Advisory

General Insurance

Any kind of insurance which is not life-insurance comes under general insurance; it provides financial protection against loss or damage to an asset. Read on to understand more about general insurance.

Words: Sangeeta S

People mostly opt for general insurance only when it is mandatory, say like the car insurance; but insuring your assets can give you protection against uncertainties in life. When we look around we find more and more people opting for Life Insurance compared to General Insurance. Fair enough, one values life more than assets.
But at the same time if you can protect your others assets and valuables too like your home, jewellery, household items etc. then why not? After all life is full of uncertainties and there are possibilities that you may lose/damage your assets due to theft, accident, flood, earthquake, fire, storm…the reason could be any. And there comes the role of General Insurance; it provides you financial protection against any calamity which could risk your assets and valuables. In fact there are covers which even protect you against any cost you incur on legal actions.
The options are plenty; based on your requirement you can select the kind of cover you would need. It is very different from Life Insurance and mostly these are annual contracts which you need to renew every year. The claim is only in case of any event like health issues, theft, fire etc. or else there are no returns as such.
Let us explore few of the general insurance covers available.

Motor Insurance
It is mandatory to get motor insurance as per the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. It is up to you to opt for the kind of coverage you want – Third Party Liability Cover is

mandatory while Comprehensive Motor Insurance Policy is optional. Going for a third party mandatory cover will not cover your own loss; it covers only third party. Comprehensive covers include both your car as well as the third party and therefore it is definitely a better option.

Health Insurance
This covers you against any expenses made related to health. Plans are many; some companies even customize the plan based on your requirement. You can opt for reimbursement plan or go for cashless facility in the designated hospitals. There is a huge market for this; but make sure you understand the policy well before you sign the dotted line. Understand your personal requirement first and then opt for the one most suitable to you. There are various covers available like comprehensive, floater, individual, surgery cover etc.

Home Insurance
Home Insurance gives protection to your house and even the assets in your home. Broadly it offers two options – one is protection to the structure and second is for the contents. The insurance gives you fire and peril cover, protection against natural and also against man made calamities. Fire and peril cover includes protection against fire, lightning, earthquake, aircraft damages etc., while protection against natural calamities include flood, storm, cyclone etc. Theft, riot, etc. are covered under man made calamities. It does not include damage due to wear and tear, pollution or war.

There are special covers also for your special needs and you may opt for special covers.
Travel Insurance
Travel insurance covers unexpected situations like flight delay, loss of passport or baggage, accidental death, hijack distress and most important medical emergencies. Whether it is business or vacation, travel insurance should not be missed. Any kind of financial emergency can also be covered under travel insurance. It has various categories like student, international, domestic, senior citizen etc. For travelling overseas it is mandatory to get travel insurance done. Read the fine print and understand well what all benefits you can avail as a part of this cover.
Besides these there are also other general insurances which cover the commercial sector. They provide insurance to industries, businessman and others related to industries. The industries include all like textiles, aviation, logistics, pharmaceutical, construction etc. Then you have Marine or Cargo Insurance, rural insurance etc.

Claim Process
Now once you have taken any kind of general insurance it is important that you understand well the benefits you can get and also the claim process. Due to lack of knowledge and awareness many times the claims get rejected. Different insurances have different claim process. Some have time frame, while for some you have to provide evidence. Be fully aware of the entire procedure and all the documents you would need to file your claim.

Expert Questions
To understand the Legal aspect of “General Insurance”, we spoke to our expert Preeti Jha, Associate Advocate with Legal Consultus, a New Delhi based law firm. She has wide experience in advising and handling Insurance matters.

Q. Who should buy general insurance?
A. As the foremost benefit of having a General Insurance is that it safeguards against unexpected loss to the assets and properties of an individual. Hence, any person, who owns an asset, can buy insurance to protect it against losses due to fire or theft or damage etc.

Q. How to buy respective general insurance policy and from whom?
A. There are many options available in the Insurance market. It is important to take basic precautions at the time of purchase of Insurance Policies. Most important is to purchase the policy from Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) approved Insurance Companies. Also look for the one having the office/branch office in the proximity for the early reporting of the damages. The same is very important factor in order to claim insurance coverage as the law mandates for the early assessment and inspection of the quantum of damages by the Insurance Surveyors.

Q. What are the appropriate legal remedies available in case of any grievance or deficiency of service on the part of the Insurance Company?
A. Insurance policies are contractual obligations between the respective Insurance Company and the policy holder. Hence, the terms and conditions of the policy have to be strictly adhered to by both the policy holder as well the respective insurance company.
Write to the Insurance Company and give them sufficient time to respond suitably. If they don’t respond, or if the response is not satisfactory, then you can approach for the appropriate legal remedies.

For complaints relating to personal insurance covers up to a value of Rs.20 lakh, you may approach the Insurance Ombudsman in your area. It should be one of the preferred forums for the adjudication of grievances as the ombudsman has a technical team that will go into the merits of each and every case.
The ombudsman has to pass an award within a period of three months from the receipt of the complaint. The award is binding upon the insurance companies.
In case the policy holder is not satisfied with the award of the ombudsman then he can approach another legal forum in accordance with law for redressal of his grievances. An aggrieved policy holder can also lodge a complaint before the IRDA against such Insurance Company.

Q. What is the role of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA)
A. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is a statutory body established under the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, 1999 with the intent to protect the interest of the policy holders.
It is the duty of the regulator (IRDA) to ensure that the constituents of conventional general insurance contracts conform to basic standards, and also that the terms used in the general insurance contract are unambiguous and easy to understand.
This is extremely important keeping in view the large number of complaints received of late pertaining to unfair trade practices such as misrepresentation, discrimination, inducements, and failure to maintain records. It defeats the very purpose of a beneficial scheme intended to help the common poor. It is also imperative on the part of the regulator to formulate a code of conduct for the insurance agents. The same is essentially required since unfair practices and misconduct by insurance agents/insurance intermediaries like surveyors form a large chunk of the complaint cases.

Mutual Fund

With mutual funds the investment scenario has changed. It offers options like equity, debt, balanced, hybrid and many such schemes. Based on your personal requirement and financial status you can invest in the scheme suitable to you.

Words: Sangeeta S

When you invest in a Mutual Fund, your funds get professionally managed and are well diversified to offset potential losses. All of us need to save and invest our money but not all of us have the required knowledge or the time to handle complex investment decisions. Mutual Fund offers the services of experts to manage your money. The money collected from several such investors are strategically invested in options like stocks, bonds etc. by professionals called Fund Managers who understand the

market and invest your money for you in lucrative options, based on the risk you have opted for.

Based on the Fund’s objective, the fund is invested in different securities like fixed income or stocks. Different schemes come with different risks and it may happen that the value of an investment may decline over a period, based on the prevailing (stock) market scenario. Or the Government may change or add new regulations.

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Many factors can influence the performance of Mutual Funds. Having a diversified fund can help reduce the risk offsetting the losses from some funds with gains in other. Generally when you invest in Mutual Funds, you get a choice between two plans – Growth Plan and the Dividend Plan. The difference is simple – in Growth Plans, no regular dividend is paid to the investor and so all the profits are reinvested back in the fund and hence your wealth compounds. While in Dividend Plans, the dividends are paid out of profits earned.

How do you decide which option to choose?
According to Rabindar Kumar, a Financial Advisor, the choice of funds would depend on many factors like current market status, the investor’s financial needs, strategy and financial status. If you plan for a long term investment, say for two to four years, a growth fund definitely performs better as compared to dividend plan. In case of dividends, some assets are given as dividends and so the fund required for accumulative growth is reduced. However, if the market gets volatile and NAV gets reduced then with the dividend fund option people feel that at least they have got some returns in the form of dividend. So there cannot be a simple straight answer to this. But overall a long term growth fund performs better.

The main thing to consider is the market status at the time of investment. The fund category is quite diversified like large cap, mid cap or small cap. For people who plan to stay in the portfolio for long time, the large cap fund is a good option as it has been seen that the performance of large cap is generally constant and they perform better. The performance of mid cap and small cap is not constant; some years they perform well while sometimes the performance is not good. For regular investors who keep investing and selling on a regular basis, they generally go for diversification more and invest in small cap or mid cap funds. They go by the current market status and do the investment.

The choice of funds also depends on personal target and financial status. For people who can’t take high risk a debt fund is a good option against equity. In case of a debt fund the principal generally doesn’t go in loss. The returns may not be high but you will keep getting returns. For people looking for regular income, balanced fund is a good option where investment is done in both equity and debt funds.

There is a new scenario where if you go for SWP (Systematic Withdrawal Plan) you save on tax. People feel that now that the dividends are paid after cutting 10 per cent tax SWP is a better option as you save on tax. Our expert clarified that people need to understand the whole thing before switching to SWP from dividend option. SWP will benefit only those whose income is 1 lakh or less than a lakh; beyond 1 lakh you will be taxed here also. While in case of dividends you are not charged anything extra up to 10 lakhs. Only beyond 10 lakhs you will need to pay additional tax of 10 per cent.

Also, when you go for SWP, your units also get redeemed and if the market goes down it may happen that all your units get lost in the form of SWP. While in case of dividend payout at least your units remain intact and you will keep getting dividends as and when the company makes profit. So before making a choice of fund understand the whole scenario. Select a fund based on your personal requirement and financial status. What may suit one may not be suitable for another. Mutual fund is a good option provided you make wise decisions. It is a good idea to take advice of any good financial adviser who understands the market better.

Safety Tips at a Glance
Based on your investment objective your financial advisor will suggest the kind of investment you require. Some of the options include –
Equity/Growth Funds – These funds invest a major part of its corpus in stocks and the investment objective of these funds is long-term capital growth. This is suitable for investors with high risk appetite and long term outlook.
Debt/Income Funds – These funds invest minimum 65% of its corpus in fixed income securities. They provide for low risk, stable income and preservation of capital. These funds are suitable for investors whose main objective is safety of capital with moderate growth.
Balanced Funds – Balanced funds invest in both equities and fixed income instruments. Ideal for investors looking for a combination of income and moderate growth, these funds provide both stability of returns and capital appreciation to investors.
Money Market/ Liquid Funds – Money market/ Liquid funds invest in safer short-term instruments such as Treasury Bills, Certificates of Deposit and Commercial Paper for a period of less than 91 days. They provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income.
Gilt Funds – These funds are safer as they invest in government securities.
Why Mutual Funds?
Professional – By investing in mutual funds, you get the services of professional fund managers, which would otherwise be costly for an individual investor.
Diversification – You get the benefit of diversification across different sectors and companies.
Liquidity – They are mostly liquid investment unless there is a lock-in period. Most funds can transfer the money directly to your bank as they are well integrated with the banking system.
Flexibility – You have the flexibility to invest in a wide range of schemes with options for systematic (at regular intervals) investment and withdrawal.
Well regulated – Mutual funds in India are regulated and monitored by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI); all funds are registered with SEBI and complete transparency is enforced.

Understanding the responsibility in Using Credit Cards

A Credit Card comes with its perks and convenience for users. However, if not handled properly, it can put you in some serious debt and impact your credit rating as well. The mantra is responsible use and knowing the rules of the game so that you can reap the most optimum benefit from its usage…

Words: Sangeeta S

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Credit Cards offer great ease in managing your finances and spending, offering extra credit to you for making your purchases without the inconvenience of carrying cash. However, over-dependence on plastic money and failing to repay your outstanding due can get you in deep trouble. You need to be careful and use it strategically so that it works to your advantage. Keeping certain points in mind can help you maximize your card usage and can work in your favour.

Timely Payments
Your credit card does not offer you a loan; it only gives you credit and you need to pay back in full in a certain time. It works on the principle of ‘buy now and pay later’ but it is important to pay the full amount in time. By doing this, you will avoid paying interest and late fees that will help your credit score to soar up. Missing your payment can get you in trouble with the Bank or Card Company. It is advisable to have a Credit Card only if you can pay your bills on time otherwise Credit Cards are not for you. Not paying your bills on time can call for penalties with very high rates of interest. Set up an automatic payment system or schedule a reminder but always pay your dues on time and never miss your billing dates.

Minimum Payment
The minimum payment is the minimum amount of money that you are required to pay on your Credit Card debt as calculated in your statement each month. You may feel happy that you need to pay a small amount but in the long run, your outstanding will keep increasing as the interest charges will keep adding. With a Credit Card, you get additional time to repay the amount spent so it is important to pay the full amount all at once or pay with heavy interest later. An alternative is to convert the remaining outstanding into EMI’s, as you save an additional charge and have a lower interest rate.

Cash on Credit Card
A Credit Card can be used to withdraw cash, but it is best avoided. When you withdraw cash using your Credit Card, you pay a higher rate of interest with no interest-free period. The interest starts as soon as the money is withdrawn with no grace period. When you use a Debit Card to withdraw money, you are using your own fund while with a Credit Card, it is a cash advance on your Credit Card. The feature of cash advances should only be used in case of any financial emergencies.

Card Security
Online card frauds are frequent and in abundance, so we need to be extra careful while using our Cards – be it credit or debit. You need to protect your PIN and CVV number. Be cautious when you use the card while shopping or in restaurants. When you hand over your card to the person behind the counter, ensure that it is not copied. Use only authorized and trusted sites while using the card for online shopping and make sure you use safe payment options for making online purchases. Never compromise with the security of your card.

Multiple Cards
Different cards are designed for different lifestyles, so choose the one most suitable for your requirements. There are cards designed for travellers, shoppers, online shoppers, frequent fliers etc. so there is no point in having a card that offers benefits that you never use.

Keeping multiple cards as per your requirement is a good idea. In fact, if you keep a gap of 12 to 15 days in the billing cycle of your cards, it will help you as you can use one card in the first half of the month and the other one in the second half. This way you can use the grace period of both the cards and extend the time between your actual swipe and the bill payment to 30-50 days.

Keep a Check
Check your statement every month. It will list all your expenses and in case there is a wrong billing or fraud, you will know immediately, and you can take action. Also, keep a check on your credit score given by the credit bureau. This will help you track all the information in your credit accounts.

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Safety Tips at a Glance
• Sign on the reverse of the card immediately on receipt; unsigned cards can be misused
• If you lose your card, block it immediately and even make a report in the police station
• Always use a secure site while doing any online transaction; look for a lock icon in the status bar of your web browser
• Avoid using your card on suspicious websites or apps; read reviews of a website or app before making a purchase
• Shopping on your own device and on your home server is the safest way; public machines and networks are best avoided
• Never respond to phishing e-mails and don’t click on suspicious links
• Avoid accessing your Internet banking account on unsecured public computers and always remember to log off
• Get yourself enrolled for 3D Secure (Verified by Visa (VBV)/ MasterCard Secure Code (MCSC))
• ‘High-risk’ countries have a track record of many fraudulent activities; get your card replaced if you have used your card in such countries
• Make sure that the card you get back after any transaction is yours only; often cards get exchanged in shops and crowded locations
• Always get your cards swiped in your presence so that the details of your card are not captured anywhere
• Always cut the card in 4 pieces diagonally across magnetic stripe while discarding
• Never give a photocopy of the back of your card to anyone for any reason
• Change your PIN frequently and use a strong one
• If you are a regular online shopper, it is a good idea to keep a separate dedicated card with a small credit limit
• Review your statements thoroughly and never ignore alerts
• Always keep your information current; any change in contact details should be notified to the bank so that your information doesn’t reach the wrong hands
• Keep your system updated with most up-to-date security features

Employee: Know your rights!

Understand your rights as an employee
Often people are not happy with their jobs because they feel exploited; most of the employees and even employers are often not aware of the basic rights of an employee. And that leads to dissatisfaction. With employment sector growing it is important to be aware of these basic rights.

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The law in India gives provisions to protect employee interest. Though there are no particular laws pertaining to the private employment but certain rights apply to all employment in India and should be adhered to by the employers. Some of them include the following:

Written Agreement
You have the right to get a written Employment Agreement before you start work. The agreement should clearly list the rights and obligations of both the employer and the employee and clearly state the ‘terms and conditions’ of your employment. The written agreement is beneficial for both the employer and the employee; it clearly states what was agreed. It is useful for employer as it controls the behavior of the employee in the workplace and in the case of any dispute it helps resolve the case. It gives a sense of security and protection to both the parties. It is advisable to read the agreement carefully before you sign the dotted line. You may also seek professional help so that you understand the agreement.

Leave
Every employee has the right to leaves such as casual leave, sick leave, privilege leave and other leaves as per the policy of the organization. Casual leaves are given to all employees for any emergency or unavoidable reason. Sick leave is obvious for when an employee falls sick and paid leaves are those which one plans in advance.

Other leaves like paid leave, unpaid leave, study leave etc. are given by the employers based on their company policy. For one day sick leave the employee need not provide any medical certificate however, for sick leave exceeding more than 2 days a medical proof needs to be provided. An employee can take encashment leave while quitting service, discharge, dismissal or death. Leave during notice period can be taken as per the terms of agreement or in case of emergency.

Maternity Benefit
The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 was enacted to regulate maternity benefits to women working in establishments. The Act provides for prenatal and postnatal benefits for a female employee in an establishment. Earlier the female employees were entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave. With new amendments made to the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, the paid maternity leave has been extended from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women working at companies with at least 10 employees. Employees cannot be discharged or dismissed while on maternity leave. If dismissed, they can still claim maternity benefits.

Protection from Sexual Harassment
Every employer has the responsibility to ensure that his/her employees, especially female employees, are protected while at work. All incidents of sexual harassment need to be intervened and responded by the employers. The company’s policy should clearly formulate rules which prohibit sexual harassment. There should be clear guidelines on how to handle such cases. The policy should also ensure impartiality in investigation. Any woman who has been sexually harassed at the workplace can seek remedy under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Sexual harassment is punishable under the Indian Penal Code.

Gratuity
Gratuity is a statutory benefit paid to the employees who have rendered continuous service for at least five years. The amount is payable to an employee on end of employment either by resignation, death, retirement or termination, by taking the last drawn salary as the basis for the calculation; payment liability of the employer increases with increase in salary and tenure of employment. A lump-sum amount is paid to the employee based on the duration of his total service. Even if the employee is entitled to Provident Fund or Pension, he is still entitled to Gratuity. It is a gesture of gratitude by the employer paid in the form of money.

Provident Fund
Managed by the Employee Provident Fund Organization of India, Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) is a retirement benefit scheme that’s available to all salaried employees. Any company with over 20 employees is required by law to register with the EPFO. The employer and the employee both have to contribute to this fund; 12 per cent of the basic salary of the employee is deducted every month for this fund. It is mandatory for the employer to contribute to this fund and he cannot deduct the whole PF contribution from the employee’s salary. Any employee can opt out of the scheme provided they do it at the beginning of their career. There are withdrawal rules and the amount cannot be withdrawn at will.

Illegal Job Interview Questions
Job interviews are done to learn about the candidate. Questions can be asked but not the ones that cross the line of your privacy. Questions related to candidate’s personal life like age, race, religion, pregnancy, marital status etc. should not be asked. Job discrimination based on the following factors is not right.

• Age – Asking age should just be a check whether the candidate is above 18. Beyond this it calls for age-based discrimination.
• Nationality – If the candidate is authorized to assume employment where the job is located, one’s nationality has nothing to do with professional ability.
• Race, ethnicity, or color
• Gender or sex
• Religion – Religion is a personal choice and has nothing to do with professional ability. Discussion on religion is not correct.
• Disability – If the job is physically demanding it can be conveyed to the candidate but beyond this context any health related questions are inappropriate.
• Marital Status – Digging into such details is considered unethical and it is no indicator of one’s professional ability.
• Pregnancy – The candidate’s plan to have children can affect their personal lives but if it does not reflect on their performance it is irrelevant.
• Family Status – Questions about work-home balance is a question mostly asked to woman. Questioning one’s professional ability just because she is a woman is unethical.
• Political affiliation.
• Criminal Record – A candidate is not obligated to discuss arrest history with a recruiter. The recruiter can do his/her own research or the candidate can be upfront about any past and clarify.

Studying Abroad? Look out for these tips for you set off

Apart from giving you the knowledge you are seeking studying abroad gives you exposure to new language, culture and history. But it requires good amount of homework along with paperwork and most important finances. If you are planning to study abroad then read on…

WORDS: SANGEETA SINHA

THE idea of studying abroad is attracting students all over the world. There is no doubt that moving beyond your comfort zone helps you become self-reliant and gives you more opportunities for personal growth. But it is important that you have clarity about your reasons to study abroad. Once you are clear about your purpose then selecting the country/course becomes simpler. If choosing the right course and university is important, it is equally important to understand the procedures involved with student visa application. Different countries have different rules and consultants in the field can help you with the process.
Foreign fees are high and that is the reason financial capabilities are checked before issuing the visa. If you don’t want your visa be rejected on grounds of finance, you have to show that you have financial support from your parents. Financial capability plays a major role in your visa application says father of an applicant going through the process.

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Studying abroad requires plenty of money and not all get scholarships so loan is the only option to meet the expenses. Interest rates are high and loans over 5 lakhs are generally with a co-lateral. This needs to be evaluated. Just spending money and studying is not the point unless there is job potential. After all you will need to earn and pay back your loan. You need to check whether the country allows for post-study stay back option.
However, these things are only for evaluation purpose and not for mentioning in your SOP (Statement of Purpose), says father of a young aspirant planning to study abroad. It becomes one of the reasons for visa rejection because you have no obligation to return to your home country. Even if the country you plan to go for studies allows for stay back, don’t mention about your plans to stay back. Your visa may get rejected says an expert from the field. You need to prove that you are not a potential immigrant and you have full plans to get back to your home country.
Once your visa is approved and you are ready to travel it is important that you do your homework well. Make sure you are well acquainted with all the entry and exit rules of the country. Once you land in the foreign land the immigration officer would need to see all your documents so that he allows you to enter the country.

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Keep all your documents handy; passport, visa, offer letter from the university, bank statement, financials etc. While abroad, a student’s passport is one of the most important documents to keep safe. It is important to have photocopies of important documents with your parents or any trusted person in case of theft or loss.
Some countries would also need to verify your accommodation. Coming to accommodation, it is important to get to a genuine property dealer. Scams are common in this field. Don’t make any payment without checking the site. If the deposit asked is very high or if you want to view the site and are refused then get suspicious and it is better to avoid such deals.
Health insurance is another important area. Many countries like UK provide for health insurance but certain countries like Ireland don’t do it. You have to take private insurance which is mandatory for visa application. Prior to departure, the student should make an appointment with his/her doctor for a check-up. Going to a new country could mean exposure to foreign diseases or illnesses, and students should be up to date on all vaccinations. Now health being very important students often carry medicines. Make sure you are not carrying any drug which is banned in that country. And if you are carrying medicines in large quantities it is better to carry prescription along.
Cooking is something all students will need to do in the foreign land; after all how much can you eat out.

It is better to carry some utensils. Since fire cooking does not happen in many countries, carry utensils which work on induction. Pressure cooker is something which most students find useful in a foreign land and it will be helpful if you carry one too. Also make sure you carry a universal adaptor.
Money is another important part of your travelling abroad for studies. It is important you know about the various options available to carry out monetary transactions overseas. Forex card must be carried by all students travelling abroad for studies. Foreign currency demand draft (FCDD) is also an option. Other options include wire transfer, travelers’ cheques etc. Make sure you are in full control of your finances in foreign land. Having a small amount of the native currency is important to have in case of emergency.

And last but not the least do your own homework says Chavi Sinha a young aspirant travelling to Ireland for higher studies. Consultants play a major role in giving you guidance and assistance and keep you away from hassles but it is also important that you do your own homework too. Talk to others and connect with more and more people to gain knowledge and insight on travelling abroad. Social media can be a great help to connect and get information. Consulting with students who have already completed a period of study abroad is a great way to learn about what to expect and how to pack for the trip, she adds.
Check the weather conditions and shop appropriately. It is also a good idea to shop in the country where you plan to study so that you get the right clothes for the weather conditions there.

CONSIDER
☛ Be careful with your baggage; never leave it unattended or with strangers
☛ It is a good idea to have travel insurance
☛ Use only authorized agents for currency exchange
☛ Try to understand the layout of the city through a guide or city map
☛ Preferably your accommodation should be in place before you land
☛ Carefully review all your travel documents
☛ If possible try to land in new city during daytime
☛ Get in touch with tourist desk about the safe means to reach your destination
☛ Abide by the country code and dress accordingly
☛ Make copies of all your important documents like passport, offer letter, visa etc.

Right to Information A common man’s right to demand information from the Government

The RTI (Right to Information) Act was enforced to empower people. Introduced in 2005, the Act aims to bring accountability and transparency in the working of the Government. An initiative by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Act gives every citizen the ‘right to information’ and also the right to get a timely response. Read on to know the process and understand the Act.

WORDS: SANGEETA SINHA

The Right to Information (RTI) was introduced to empower citizens so that they become better equipped to keep vigil on Government activities. It gives all citizens access to information under the control of public authorities and this helps promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
The Act extends to the whole of India except Jammu & Kashmir. It gives every citizen the right to seek information from a public authority and the right to get a response within 30 days. It covers all constitutional authorities, the executive, legislature and judiciary and is one of the most powerful laws of the country.
Filing an RTI is a simple process and every citizen should know the process. The application can be written in English, Hindi or the official language of the state he/she resides in.
It is important to have clarity on your query while filing such petitions; ask specific and clear questions. Give your complete contact details so that you get the RTI response on your mailing address. Keep a photocopy of your application and send the original through post or you can even submit it to the Public Information Officer (PIO) in person.

Acknowledgement slip
Make sure you receive an acknowledgement slip in case you submit the form in person. If you plan to send by post, it is a good idea to send it by registered mail so that you have an acknowledgement slip on the courier.
The Act is simple and people-friendly to the extent that even an illiterate person can file an RTI. He can tell his requirement and the concerned person is obliged to write it down and read it to him before processing it furthert.
And if you wish to do it online, some departments have the facility for filing an online RTI. Also there are various independent websites that help you file online RTI.
All central and state government agencies come under the purview of the Act. You can demand any information related to Municipal Corporations, Government universities, schools, Provident Fund department and other similar agencies.
The list is exhaustive and RTI has huge scope. The Government is obliged to even give information related to telephone bills of ministers, money spent on foreign trips, money spent by your representative to improve your constituency and much more. You have the right to information because it is your money which you pay in the form of taxes each year.
However, few organisations are exempt from RTI due to security reasons; those related to the country’s defence like the CRPF, BSF, RAW etc. Also, courts have disallowed release of any information that relates to a foreign government or any information that would affect the safety of any individual.
But one point is clear – any information which cannot be denied to an MP or state legislator cannot be denied to any citizen.

RTI for personal/community issues
Often, we are bothered with problems related to our tax refund, pension release, withdrawal of PF, release of Aadhar card, issuance of documents related to driving license, passport, property and similar other issues.
If you are not getting any answers or you are not satisfied by the response of officials, you can get them through an RTI. Filing an RTI will guarantee an official response within 30 days of your filing. And then based on the response you can take your case further.

Similarly you can even raise issues related to your area or community. If any government property is not maintained then you have the right to question and get a response.
Issues like bad road conditions, potholes and bad water supply all are covered under RTI. You also have the right to know how your representative spent the funds allocated to him/her for the development of your constituency.

There is a small amount which you will require to pay along with your application. For central government departments one needs to pay ₹10 with every RTI application. For public authorities under the state governments, the rates may vary. In addition to the application fees, there is also a fee for the information to be delivered (depending on format/number of pages).
It is important that citizens use RTI to turn India into a great democracy. Our duty doesn’t end by just voting; it requires us to be more vigilant and take an active role in the running of our government machinery.
The government is making efforts to make the system more transparent and giving citizens the right to question and get response.

Refusal of application
It is not necessary that every RTI gets accepted. Sometimes you may not get the information or your RTI application itself is not accepted. There are options you can explore in case this happens.
You have the right to know why your request was rejected and also the details of whom you can approach to appeal against this refusal. You are also entitled to know how much time you have to file this appeal.
If you don’t get a satisfactory answer or you have a complaint with the way in which the PIO handled your RTI application, you can file a complaint with the Central or State Information Commission. They have a duty under this Act to inquire into your complaint.
Your application may be rejected for the following reasons –
 If it has not been completed properly
 It is not precise as to what specific information you need
 The information you have requested is covered by an exemption

advisory

The application can also be partially rejected, if some of the information in the documents you requested is sensitive and falls under an exemption.
 If you do not receive a decision from the PIO within 30 days, you can file an appeal against the decision before an officer who is senior to the presiding officer
 You need to file this appeal within 30 days. This time period may be extended if the officer feels that the delay is justified
 If you are not satisfied with the first appeal decision, you can make a second appeal within 90 days to the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission by following the suggested format for the second appeal

Daily penalty
A daily penalty of ₹250 can be imposed on the PIO for withholding information or providing wrong information. This has to be paid until the information is provided. However, the total amount of the penalty should not exceed ₹ 25,000. But before doing this, the PIO is given a chance to present his/her case.

You have the right to know why your request was rejected and also the details of whom you can approach to appeal against this refusal. You are also entitled to know how much time you have to file this appeal./span>

RTI
You are empowered to:
 Ask for any information
 Take copies of any Government documents
 Inspect any Government documents
 Take material of any Government work
It can help you in the following ways:
 Expedite pending issues
 Expose corruption
 Use it in the court
Section 2 (f) of the Act: “Information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.
Section 2 (j) of the Act: “Right to Information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:
 Inspection of work, documents, records
 Taking notes, extracts, or certified copies of documents or records
 Taking certified samples of material
 Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device
Section 2 (i) of the Act: “Record” includes any:
 Document, manuscript and file
 Microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document
 Reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not)
 Other material produced by a computer or any other device