Sucheta Dalal :Gimme the Money
Sucheta Dalal

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Gimme the Money  

January 27, 2010

While the IEPF may have done little to further the investors’ cause, almost every ministry wants to adopt the same model to grab and collect public funds into a pool that can be distributed to favoured NGOs. On 31st December, we received a letter from Binty, a Delhi-based NGO which says it has “been assigned the task of formatting a Draft Bill for recovery and consolidation of unclaimed and un-remitted money of consumers lying in waste in various commercial set up, e.g., banking, insurance, telecom, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, and state sales tax departments.” It is not clear whether the consumer affairs ministry has specifically mandated Binty to prepare a draft bill, but it apparently has 10 weeks to complete the process and was clueless about the existence of IEPF. In order to get ideas in a hurry, it has sent out letters proposing a competition for ideas with three prizes of Rs10,000, Rs7,500 and Rs5,000. It calls this a ‘competitive consultation process’ which is backed by a vague and confused background paper, which makes a case for the ministry of consumer affairs to operate the ‘proposed fund’. If the consumer affairs ministry does get Binty and other NGOs to lobby for such a fund, it is bound to create a furore among all the ministries, since they too deal with consumers and could do well to use such funds to set up official ombudsmen or some other mechanism to redress grievances and educate their consumers. The irony was that Binty wasn’t aware that even the IEPF is not allowed to retain the unclaimed funds that it has collected. The finance ministry has ensured that the money goes into the Consolidated Fund of India and the IEPF can only seek what it hopes to spend every year by submitting an advance proposal of anticipated expenditure which is also restricted by stifling red tape.

-- Sucheta Dalal