple places to prove one’s identity very easily,” it said adding the number can be used while opening a bank account as it meets the ‘Know Your Customer’ norms as well as booking tickets online or applying for passport as it serves as identification.

Since one Aadhaar number is allotted to only one person, the letter said, it enables the capacity to verify one’s identity and it “eliminates the threat of any fraud and bogus activity”.

“Aadhaar will provide its possessor with universal identification. Aadhaar will facilitate ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’ authentication to its beneficiaries. Aadhaar will be a single source of identity verification,” it said.

Giving more details of how Aadhaar can be beneficial, the letter said that it will give migrants universal mobility of identity and the government can now provide services and facilities to people, especially in the rural areas, in a “more effective manner”.

The letter also betrayed the NDA government’s change in stand on Aadhaar as it said that more and more government services are going to be linked to Aadhaar. “It would be of utility to have an Aadhaar card,” the Ministry said.

However, the Ministry had earlier suspected the efficacy of Aadhaar, saying uniqueness of identity was not a necessary condition for ensuring authenticity of identity or records of Aadhaar numbers.

From the Letter

— Aadhaar will allow deprived and need people in accessing services like banking facilities

— Aadhaar will help poor to take benefits of facilities provided by government, which could not be accessed earlier

— Aadhaar thus become the simplest way of proving one’s identity

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 27, 2014)

Fliers numbers increases

Airlines managed to attract over 34 lakh passengers till September this year riding on a series of discount sales throughout the year even as low-cost carrier IndiGo remained on top by cornering the highest market share.

The latest statistics released by Directorate of General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently has also showed that there was an increase of over ten lakh in number of passengers in September this year compared to same month last year.
Passengers carried by domestic airlines during this year till were 491.47 lakh compared to 456.95 lakh corresponding period last year, a 7.55 per cent increase. In September alone, airlines flew 58.22 lakh passengers compared to 45.55 lakh. In August this year, 56.97 lakh passengers flew.
IndiGo, which had increased its market share to 32.8 per cent, carried the most passengers at 19.07 lakh passengers followed by SpiceJet, which flew 10.82 lakh passengers.
However, on seat occupancy SpiceJet towered above all other airlines managing to fill 85.9 per cent seats, an increase from August’s 82.5 per cent. IndiGo had 77.9 per cent seat occupancy, up from 74.8 per cent.
Air India also had an impressive increase in seat occupancy from 70.3 per cent in August to 76.7 per cent last month. Likewise, Jet Airways and its low-cost arm Jetlite also had impressive increase in passenger load factor.
“The passenger load factor in the month of September has shown increasing trend compared to previous month due to ongoing festive season,” the DGCA said.
However, the seat occupancy figures were not music to AirAsia India which became the only airline to have a decrease. Though there was an increase in number of passengers it carried as it started operations to Chandigarh and Jaipur, the seat occupancy has dipped from 73 per cent in August to 68.7 per cent last month.
On passenger complaints, the DGCA said 750 flier related complaints were received last month with Air India topping the list. Customer Service and baggage related problems were on the top of complaints.
IndiGo had the highest on-time performance as 89.9 per cent of flights reaching destinations on time.
(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 26, 2014)

Read RTI replies online

Not just the applicant but everyone can access RTI replies online from October 31.

In a bid to expand the ambit of transparency in governance, the Centre has directed all its ministries and departments to post responses to RTI applications on their website from this month-end.

As of now, only the RTI applicant seeking information from a ministry of any other office used to get the reply via post. However, the new step is expected to revolutionise the RTI system as many more get access to information despite seeking it.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has issued an official memorandum recently asked all ministries and departments to take immediate action to ensure uploading of responses to RTI applications and first appeal on their websites starting October 31.

The DoPT reminded that public authorities have an obligation to proactively disclose RTI applications and appeals received by them and their responses on their websites. The DoPT had issued guidelines in April last year in this regard.

However, it added, the RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed, if they do not serve any public interest.

The DoPT has already initiated the uploading of RTI responses through a new feature on the RTI online portal.

This feature is now being extended to other ministries and departments. For displaying the RTI applications and replies, an option is provided to Central Public Information Officers (CPIO) and First Appellate Authority (FAA) to upload these information.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 24, 2014)

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