Friday, June 28, 2013

Scamming of the retired by insurance companies

Insurance penetration in India is supposed to be low. It is hardly any surprise if I consider my experiences with insurance companies. My father who was over 80 kept getting calls from agents of 2 private insurance companies. I was surprised at their persistence in spite of getting a 'Do Not Disturb' on his landline. It was very frustrating and depressing to get these calls for him even after he passed away.

My small protest was that I have not invested even 1 rupee in even the mutual funds of these companies. After the second experience given below, I requested my children to do the same.

Recently, I tried to help a distant relation, who retired some years ago. He was the target of a very friendly and 'helpful' insurance agent from one of the companies which had pestered my father.

The agent gave him a mountain full of BS getting investments in multiple different policies. My relation believed that these were like fixed deposits to help with the wedding expenses of his children.

Actually, he was paying the first premium of a life insurance policy for over 30 years, where he could get the money if he lived beyond a hundred years! He told me that the agent was such a nice youngster! Since the first instalments were from his retirement benefits, the insurance agent knew perfectly well that it was not possible for the insured to pay the subsequent premiums.

Since my relation did not act in 15 days, all his investments are lost. By the way, all the policy details were in English only. The legalese English in fine print was hard for me to decode as well.

It amazes me that IRDA allows insurance companies to target the retired people. It makes no sense to me for a person to take a life insurance policy after retirement, and, hence, such policies should be banned.

India is not unique. I recently saw a show about the Swiss insurance companies on TV5 Monde where the insurance companies were charging a lot more for the same benefits which were provided by the pension funds!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The end of the Notary Public in sight?

Cornell University's Virtual Notary, I suppose, is another indication of the inevitable - any thing that can be done by 'self-help' will not require any intermediary. There are obvious economic and efficiency benefits though that is normally not what motivates governments. Chances are that social and electoral pressures will force the governments also to fall in line fairly soon.

I am always amazed at the number of lawyers sitting outside the court in Chandigarh on tables in a covered veranda and working as notary publics. Stamping papers, getting standard texts typed on stamp papers. What a waste of education!

Speaking of stamp papers, I am wondering how the Chandigarh administration will handle that requirement when introducing "100 important services to go online"!

Robots, Software, Internet destroying jobs?

Although the Foundation Trilogy made no mention of robots, in the Foundation series, it becomes clear that it is a robot which is guiding and preserving the human race. It would appear that Asimov had greater faith in robots.

It is easy to trust software and robots as they would act as per the laws implemented, whereas humans may state allegiance and adherence to some laws while disregarding them in practice. (This obviously leads to the corollary for software to be open source otherwise how can we possibly trust it.)

My faith in software was emphasized yesterday. I got a call from my satellite tv service provider. I did not understand what the point of the call was and paid little attention. It appeared to be a confirmation of my renewal just two days earlier.

However, I have no idea how the human being interpreted what I said and changed the subscriptions and got rid of the English channels, which are about the only ones I watch on satellite tv - other than Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV's.

I now have to struggle with other human beings to get the subscriptions rectified. It is not yet painful enough to switch service providers.

This personal experience illustrates the predicament for human societies. What will most people need to do to live a comfortable life?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rediscovering Asimov's Foundation Series

I had planned on gifting Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy and was surprised to find that it was now a larger series! It was embarrassing to have been so ignorant :(

I had 'lost' interest in science fiction novels after reading the trilogy in my college days. I suspect that no other science fiction novel I came across matched the expectations created by Asimov's novels.

I ordered the additional books from the series for me. It was great fun to read the Foundation's Edge as I felt I was back in my college days - my mind lost in outer space oblivious to the 'reality' around me :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Unknown tomorrow - no jobs, no place to stay and no destination for migration

It is nice to see a TED talk which confirm one's opinions. The nature of jobs is changing so rapidly that a fairly substantial number of people will be unemployed or poorly paid. It is hard to expect that all humans can become successful at the jobs which seem likely to survive. However, those with wealth do not need to worry. They will be able to own robots and earn a very comfortable living from the work done by the robots.

One wonders what even the near future holds given that there is a lot which is wrong, e.g. in US. The following about China would easily apply to India.
For the outsiders, governmental officials have an "iron bowl" – a steady job and they enjoy relatively high welfare ... each year millions of Chinese applicants sit for exams to become civil servants and compete fiercely for popular posts
Ultimately, rich people choose to emigrate because they feel unhappy living in China. There are too many things that money can't buy, such as good education, clean air, safe food and an investment environment protected by a legal system.
This is a lose-lose situation. Everybody feels unhappy.
It is hard to imagine the quality of life improving in India. The following news item illustrates the desperation:
The day he died, his wife was assured by the police top brass that one of her children would be given a job on compassionate grounds. Much to her chagrin, her two representations requesting the police authorities to grant a job to her 21-year-old daughter have been turned down.
This seems like like an unfortunate example of paternalism - arbitrary action on the part of government using "compassionate grounds" as a justification.

The real reason for a job on compassionate grounds is " she is looking for ways and means to retain the accommodation given by the police department". The value of government accommodation is obviously very high.

Given the strain of our population, I find it hard to be optimistic that the future is brighter for those who chose to stay in India.

May be migration to Mars is an option worth considering.

Counterproductive law - abetment to suicide?

Suicide is an emotionally disturbing experience not just for the friends and family of the victim but also for the society as a whole.

Every time I read that the police has arrested someone for abetment of suicide or the family is complaining of police inaction in spite of the suicide note, it disturbs me.

Is the law itself not an abetment to suicide? If the victim feels utterly helpless in life, doesn't the law give hope of punishment for the tormentors after death?

I wonder if such a law even exists in other countries. I do not recall ever reading about such cases elsewhere.

It would be better if the punishment is for acts which would have been punishable even if the person were alive. The victim's statement is a piece of evidence.

A better society would have provided avenues for the evidence to be examined while the victim were still living.


Another reason is that it may affect normal behaviour - at least it did mine.

It caused me anxiety. The newspapers were writing about suicides among IIT students. I had to fail a student whom I hardly knew. He rarely attended classes and did not submit assignments. It was not what is expected of a student. Although my anxiety was misplaced, it made the unpleasant task of failing someone far harder.