Railway Safety Week: Beware the short cuts - The Honest Truth By Ajit Dayal
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Investing in India - Honest Truth by Ajit Dayal
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28 OCTOBER 2013


An estimated 8 people die on the railway tracks in Mumbai every day.

To reduce this unnecessary loss of life, the Railways held a safety week campaign to spread awareness amongst children and adults. As part of the elaborate programme, some of the musicians from National Streets for the Performing Arts www.NSPA.in (an initiative that few of us helped start) performed at Borivali station on October 25. The musicians were fantastic and effortlessly weaved the message of safety into their music.

The problem that the Railways have is that commuters tend to zip across platforms by jumping over the railway tracks. The safer option of climbing the stairs to take the safer path is seen as more tedious. Pressed for time and always in a hurry, the commuters try to beat the oncoming trains. Many times they fail. Eight times a day actually in Mumbai city. Consider this: the estimated 2,000 deaths every year on the railway tracks in Mumbai is close to the estimated 3,000 people who are killed as a result of terrorist attacks every year. Fighting terrorism is, correctly, seen as a national agenda and thousands of crore rupees are spent on that. Fighting our own ignorance which leads to equivalent number of deaths does not attract that kind of funding.

The Western Railways, concerned about the safety of their passengers, is trying to do something about it.

Which is very different from the way the financial service industry tends to treat its customers.

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No safety week for investors?
Most of the financial services industry, rumoured to be so loving and caring if one were to believe all their well adorned fiction that passes of as advertisements, seem to be a lot less concerned about the users of their products and services. In fact, the objective of most of the CEOs and their army of warriors who work in the financial services industry - globally and in India - is to find new ways to rip off their customers. To grab a share of your wallet - if not the entire wallet itself.

The financial services industry is lucky. There are no statistics to indicate how many people have lost their lives - or become depressed and incapacitated - due to bad advice. By his very act of murder, a murderer leaves behind a trail of blood, a weapon, and a motive.

The financial services industry, so far, has been able to divorce the motive (maximise the remuneration of its employees) from the weapon (the dangerous rubbish they mis-sell you) and eliminate any trace to the victim's body.

The appeal system of the stock exchanges or SEBI is tedious and not perceived to be fair. The educational messages hide the truth and perpetuate the lies that keep the engine of reward generation for the "honchos" of the financial industry going. When a stock exchange uses its investor education money to sponsor a day-trading segment on a national business channel, it is the equivalent of an ITC telling the millions of people addicted to their poison that they will get a packet of cigarettes each time they light up a cigarette: Death is guaranteed.

Day trading probably wipes out 9 out of 10 people who indulge in it. But the commissions from day trading keep the revenues flowing and this keeps the salaries of the financial honchos at levels which make onions affordable. Again, there is no data to show how many day traders actually got wiped out. And how many ended up with depression and effectively ruined their lives. So the 9 out of 10 is my wild guess. It may be 15 out of 10 - because the day trader may have ruined someone else's life along the way! The railways - seen many as an example of an inefficient public sector - probably tabulate their data a lot better than the private sector owned and ruthlessly efficient financial service industry. For all their mastery over crunching numbers and the XL sheet, the financial services industry seems incapable of working out the number of clients whose wallets they have crushed and lives they have annihilated.

The mutual fund industry - which has had its share of racketeering with protection from the mafia - was recently allowed to use 0.2% of your money to spend on "investor education". They used it to promote their own products in the garb of investor education. SEBI, in a welcome move, had to crack down on this terrible practice and issue a directive to the fund houses to stop promoting their own poison.

But investors are not fools. Those that have survived the dozens of financial scams and have scars or amputated limbs to show for their foolishness of trusting those financial giants whose names you read on billboards, have moved to the safety of bank deposits and gold. The Railways should be proud of their effort to educate their users. Maybe SEBI and the railways should invite the financial honchos and their members of the Boards to cross the railway tracks so that the financial gurus know how investors are treated on a daily basis. Investor education may get the serious attention it deserves - and serious is not a function of how much money is spent but how it is spent.

And, yes, the investor education money should be used to buy the train tickets of the CEOs from the financial service industry and the members of the Boards they report to. Only then may you see any semblance of shame and remorse in an industry obsessed with greed and a belief that it has an unquestionable right to steal money from its clients.

Till that happens, be careful with your money, enjoy your railway journey, and watch Suresh Kala sing about the joys of the railway journey - despite the hardships commuters face.


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Disclaimer: The Honest Truth is authored by Ajit Dayal. Ajit is a Director at Quantum Advisors Pvt. Ltd and Quantum Asset Management Company Pvt. Ltd. The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and has not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author, Equitymaster, Quantum AMC and Quantum Advisors do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site. To write to Ajit, please click here.


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3 Responses to "Railway Safety Week: Beware the short cuts"

Anand Sundaramani

Nov 3, 2013

Dear M. Ajit,

I concur with you opinion that the financial services companies are out there to fleece ordinary mortals like me. It was refreshing to see the parallel with Indian Railways and having traveled in 1 yesterday, I am brought to ask this question to each and every investor / the common person:"Apart from your immediate family, who else thinks on your behalf?"
Everyone else is busy thinking against you so that you can provide some monetary service to them.
Also, given the sheer volume of noise in the financial services industry about making people rich etc...etc...I guess each one is left to fend for themselves. Why are we now surprised that we target FDs and Gold (given that the FD issuers are also there to eat out our pockets!!!)....seems to be a balanced game, Zero to the common man and 100 to the powers and institutions that are (therefore balanced).
Apologies for the cynicism...

Best Regards
Anand S

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Kunal Bavishi

Oct 30, 2013

Excellent Article Ajit Sir.

"One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic", And as we know millions of people are butchered in the events which mainstream media does not cover and has no clue of......

Like (1)

Satya Verma

Oct 28, 2013

Railway can install ESCALATORS for crossing. That can save precious lives. Thank you.

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