Tag Archives: Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Where there is a will, there is a way

You may have slogged all your life and gathered lots of wealth. But have you ever thought what would happen to your assets after your demise? Advocate Shankar Pai, has a solution to this dilemma.
“It all happened in the year 2001 when the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil were having a dispute over the legacy left by their father Dhirubhai Ambani,” says Pai. Shankar Pai“The thought struck me – had the senior Ambani made a will, his sons would land up in such a fix over the distribution of their fathers assets,” he adds. This gave birth to the organisation Make A Will Foundation.Pai decided to take up the challenge of spreading awareness about making a will. Through his lectures, he advocates the Three ‘P’ Philosophy – Peace, Prosperity and Progress. “A person lives forever through a will, there is no death. A will is a plan that defeats death. It is a valuable piece of paper that we prepare in our lifetime so that our wishes are fulfilled after we are no more,” says Pai. “A will is something you can reward the person who has taken care of you,” he adds.Pai, now aged 56, was a branch manager at Dena Bank when he opted for voluntary retirement in 2001. Pai, a qualified lawyer also practices at the Debt Recovery Tribunal in addition to making wills.

Pai encounters numerous problems while spreading awareness about making wills. “A will is a sensitive topic to open up to. In India, people are not comfortable discussing a will. There is a misconception that if someone tells you to make a will, the person thinks that indirectly you are telling him that his end is near or that you are eying his property. However, all apprehensions disappear when I tell them the consequences of not making a will,” informs Pai.

Pai tells people that making a will only eases the burden on the heirs to distribute the assets of the owner. The owners responsibility is to make a will devoid of disparities while the law will intervene only to clear the disparities.

At Pai’s lectures, he clarifies that making a will is not a complex process. All it requires is a plain sheet of paper (not a stamp paper), details of the willed property and the signature of the testator (person making the will). In addition, the signatures of two witnesses are required. It is not necessary that a will has to be registered but, one should try and register it in case it is likely to be challenged in court after the demise of the testator. In case the two witnesses are a doctor and lawyer, then the will is likely to face less legal obstacles. Although not necessary, the doctor’s attestation is beneficial to prove that the testator was in good health while making the will. Pai also clarifies the finer aspects of wills. Contrary to popular beliefs, a will is not irrevocable. It can be revised as many times as the testator wishes to. However, each time the will is revised, a new signature and declaration stating that the will is the final one needs to be added along with the date of the revised will. An executior has to be appointed who will administer the will after the death of the testator.

The foundation, when delivering lectures to corporate reiterates the value of a will in extending corporate social responsibilities by citing examples of Alfred Nobel who institutes the Nobel Prize through his will and Sir Ratan Tata who founded institutes such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research through his will. “Today, we encourage the addition of organ donation as a part of the will or an annexure to the will,” says Pai. “If everyone pledges something to society there can be a revolution,” Pai concludes.

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Austrian aims to make Mumbai slum-free

Adolf Tragler has one goal in mind – to live in a slum-free city. Keeping this motto in mind, Tragler started the Slum Rehabilitation Society (SRS) in 1972.Adolf Tragler

Tragler, born and raised in Austria, had a wish to study in a foreign country. He had many options in mind and settled for India after having visited the country along with a missionary group. Thus is 1962, Tragler set foot to India, where he completed his Bachelors of Arts from Fergusson College in Pune and then came to Mumbai to complete his Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

“The first time I came to Mumbai, I was shocked to see the plight of slum dwellers and that is when I decided that I had to do something for them,” says Tragler. SRS targets individuals and families who have been forced to live in slums due to the absence of affordable housing facilities.

SRS works only in Mumbai under the ‘Free Housing Policy’ of the government. The main areas of operation are Kandivali, Oshiwara, Bandra, Dharavi, Dindoshi, Mahalaxmi and Chembur. “We think of what can be done on the land that they are already occupying. In cases where the slum dwellers are occupying land reserved for open spaces then we try to relocate them to the nearest place available,” informs Tragler.

SRS normally meets the slum dwellers and helps them form an association and elect representatives from among themselves who could approach builders to rehabilitate them. According to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) guidelines, a slum can be rehabilitated only with the consent of 70% of the occupants. If the land is a private land, the No Objection Certificate (NOC) has to be obtained from the owner of the land so that slum dwellers can apply for acquisition of the land.

When asked about the Free Housing Policy, Tragler says, “Real estate prices are skyrocketing for the common man. Why should a certain section of people get free houses? We are against free housing but we promote affordable housing. Distributing free houses is not a form of development.”

SRS adopted a slum in Mahalaxmi and each family from the slum contributed Rs. 25,000 and collected an overall total of Rs. 40 lakhs. Seeing the level of commitment, HDFC Bank sanctioned a loan of Rs. 1 crore for the project. “When people pay for their house only then they will realise the value of it,” says Tragler. “We encourage slum dwellers to develop the land they are already occupying to reap maximum benefits from the land. Getting a builder to do it often benefits the builder more than the slum dwellers,” he adds. This was the first major project approved by the SRA where residents themselves financed their own housing rather than depending on builders.

Another activity of SRS is post-rehabilitation. “There are people, after getting free houses, sell it off or lease it and come back on the road. In such cases we counsel them into keeping their own houses because a permanent residence always helps them raise their social status. However, sometimes these people need ready cash say to pay for their daughters marriage and are hence forced to sell their houses,” says Tragler. As part of post rehabilitation, SRS has also mobilised women to approach authorities for adequate water supply and cleaning drainage systems around the buildings.

Today, Tragler, aged 70 lives with his wife in Bandra and can speak fluent Hindi and Marathi. He has an Indian citizenship and visits Austria every 3-4 years to visit his family. “I have to obtain a visa like any other Indian to visit the country of my birth,” he says.

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