Apropos “Relevance of Naya Daur” by Sudhirendar Sharma, Mint, 7 August, there is no doubt that the theme of Naya Daur is evergreen and relevant even today. The nature of tools and the type of characters might have changed, but the issue remains the same—the dignity of man. The new mantra “SEZs” are going to be Special Exploitation Zones, a play zone for the super rich. Today, the government itself is killing public assets for the benefit of a chosen few. Have we realized that ONGC, once a top public sector company, is unable to do anything worthwhile today? How did the Andhra Pradesh oilfields go to a private company instead of being explored by ONGC? What is happening to BSNL? Today, the fight is between the selfish interests of the politicians and the hapless citizens. God bless the country.
The proposal by the US and the UK to give a more vibrant role to the United Nations, to resolve issues in Iraq, is the most sensible step ever, since the war commenced four years ago. In fact, ideally the US and the UK should not have entered Iraq, without a sanctioning UN resolution.
Now, the UN should engage with all the warring factions and the first priority should be to persuade a ceasefire, so that the daily killing of innocent human beings ceases. The UN should actively engage in humanitarian relief to ensure the supply of water, food, and electricity.
The latest Oxfam report indicates that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished, 15% Iraqis can’t afford food, 70% don’t have clean drinking water, two million have fled the country and two million are displaced within Iraq, 43% live in absolute poverty and 60% are cut off from the state-run public distribution system. What a mess the world has made of an elegant country.
There are some reservations about the objectivity of the UN as an international tribunal, due to the strong influence of the US and the European countries, as they are the principal funders. But there is also a general assembly of all countries, and the interests of the third world countries are represented, to an extent, even if they have no veto powers. Besides, many of the UN’s secretaries general have been from Asia and Africa, so the poor and the powerless are also heard.
It is time for the UN to step in to rebuild Iraq.
—Rajendra K. Aneja
I refer to “How no-frills accounts spread the banking habit” by Shailaja and Manoj K. Singh, Mint, 30 July. Opening and operating a no-frills account does not seem so real simple in practice. I speak from the experience of my NGO colleagues who lately approached banks in Gujarat for opening such accounts for their rural and semi-urban clients. While none of the banks had any shareable and comprehensive communication material on the no-frills account (so much for “transparency”), many said they had not rolled out such a facility so far (till 31 July). Finally, one bank, more than 15km away from the office of the NGO concerned, offered to open no-frill accounts on the condition that this NGO would not only be the introducer of each account opener, but also transfer its “entire” account with them.
A no-frills account is an excellent opportunity for the banking sector and for all of us to address financial exclusion. But the product needs to be designed better, especially since the “bottom of the pyramid” is not as homogeneous as it is presumed to be. We need to debate: whether the credit limit of Rs5 lakh is appropriate for particular clients in particular areas... whether the annual credit ceiling of Rs1 lakh has any basis.
It is good for banks to sense a “bankable opportunity” in the form of mini/tiny account holders, but they should take care that their idea of a no-frills account doesn’t degrade to (what a colleague calls) a “no-service” account.
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