Current Affairs 01 January 2018

Telecom ombudsman

Context: A Parliamentary panel has expressed concern over delay in setting up of an ombudsman to deal with consumer grievances in the telecom sector despite the regulator TRAI recommending it twice.

Need for an ombudsman:

As per the current trends, on an average around 10 million complaints are lodged with the TSPs each quarter and currently complaints are characterised by high volumes, low-value and from users in diverse geographic locations. Therefore, arrangements like ombudsman are required to address to consumers in a speedy manner. This is also necessary keeping in view of the major changes that has taken place in the Indian telecom sector in the recent past.

What has been proposed?

A three-stage grievance redress mechanism for telecom sector is proposed that includes — resolution by telecom service providers (TSPs), resolution by Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) — and determination by Telecom Ombudsman.

The ombudsman can be established under rules framed by the Centre, similar to the institution of the insurance ombudsman under the Redress of Public Grievances Rules, 1998 (RPG Rules). The government may, by notification, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act. Alternatively, the government can choose to create the ombudsman office through a legislation to be passed by Parliament.

Role of ombudsman:

According to the recommendations, the consumer should in the first instance approach the complaint centre of the TSP to seek a solution. It will be the duty of the TSP to look into the request and address the consumer’s concerns within the time frames stipulated by the Authority.

In case, the TSP fails to resolve the complaint in a manner that is satisfactory to the consumer; or does not provide a response; or fails to do so within the prescribed time lines laid down by TRAI, the customer will have the option to seek further redress through an independent mechanism. This would consist of a process of a resolution based on fact finding by Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), followed by, if necessitated, determination by the telecom ombudsman.


A portion of the existing, not in addition, licence fee, is recommended as the funding mechanism for Ombudsman. And in addition to this fixed fee, there will be a variable component payable by each telecom service provider (TSP) depending on the volume of complaints being filed against it and admitted before the ombudsman’s office.

Sources: Press Information Bureau (Pib).

OCI and PIO cards

Context: The Govt has stopped the scheme of free conversion of PIO cards to OCI. The scheme of converting the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to OCI cards free of cost comes to an end as a decision has been taken not to give any more extension beyond December 31. However, the change of PIO cards to OCI cards would continue on payment of fees.


Who are NRIs, PIO and OCI?

Non-Resident Indians (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) are the three major categories in which the people from India go and live abroad can be categorised.

While NRIs is essentially a term used for Indians that live in another country, PIOs and OCIs are people who want to stay connected and involved with India more closely.


Need for conversion:

Simultaneous existence of PIO and OCI cards led to confusion among People of Indian Origin residing abroad. Thus, merging PIO and OCI will lead to simplification of the rules under a single umbrella. It would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country. This is aimed at simplifying the visa-free entry for people of Indian origin into India.

The merger of the two cards could make PIO cardholders eligible for benefits already enjoyed by OCI cardholders. Merging of the two cards will also facilitate travel of Indians staying abroad and their participation in various activities in India.


Benefits of a PIO card:

  • A PIO card holder doesn’t need a visa to visit India. The holder also doesn’t require a student or employment visa to acquire employment or academic opportunities in India.
  • The holder is also exempted from registering at the foreigner regional registration office (FRRO) during the duration of stay in India.
  • The holder also enjoys parity with NRIs in concern to economic, financial and educational matters. These may include matters related to property transfer or acquisition, holding, disposal, investment, admission of children in educational institutions under general category quota for NRIs.
  • Separate immigration counters are provided at all International airports in India for PIO card holders.


Drawbacks of PIO card:

It does not provide voting rights to the holder. Prior permission is needed to undertake mountaineering expeditions or any such related research work in protected areas.


The benefits of OCI cards are substantial:

  • OCI is essentially a lifetime visa status offered by India to an Indian person who has given up his citizenship. OCI cards give lifetime multiple entry visa to India.
  • If one remains an OCI for 5 years, he/she can attain Indian citizenship and then live in India for a period of one year including short breaks.
  • Special immigration counters are provided at all international airports in India for OCI card holders.
  • An OCI cards holder can open special bank accounts in India just like NRIs and make investments. OCI holders can also buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights.
  • An OCI card allows to apply for a driver’s license, PAN card or open a bank account in India. They get same economic, financial and educational benefits like NRIs and can also adopt children.


Restrictions for OCI card holders:

An OCI card holder cannot vote, hold a government job or purchase agricultural or farm land. The person can also not run for public office or travel to restricted areas without permission.

Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) celebrated its 29th Foundation Day today in the service of the Central Civil Pensioners.

CPAO   was established on 1st January, 1990; primarily to cater to the needs of central civil pensioners and other stakeholders in the Ministries/ Departments and Banks. The Central (Civil) pensions are authorized through Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) functioning under the Controller General of Accounts (CGA). CPAO is administering the ‘Scheme for Payment of Pensions to Central Government Civil Pensioners by Authorized Banks (both Public Sector and some Private sector Banks).  Its functions include, issue of Special Seal Authorisations (SSAs) for pension payments to Authorised Banks, preparation of budget for the Pension Grant and accounting thereof, reconciliation with and performance review of banks with respect to pension payments and disbursements & maintenance of the database of the Central Civil Pensioners etc.

  • CPAO was created with the primary objective of simplifying procedure and reducing the number of agencies for pension payment and to expedite the process of authorization, revision and transfer of pension through Authorized Banks.  The working of CPAO is fully computerized and it maintains a database of over 12 lakh Central (Civil) pensioners through Pension Authorisation, Retrieval and Accounting System (PARAS). These pensioners are being provided pension related services by the CPAO through more than 70,788 paying bank branches all over the country.
  • CPAO has Pension Tracking System to check the latest status of the pension processing and SMS facility is also being provided to the pensioners at each stage. CPAO has taken many steps under Digital India Mission like e-Scroll, e-SSA, e-PPO project etc. to reduce the paper movement and creation of digital record of the Special Seal Authorities (SSAs), PPO (Pension Payment Order) etc.  CPAO is also handling the grievances of the Central (Civil) Pensioners through its Grievance Redressal Mechanism which includes Web Responsive Pensioners Service (WRPS) facilitating information to pensioners on pension payments, facility to view and download latest orders and special seal authorities (SSAs) issued by CPAO among others.