Suneel Sharma,a lecturer at the Government PG College,Gadarwara in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh,is not just another Physics teacher. Over the past 15 months he has conducted 66 workshops on financial education,attended by around 4,000 participants,under the financial education programme of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).
I have covered 30 colleges,teaching students and lecturers on various aspects of savings,investment and retirement planning,and it is not product specific, said Sharma who has tied up with NGOs,clubs and farmers associations to mobilise people to attend such classes.
The higher education department of the MP government has written to all colleges in the state to conduct these workshops.
People do not know about good financial products like new pension system,term-insurance plans,and go by what agents sell. Participants also call me for advice regularly and at a time when SpeakAsia was aggressively speaking its net,a lot of participants of my workshop called me asking what to do, said Sharma who is one of the 297 Resource Persons (RPs) trained by Sebi.
Sebi has taken up the task of educating individuals across the country on financial products. Conducting workshops on concepts of savings,investments,asset allocation,investment options and grievance redressal,Sebi has touched over 1 lakh individuals across the country and now aims to make financial education a part of school curriculum.
According to Sebis Investor Website,over the last 18 months,the market watchdog has trained over 297 Resource Persons (RPs) throughout the country who,in turn,have conducted an aggregate of 1,881 workshops (of 2-3 hour each) each covering a minimum of 50 participants.
Sebi also distributes study materials in over six languages aimed at various target groups such as young investors,home makers,retirement,school children,executives and middle income group for free.
Covering remote areas through this initiative,Sebi has kept various checks and balances in place to ensure it achieves the desired result from the initiative.
While it randomly sends its officials for field checks,it has mandated RPs to take attendance and also keep mobile numbers of participants. While RPs are generally from the particular region,Sebi pays Rs 2,000 along with conveyance expenses to RPs for each workshop they conduct. The regulator also arranges for a venue if needed. Sebi utilises the Investor Protection and Education Fund (IPEF).
Sebi has also taken initiative through the National Institute of Securities Market where it conducts classes in schools and has covered 256 schools with a total participation of 5,783 students. In rural areas,the regulator has trained 238 teachers across 197 schools by associating with an NGO called MelJol.
Taking financial education a step further,Sebi is in discussion with the finance ministry and the CBSE to include financial education in school curriculum. While a committee has been formed for the same,Sebi has proposed topics to be included in the curriculum. A person close to the development said that,It is tough to introduce it as a separate subject but it can be included as chapters in various subjects.
If financial education and awareness is one aspect,Sebi is also focussing on its grievance redressal mechanism. Sebi plans to act as a depository and connect all the listed companies and it has already added around 2,000 companies. Under the mechanism,investors can lodge their complaint which will then be routed by Sebi to the respective company where the compliance officers will have to take steps. The responses which have to be given within 30 days by the companies will also be seen by Sebi.
Sebi recently added another mode by which investors can communicate with it. On January 2,UK Sinha,chairman,Sebi,launched the regulators toll free helpline service for the investors 1800-22-7575 in 14 languages. Investors can make calls and seek guidance from the call centre officer,lodge complaint,seek the status of an existing complaint and even seek assistance on IPO process etc.
While there are 4.7 crore mutual fund folios,1.86 crore demat accounts (excluding the closed accounts) and 31 crore life insurance policies in force,much needs to be done to channelise the savings of Indians into the equity market.