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Rahul Gandhi returns to Delhi after 56-day sabbatical

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 16 April 2015 | 22.14

NEW DELHI: Ending all speculation, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi finally returned to Delhi on Thursday after his 56-day sabbatical.

The Congress vice-president arrived here at 11.15am on a Thai Airways plane from Bangkok, PTI reported.

The plane, which was scheduled to land at 10.35am, was delayed by 40 minutes, sources said.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi reached the 12, Tughlaq Road residence of Rahul before 11am and was soon followed by daughter Priyanka.

The Congress heir apparent has been away from work for almost about two months, with his leave announced by Congress on the day Parliament's budget session got underway on February 23.

READ ALSO: Sonia vs Rahul debate rattles Congress

As the announcement of the sabbatical surprised everyone, the idea as much as its timing, Congress said Rahul wanted some time out to introspect on the recent debacles faced by Congress and to hammer out strategy for the future as also his ideas for the party conclave to be held soon.

However, Rahul's absence left the party to field questions about his location and return on a daily basis. "Every individual has a right to privacy and we must respect that. Our vice-president did not escape or disappear... His one month absence seems to have become a problem in India," AICC spokesman P C Chacko said, yet again on Wednesday .

For the Congress vice-president, the return coincides with an increasing frequency of public comments from members demanding that Sonia Gandhi continue as party chief. Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit's remarks on Tuesday followed similar views aired by former MP Sandeep Dikshit and former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Sheila Dikshit voices reservations over Rahul Gandhi

A harried Congress on Wednesday sought to impose a gag order on controversial comments. "Senior members should refrain from making open comments. They should not create unnecessary controversy as interested sections want to create confusion," Chacko said, adding that any suggestion of differences between Sonia and Rahul were "completely wrong".

Rahul will attend the farmers rally in Delhi on April 19, a party protest against the land acquisition bill of the Modi government.

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Separatists raise Pakistan flag in Srinagar, insult India, but no arrests yet

NEW DELHI: Hours after separatist leader Masarat Alam held an anti-India rally while welcoming return of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar, India reacted by only registering an FIR at Budgam police station against Geelani, Alam and Bashir Ahmed Bhat alias Peer Saifullah.

The FIR was lodged for "provocative activities" in Hyderpora area. FIR No 92 /2015 under sections 13 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 120-B, 147,341,336,427 RPC was registered against the separatist leaders.

But no arrests were made by the time of filing this report. Union minister of state for home Kiran Rijiju said the state government had been asked to act against "those who had broken the law''.

Bhat, however, remained defiant and rejected charges of unlawful activities. "We are only promoting the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Look at their enthusiasm," he said.

Earlier, videos showed the 47-year-old Alam, a likely successor to separatist top gun Syed Ali Shah Geelani, raise slogans in support of Hafeez Saeed and Pakistan.

READ ALSO: Separatist leaders Yasin Malik, Masarat Alam detained

The video shows Alam chanting with thousands of his supporters, "Hafeez Saeed ka yehi paigham, Kashmir banega Pakistan". Alam was released from prison after four years on March 7 this year after the formation of PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Thousands of people flocked the streets, some raising Pakistan's flags and shouting anti-India slogans.

READ ALSO: Masarat Alam raises Pak flag in Srinagar

(PTI photo)

Many from the crowds also pelted stones at the CRPF jawans.

READ ALSO: Masarat Alam Bhat, 'a stone thrower since childhood'

Meanwhile, taking strong exception to the waving of Pakistani flags and raising of pro-Pakistan slogans at a rally in Srinagar, BJP today asked ally PDP to take immediate action against separatist leaders like Masarat Alam, failing which it said that "consequences" would follow, PTI reported.

"This is unacceptable. We demand immediate action against Alam and the others who were involved in today's rally. There can be no leniency on this, this is clearly a major aberration and we expect PDP to take action.

"If corrective action is not taken... If PDP does not conform to expected notes (sic) of BJP and the Centre, consequences would follow," said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao. But it is the BJP-PDP who are in the government and Rao said the ruling alliance's purpose was to take concrete steps to ensure peace and stability in the state.

"What happened today is a complete reversal of that. This is unacceptable. We clearly expect some kind of action," he said.

After a gap of five years, Jammu & Kashmir government allowed hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to hold a public rally today on the outskirts of Srinagar where his supporters, including Alam, raised pro-Pakistan slogans while others waved Pakistani flags.

READ ALSO: Will ensure surveillance of Masarat Alam, Rajnath Singh says

Alam was released from jail last month with the move having triggered a controversy.

(AP photo)

Geelani, who returned to J-K after spending the winter months in Delhi, was taken to his residence from the airport in a procession led by Alam, against whom state police has registered a case under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

(With agency inputs)

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Rahul Gandhi returns to Delhi from Bangkok

NEW DELHI: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday returned to Delhi from his almost two-month long "unexplained" sabbatical, which had raised questions over his leadership of the party that is struggling to find its feet after a string of electoral defeats.

The 44-year-old leader arrived here at 11.15am on a Thai Airways plane from Bangkok, ending days of intense speculation over his return and amidst celebrations by party workers who burst crackers outside his residence.

Wearing a dark shirt and seated in the back seat of his vehicle, he arrived escorted by his security personnel and drove straight into the house without interacting with the waiting mediapersons.

The return of Rahul comes ahead of the party's planned farmers' rally here on the contentious land bill issue which he is likely to address.

The plane, which was scheduled to land at 10.35am, was delayed by 40 minutes, sources said. Shortly later, Rahul drove to his 12, Tughlaq Lane residence where his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka were waiting.

Rahul had left quietly before the Budget session began on February 23 but it is still not known where he had spent the days.

The party had then said that he "requested Congress president Sonia Gandhi for some time to reflect on recent events and future course of the party".

Ever since the announcement of his temporary break from political life, there has been speculation that he was unhappy with not getting a free hand to run the party, a contention which the party has officially denied.

Rahul's leave had come amid talk of an AICC session, where he was expected to be elevated as Congress president.

During his absence, several party leaders including former chief ministers Amarinder Singh and Sheila Dikshit came out in the open pitching for Sonia Gandhi to continue as president and raised questions over his leadership.

READ ALSO: Sonia vs Rahul debate rattles Congress

Sheila Dikshit voices reservations over Rahul Gandhi

Congress leaders had announced that Rahul would be back by April 19 as he would be addressing a farmers' rally on land bill issue at the Ramlila maidan here on that day.

The rally is being held on the eve of the second phase of the Budget session of Parliament. Rahul had skipped the first phase which saw the Congress taking on the government over the land bill issue.

Party leaders voiced confidence that Rahul will provide leadership with dynamism and commitment and take pro-active measures.

"He is back and I have no doubt that he will be not only taking proactive measures but also with dynamism, with commitment provide leadership," Congress leader Anand Sharma said, adding that farmers' issue has been close to Rahul's heart.

There are no 'item numbers' in politics: BJP

The BJP, meanwhile, took potshots at the Congress vice-president, saying he "ran away" as he had lost all confidence.

"From Nehru to Rahul, it is the withering away of the dynasty," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

"The Congress Party is saying that Mr Rahul Gandhi will conduct a successful kisan rally, to which we would say there is no item number in Indian politics or politics as such. You can't just reappear, attend a rally and then vanish again. You have to be serious," Sambit Patra said.

He added that Rahul's return from his sabbatical had hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

"This is for the first time in Indian politics that an important member of a political party was absconding for such a long period of time and his return has become news," said Patra.

(With inputs from agencies)

Read in Hindi: घर लौटे राहुल गांधी, कांग्रेसियों ने फोड़े पटाखे

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Maharashtra bypoll: Shiv Sena Trupti Sawant defeats Narayan Rane

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 15 April 2015 | 22.14

MUMBAI: Congress leader Narayan Rane once again received a major political setback after a widow of former Sena legislator late Prakash Sawant defeated him in a bypoll with a comfortable margin of around 19000 votes.

Sawant led Sena's home turf Bandra E where Matoshree is located. This is Rane's second consecutive defeat after he lost election to Vaibhav Naik on his homeground in Kankavli.

While Rane received 33703 votes, Shiv Sena's Trupti Sawant has got 52711 votes pushing MIM candidate (15050) to third position. Sawant's victory has given Sena a much needed boost ahead of civic polls in Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad and later in Mumbai n Thane.

In Tasgaon R R Patil's widow has won with a thumping margin of over 1 lakh vote. She defeated a BJP rebel.

According to sources Rane's political rehabilitation now looks bleak and he will be at his party's mercy but, for the Congress, there's a silver lining even in the Mumbai loss; the party seems to be back in favour among at least the minorities with more votes this time than in the last year's elections. Also, Cong will not have to deal with a resurgent and, therefore, rebellious Rane and the big guns in the party will breathe easy for now.

Read this in Hindi: उपचुनाव में भी हारे नारायण राणे, समर्थकों की भिड़ंत

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David Cameron stumped by a bouncer from a 10 year old Indian-origin girl

LONDON: He has managed to stand his ground against hawks like UKIP leader Nigel Farage, coalition partner turned critic Nick Clegg and his primary tormentor and prime minister hopeful Labour leader Ed Miliband.

But Britain's prime minister David Cameron was left stumped on Tuesday by a bouncer coming from an unlikely foe - a 10 year-old.

With just over 20 days to go before Britain goes into what is being called the most unpredictable general elections in the country's recent history, Cameron was on his campaigning trail in Greater Manchester when he was faced by a question he hadn't prepared for.

Reema, a student of Indian origin from the city of Salford asked him "If you could pick one politician apart from yourself to win who would it be and why?".

At first, Cameron who unveiled the Conservative Party's cradle-to-grave election manifesto on Tuesday promising voters "security at every stage of your life" decided to duck the question and tried to buy time by replying "Wow. If I could pick a politician? Would they have to be living or dead?".

However, unable to evade the direct question, Cameron replied "If I thought someone else should win the election I would not be standing myself, so I can't really answer the question about who else I would like to win. There are lots of candidates around the country I am very enthusiastic about. I am afraid it is too difficult to say I would like someone else to win other than me or I wouldn't be here, and I am quite keen on winning".

Impressed, the PM who can fend off any query around the NHS or immigration of whether Britain would stay in the EU, admitted that it was the toughest question he had faced. "Top question, it is the best one I have been asked all election campaign," Cameron said when he was leaving.

Cameron recently announced he will step down and will not serve a third term as prime minister if his party remains in government after the general election on May 7 this year.

Cameron who on May 11, 2010 was elected Britain's youngest PM in decades following the resignation of Gordon Brown said that if re-elected, he would serve the full five years of another parliament and then leave the top office. Cameron confirmed he would occupy 10 Downing street till 2020.

Cameron said "I've said I'll stand for a full second term, but I think after that it will be time for new leadership. Two is wonderful but three might just be too many". He added "No. I think I'm standing for a full second time"

The last general election in 2010 in UK was won by the Conservatives, led by Cameron, who won 306 seats - 20 seats short of an overall majority and resulted in the a hung parliament.

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India builds first 'smart' city as urban population swells

GANDHINAGAR: India's push to accommodate a booming urban population and attract investment rests in large part with dozens of "smart" cities like the one being built on the dusty banks of the Sabarmati river in Gujarat.

So far, it boasts modern underground infrastructure, two office blocks and not much else.

The plan, however, is for a meticulously planned metropolis complete with gleaming towers, drinking water on tap, automated waste collection and a dedicated power supply - luxuries to many Indians.

With an urban population set to rise by more than 400 million people to 814 million by 2050, India faces the kind of mass urbanisation only seen before in China, and many of its biggest cities are already bursting at the seams.

Ahead of his election last May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised 100 so-called smart cities by 2022 to help meet the rush.

READ ALSO: What makes a city 'smart'?

At a cost of about $1 trillion, according to estimates from consultants KPMG, the plan is also crucial to Modi's ambition of attracting investment while providing jobs for the million or more Indians who join the workforce every month.

His grand scheme, still a nebulous concept involving quality communications and infrastructure, is beginning to take shape outside Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat, with the first "smart" city the government hopes will provide a model for India's urban future.

"Most (Indian) cities have not been planned in an integrated way," said Jagan Shah, director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs which is helping the government set guidelines for the new developments.

Among the challenges to getting new cities built or existing cities transformed is the lack of experts who can make such huge projects work and attracting private finance.

"To get the private sector in, there is a lot of risk mitigation that needs to happen because nobody wants a risky proposition," he told Reuters, stressing the need for detailed planning.

To build smart cities, India allocated 60 billion rupees ($962 million) in its annual Union budget for the financial year starting April 1, even as it spent just a fraction of last year's allocation of 70.6 billion rupees, said Shah.

Old cities or new?

Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), as the smart city is called, will double up as a financial hub, with tax and other breaks to lure banks, brokerages and other businesses.

Developed in partnership with IL&FS Engineering and Construction, it aims to compete with India's own financial capital of Mumbai as well as overseas rivals like Dubai and Singapore.

Pressure on India's existing urban centres is already intense, with cities like Mumbai gridlocked by traffic and hampered by poor infrastructure and a lack of amenities like parks and effective public transport.

Yet some experts believe that building new cities may not be the answer to India's swelling urban population.

"To address India's urbanisation challenge we have to start looking at our existing cities," said Shirish Sankhe, director at consultant McKinsey and Company, India.

He added that new cities would be only a small part of the solution relative to brownfield projects.

India has built planned cities in the past, including Chandigarh, designed by French architect Le Corbusier, and Gandhinagar itself. But the scale of its current push is unprecedented.

A bird's eye view from atop one of the two office buildings on the 886-acre GIFT site, a venture which began when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, shows little sign yet of the 9 billion rupees spent on the first phase.

But the sandy plain hides infrastructure including an underground tunnel for utilities, a first in India.

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Flipkart pulls out of Airtel's net neutrality violating Airtel Zero

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 14 April 2015 | 22.14

Indian e-tailing giant Flipkart seems to have relaised that it can no longer ignore the growing chorus against net neutrality. As just days after its CEO Sachin Bansal defended net neutrality 'violating' Airtel Zero, the company has pulled out of the service.

The news, first reported by NextBigWhat, has been confirmed by Flipkart spokesperson. In a statement, the company said, "We at Flipkart have always strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality, for we exist because of the internet. Over the past few days, there has been a great amount of debate, both internally and externally, on the topic of zero rating, and we have a deeper understanding of the implications."

The company added that based on this, it has decided on the following:

* We will be walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero.

READ ALSO: What is net neutrality and why it is important?

* We will be committing ourselves to the larger cause of Net Neutrality in India. We will be internally discussing over the next few days, the details of actions we will take to support the cause.

READ ALSO: Fight for net neutrality unites internet
READ ALSO: Time to fight for net neutrality in India

* We will be working towards ensuring that the spirit of net neutrality is upheld and applied equally to all companies in India irrespective of the size or the service being offered and there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever."

Interestingly, just last week, after a deluge of tweets and blog posts panning the Indian e-commerce giant's alleged anti-net neutrality move, Bansal took to Twitter to express his view on net neutrality.

In a series of tweets, he said, "I'm for #NetNeutrality. I spend time/money helping startups in india. Will never support things which suffocate innovation."

Defending Airtel Zero, he posted, "0 (Zero) rated apps for limited time doesn't go against #NetNeutrality. Costs/competition are very high. Can't be sustained for long. 0 (Zero)rating only reduces data costs for users. Fears of a telecom big brother emerging are unfounded. Choice wins. Always."

Airtel had launched 'Airtel Zero,' a platform through which it will offer users free access to certain mobile apps on April 6. These apps will be from developers who have signed up with the company.

READ ALSO: Complete coverage on net neutrality

Airtel's Zero platform is against the principles of net neutrality as under it the company will offer an advantage to certain players in terms of cost of access and will even promote them. These players will most likely shell out a fee to get this favourable position. While Airtel will get an additional source of revenue, for service and app providers, it will be an additional expenditure just to ensure that they don't lag behind their competitors.

Net neutrality implies equal treatment to all Internet traffic and any priority given to an application or company on payment basis is seen as violating the concept.

Anti-trust watchdog CCI is reportedly looking into schemes launched by some telecom operators, including Airtel, Reliance Communications and Uninor, that claim to provide 'free' access to certain internet applications, even as the companies defended their stand saying these initiatives did not go against 'net neutrality'.

Telecom regulator Trai, which last month floated a discussion paper on this, is also looking into the issue.

"Non discriminatory net availability is what we need to strive for," telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, while adding that an expert committee was looking into the matter and should submit its report within a month to help the government make an informed decision.

According to the minister, internet is one of the finest creations of the human mind and it is a property of the entire human race and not of any country or society.

"Internet to become entirely global should have a link to local and when we talk of digital inclusion it must be available to the underprivileged and on the margins," he said.
Watch AIB video on net neutrality

Join the Times campaign for a neutral internet here

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Land grabbed for railway track, 2 farmers to get train in return

SHIMLA: Two farmers from Himachal Pradesh's Una district may become proud owners of Delhi-Una Janshatabdi Express on April 16 if a court order is executed.

The court of Una's additional district and sessions judge Mukesh Bansal on April 9 ordered to attach the DelhiUna Janshatabdi if the railways failed to pay compensation to two farmers whose land was acquired for laying the Una-Amb track in 1998.

The court said if the railways failed to pay around Rs 35 lakh to Mela Ram and Madan Lal by April 15, the train would be stopped at Una at 5am on April 16 and attached by the court. Ram is entitled to Rs 8.91 lakh and Lal to Rs 26.53 lakh. Ram and Lal had moved the court against the delay in payment of compensation even after the Himachal Pradesh HC had directed the railways in 2013 to pay the money within six weeks.

READ ALSO: UP farmers get Rs 100, Rs 63 as relief for damaged crops

Advocate Arun Kumar Saini, who represented the farmers, said the rail ways had acquired the land in 1998, following which the two fil ed a case for higher compensation. In 2009, the railways too moved the court but in 2011 the district court increased the compensation.

The court order had given three months to the railways for filing an appeal against the verdict. However, the railways moved the HC only in 2013 and the HC stayed the order on the condition that the increased compensation should be deposited in the court within six weeks. "But the railways haven't deposited the amount until now," Saini said.

As the HC had also made it clear that after the lapse of six weeks, parties would be at liberty to execute the order, the aggrieved farmers moved the lower court. After hearing the plea on April 9, judge Bansal ordered to attach the Janshatabadi train. "We'd submitted a list of four trains, two passenger, Himachal Express and Janshatabdi, and the court directed to attach the Janshatabdi," Saini said.

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Singapore maths question: How to solve the problem for school children that has stumped the world

A TV presenter in Singapore has sparked an unlikely viral craze after posting a maths problem that was posed to the nation's children.

Initially confusing but very doable, it has sparked thousands of comments and shares - particularly when it was initially thought to have been posed to 10-year-olds.

"Hello Singapore" presenter Kenneth Kong has since clarified that it was actually a problem set to 14-year-olds in the Singapore and Asean Schools Math Olympiads (SASMO).

But that hasn't stopped people testing their mettle against Singapore's youngest and brightest.

So can you solve the question? Here it is - and don't read on below the image if you don't want to be told the answer:

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates.

May 15 May 16 May 19

June 17 June 18

July 14 July 16

August 14 August 15 August 17

Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately the month and the day of her birthday respectively.

Albert: I don't know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too.

Bernard: At first I don't know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know now.

Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl's birthday is.

So when is Cheryl's birthday?

After Mr Kong's post attracted such interest, he was contacted by the executive director of SASMO who clarified that the "supposedly P5 (primary school) question" was posed to maths Olympiad contestants on 8 April.

Henry Ong also stated that it was the 24th of 25 questions - in other words "a difficult question meant to sift out the better students". Mr Ong said he was nonetheless pleased "that this question has generated so much interest and 'solutions' on the internet".

And here's the true 'solution', courtesy of a debate on Singapore's Study Room:

First we need to figure out if Albert knows the month or the day. If he knows the day, then there is no chance that Bernard knows the birthday, so it must be that Albert knows the month.

From the first statement, we know that Albert is sure that Bernard doesn't know the birthday, so May and June should be ruled out (the day 19 only appears in May and the day 18 only appears in June). In other words, if Albert had May or June, then he cannot be sure that Bernard doesn't know, since Bernard could have had 18 or 19.

Following that statement, Bernard knows that May and June are ruled out.

Then, Bernard is able to know which month it is. So it must be either July 16, August 15 and August 17 (not 14th as then he can't know).

Since Albert subsequently can also be sure of the date, he must know it's July. If it's August, he can't be sure as there is August 15 and 17.

So the answer is July 16.

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Be careful while transferring money

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 13 April 2015 | 22.14

When was the last time you went to a bank to transfer money? Today, 80-85% of NEFT and RTGS transactions happen through netbanking or apps. Online transfers are convenient, fast and cost nothing extra. All you have to do is register a person as a beneficiary by giving their account number and bank IFSC code and you can transfer money real time. But what if you accidentally send money to a wrong bank account?

To reduce the possibility of errors, customers have to key in the beneficiary account number twice. Also, if there is a mismatch between the account number and the IFSC code, the system will not accept the entry. Moreover, post adding a beneficiary, there is also a cooling period of 30 minutes during which you cannot transact.

During the cooling period, some banks send customers text notifications on their registered mobile numbers, confirming the account number of the beneficiary they have added. Customers can reconfirm the number at this stage. Some give you the option of adding the beneficiary's mobile number when you register so that they can be intimated via sms.

However, chances of errors still persist. If you accidentally put one digit wrong and it doesn't correspond to the account holder's name, the transaction can still go through.

It is also possible that you had the wrong account number to begin with. You can also mistakenly put an extra zero to the amount to be transferred.

According to the RBI, responsibility to provide correct inputs in the payment instructions, particularly the beneficiary account number information, rests with the remitter or originator. So, the onus of the mistake will solely be on you. Inform the bank immediately.

The turnaround time also depends on how quickly the customer alerts the bank, the banks involved and the stage at which the transaction is at. "If the remitter and beneficiary accounts are with the same bank, the process is quicker. If you alert the bank within an hour, the money could be reversed immediately," says Jairam Sridharan, President, Retail Lending and Payments, Axis Bank.

The beneficiary has to be intimidated as well. Without the beneficiary's permission, the bank cannot reverse the transaction. If the beneficiary refuses to cooperate, then you will have to take legal recourse.

The RBI clearly states that, "In cases where it is found that credit has been afforded to a wrong account, banks need to establish a robust, transparent and quick grievance redressal mechanism to reverse such credits and set right the mistake". However, this is not a regular procedure for banks. "Since the occurrences are pretty low, say two to three cases a quarter, most banks do not have a formal redressal process in place," says Sridharan. It is important that you take precautions. Checks like sending a smaller amount, copy-pasting rather than typing the account numbers will save you a lot of trouble later.

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