Saturday, 5 October 2013
My last post was about how some senior official of the UN promised all sorts of rosy future prospects for people with disability (PwD), while the ground reality that I could see in India was that several groups of optimistic people, who spent most waking moments trying to make the future better for PwD, kept running into the unyielding wall of mindless and bloody minded bureaucrats, who would not take a single decision about anything, when the buck could easily be passed elsewhere!
One such group of optimists (whose group I join in their periodic jousts with bureaucracy when I can get time away from the job I am paid to do - which is teaching post-graduate students, or trying to prove erudite theorems in my chosen area of specialisation in mathematics) had been trying for a while to tackle some of the many problems that PwD have with matters related to banking. Finally they managed to get an appointment with a senior officer (in Chennai) of the Reserve Bank of India, and the usual email went to all members of our group asking who would be willing and able to join in the hopeful expedition to RBI. It so happened that they had been given an appointment for precisely thr time when my class met, so I apologetically begged off. So finally only some three people went to see this RBI big shot, whom I will simply refer to as Mr. B (which you could think of as representing banker, bureaucrat, or any other appropriate favourite B-word of yours.
Within a couple of hours of the time of the appointment with Mr. B, one of the three crusaders dashed off the following crestfallenly drafted `minutes' of the meeting, for the consumption of all members of our group, which I reproduce verbatim but for substituting Mr. B for every occurrence of the B's name:
We provided a letter to him outlining our points and grievances, I have attached the same to this email. The minutes of the meeting are as follows:
1. With regard to the points regarding the access of banking facilities to
persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, Mr. B. stated that as it was a policy issue, it had to be dealt with at the head office level. He stated that the Regional Office had in fact sent a communication to the Head Office regarding the issue of the guardianship requirement. Smitha asked for the communication from the Regional Office to the Head Office, but Mr. B. expressed his regret that he could not share the same.
2. With regard to the compliance of Banks with the Master Circular of the RBI on Customer Service, more particularly points 9, 10 and 11 of the same, Mr. B. said that the RBI is facilitating an ongoing process of sensitization of Bank Officials to the needs of persons with disabilities. When we asked for the details of the same, we were assured that there was a process, however the details were not given to us.
3. When asked if Banks could be ordered to conduct disability audits, Mr. B. declined and said that this was not within the powers of the RBI Regional Office and such requests had to be escalated to the Head Office.
4. When asked if DRA could visit the accessible Banks and ATMs which list was provided to us by his office, Mr. B. declined and said that the RBI could not authorize any private entity to conduct audits of this nature. He said that this matter was best taken up with the Indian Banks Association, or with individual banks themselves.
5. When asked for the procedure with regard to individual complaints, Mr. B. advised us that individual complaints were best taken up with the Banks themselves through their redressal mechanism. In case that failed, the office of the Ombudsman could be approached.
6. With regard to the request to participate in sensitization programmes and for the RBI to organize consultations in association with persons with disabilities, Mr. B. said that he was not authorized to do this at the regional level and that the matter would have to be escalated to the Head Office.
By a strange coincidence, I had a brilliant and free-thinking engineer uncle whom we used to refer to as Herr B because of his love for German efficiency as contrasted with his hatred for `bloody-minded Indian bureaucrats' such as our `Mr. B.' whose breed he would have feelingly referred to as untermenschen.