Friday, February 29, 2008

Budget 2008. Who gets what?

Highlights of the budget 2008. (Courtesy: and

  • Gross budgetary support rises to Rs 380 billion
  • Education gets 20 per cent more to Rs.344 billion from Rs 286.8 billion
  • Rural infrastructure scheme Bharat Nirman to get Rs 312.8 billion
  • Textile upgrading funding to get Rs 10.9 billion
  • National highways to get Rs 129.7 billion
  • Rs 440 million to improve infrastructure at 22 Sainik schools
  • National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to get Rs 50 billion to refinance loans
  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) to get Rs 40 billion to refinance loans
  • National Housing Bank to get Rs 12 billion
  • HIV/AIDS prevention to get Rs 9.93 billion
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission to get Rs 68.66 billion, up from Rs 54.82 billion
  • Midday meal scheme for schoolchildren to get Rs 80 billion
  • School enrolment scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to get Rs 131 billion
  • Rs 400 million for special tea fund. Similar funds to be set up for cardamom, rubber and coffee.
  • Rs 200 billion for irrigation
  • Rs 5.5 billion for minority dominated districts
  • NREGS to get Rs 160 billion, more money will be provided on need
  • Farm debt waiver scheme to cost Rs 600 billion. Loan waiver to benefit 40 million farmers. 3 crore marginal and small farmers and 1 crore other farmers to benefit. One-time settlement scheme for other farmers not covered by the waiver scheme
  • Northeast development to get Rs 14.55 billion
  • Food subsidies at Rs.326.67 billion
  • National health insurance for poor introduced. 1,000 crore provided to LIC for Aam admi bima yojana
  • Rs 800 crore to be spent on power sector reforms
  • Rs 450 crore provided for development of textile parks
  • Rs 800 crore to be spent on power sector reforms
  • Govt to set up Irrigation and Water Resources Finance Corporation with an initial capital of Rs 100 crore
  • Defence spending to rise 10 percent. From Rs9,6000 cr to Rs1,05,000 cr
  • Rs 500 crore for corpus fund to subsidise all women Self Help Groups for LIC cover for permanent disability.
  • Health spending to rise 15 per cent.

Friday, February 22, 2008

How I got refund from

It all started in September last year.

On September 7th, I booked an Indian ticket (Flight IC 940) using (Booking Ref. No.: EZR-2007-89284/A) for traveling on 12th November, from Delhi to Hyderabad. The ticket which was bought under an offer from and SBI Credit Cards cost me 3215 Rs.

On the morning of 12th November, something that I had always read about and heard happening with others, happened with me. Indian had done overboarding on their plane! Simply put they had sold more tickets than the capacity of the plane. I was shocked. This kind of thing which was always associated with low cost airlines, specially Air Deccan (now Deccan) was being done by state owned full-fledged airline. I was not alone however, there were others who were dumped even though they had purchased tickets. Passengers were shouting for information and their boarding passes and both of them were hard to come by. Indian officials were deliberately absent from the counter and one official appeared after some time only to tell us that the plane was on runway and noway we could be accommodated in this flight.

He said that Indian would accommodate us on the next flight which was after 2 hours. However I had a training to attend in Hyderabad and I didn't want to wait two more hours on the airport. I asked him for refund, which he agreed to give most willingly. He signed on my ticket and told that my money would be refunded through my travel agents (in my case I had to go to cancellation counter and get my Flight PNR No. set to status 'Denied Boarding'. Here I made a mistake which could have delayed the refund process if not jeopardize it totally; I had taken official's signature on the ticket but there was no official stamp from the airline!

And as (bad) luck would have it, that morning (which was the Monday after Diwali weekend) there was no seat available in ANY flight except SpiceJet, who were selling it more than 6000! Immediately I cursed my short tempered decision of not taking the next Indian flight. I was just going to pay the double of my flight cost. But I had no other option and had to board the SpiceJet flight. I reached Hyderabad at 11 am only to be greeted by my manager's SMS that training had been postponed to next week!

Now began my efforts of getting refund from I followed the steps mentioned on their website and sent them the scanned copy of the ticket, signed by Indian Official at the Delhi Airport at email address specified by them: (According to their rules, the ticket should have been stamped by flight official from the source airport, which my ticket was lacking. And I was afraid of this!)

I got no response from their side and mailed again at telling them the whole case and also at asking them the status of my complaint. No responses again.

I also filled the cancellation request form given on the site and got an automated reply acknowledging my request. After this a few days later I talked to their customer care person who asked me to fill the cancellation
form again (even though I told her that I have filled it and got acknowledgment also). She told that it will take 21 days to refund the money and I waited for about a month again after filling the form again. Talking to their customer care is an achievement in itself since you keep on getting message 'All out executives are busy. Please hold the call'. I held the call for 15 minutes maximum before my patience ran out. (During those days only I read a complaint in TOI, Hyderabad that he was made to hold the call for 80 minutes!!! However now this problem has reduced to great extent.)

When I got no response again I talked to the customer care and repeated whole story and was promised that I would be contacted in 48 hours by, but that did not happen. The same thing happened when I
called them up again on Friday 21/12/07. I sent them a mail again threatening of dragging them to court, but got no reply.

Finally I registered my complaint with CORE (Consumer Online Resources and Empowerment) center, telling them whole story. An endless wait started again as CORE website doesn't give you facility to track your complaint. Then on Jan 17th, a mail addressed to "The Managing Director, Ezeego1 Travels & Tours Pvt. Ltd" and copied to me appeared in my mail box.

And when I had nearly forgotten this mail, on Feb 2nd a mail came from an executive informing me about refund of the money!

Finally I had succeeded in getting my own money back.

PS: Just now I got a call from The executive had read this review and inquired if my issue got resolved and apologized for the inconvenience.

Good. But I would have liked if they were responsive when I needed them most.

Monday, February 18, 2008

No surprises in Maharashtra!

Neha wanted me to write about what is 'happening in Maharashtra'. She is surprised that a 'goonda can so easily take on a democratic nation' and feels that 'you have to pinch yourself to believe that it is actually happening'!

Frankly I didn't want to write about this because:
1) This would be playing in the hands of this frustrated political nobody called Raj Thakeray, who did not seem to have any political future till two weeks ago. His 'political' party has failed to make any dent in the vote bank of bigger parties. Even the idea of this violence is a hackneyed plot enacted so many times by Shiv Sena against South Indians, Muslims and North Indians over the years.

2) I am not surprised by any of these happenings! Across the world politicians/goons/crooks have encashed this opportunity to gain power by inciting violence against migrants, however significant their population/contribution to economy may be. E.g. Indians were the target of Idi Ameen in Uganda where they were living since many generations and had earned lot of wealth.

Many in the country however believe that it was media's coverage that gave Raj Thakeray a larger than life platform and hence a motive big enough to hold state to ransom. He was on national TV on primetime and front page of dailies across the country! The man who was nothing more than Bal Thakeray's unhappy and unsuccessful nephew was being talked about in editorials and panel discussions! Ain't that an achievement?

Though to be fair I would say that media (I am not aware of Marathi media) did not try to paint him in positive ever, but his goal was achieved and how!

Vir Sanghvi has written a quite insightful column in this week's Counterpoint (Age of Intolerance, Hindustan Times, 17th Feb, Sunday) about the that is happening daily in this country under different garbs. Be it beating North Indian workers or destroying theaters showing 'Jodha Akbar'. He himself asks questions about media adding fuel to the fire by letting these hooligans gain their five minutes of fame.

But these 'Editors' keep on asking such questions while their correspondents keep on forcing mikes in the faces of grieved and injured asking for bytes, and keep running behind every Raj and Rakhi who cares to give them something to fill the gaps between the ads on their channels.

So unless media stops this policy of running with hare and hunting with hound (by giving ample coverage to such crooks for gaining TRP and criticizing them for being self righteous), don't be surprised by such acts.

The One that Won!

This photo is of the glass dome of Cyber Towers, an I.T. Park in the busy HITEC City area of Hyderabad. Taken from the ground floor with an Olympus FE 120.

Title: Symmetry

Monday, February 04, 2008

When Red Gives Blues

This is that time of the year when I wish I could run away and hide somewhere in the caves of Afghanistan or atleast in home of Bal (or even Raj) Thackeray. Anywhere where I can get respite from the carpet bombing that's going to take place in next ten days!

During next week and half, every TV channel, newspaper, radio station and web portal is going to mock my lonely existence on this planet! Valentine’s Day is coming.

The newspapers will have articles about origin of Valentine's day and the modern trends of its celebration along with obviously cooked up financial statistics of card and gift companies. OK, you don't read those but how do you ignore all the full page mushy ads of restaurants, hotels, malls and every other business establishment which will either allow only couples or have special discounts for them!

Stories of all the TV serials will take bizarre turns to include a valentine's day celebration. And you can expect nothing else but romantic Bollywood numbers playing in the background and roses and hearts on the screen. Anyways they don't have much of a story! News channels will cover it with special 'urgency' and will telecast the 'happenings' live from across the country. Nobodies from BJP, Shiv Sena, MNS, VHP etc. will give warnings to couples and ‘perform’ vandalism in front of cameras.

Radio Stations will take on callers and air their stupid romantic messages and play their dedications. (I just wish they do that only for that day and not during whole week!) I have always hated those online ads (made in Flash 7) which fly in from nowhere and now they will come at me with a vengeance with their balloons and hearts and background music. Is any online privacy group listening? Please rescue me.

Some one please save me from this onslaught. On second thoughts (only for girls): be my valentine!