Life Exclusive
Gay marriage: President Obama’s bold move

The president’s endorsement of gay marriage was a leap of faith but also had an eye on opinion polls. It actually may be Obama’s insurance policy if the economy tanks

It looked as if it was well choreographed. First President Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan said that he supported gay marriage. Then Vice-President Joe Biden said in a “Meet the Press” programme that he was absolutely comfortable with gay marriage. And then the president stepped in and endorsed gay marriage. In a hastily called interview he told ABC’s Robin Roberts said that at a certain point, “I have just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married”. He said that he had come to this decision after speaking with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha, some of whose friends’ parents were gay, and that his views on gay marriage had finally evolved and he was endorsing it.

Democratic officials later commenting on the decision called it a matter of conscience and not a political calculation while Republican officials called it a distraction. It seems that the president had originally planned to announce it sometime before the Democratic Convention later in the year but the Vice-President’s comment and endorsement of views had forced him to endorse it earlier.

It was immediately evident that America had come a very long way since President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy for gays in the military which effectively allowed gay soldiers to work in the military without harassment. The policy ensured that soldiers would not be asked to reveal their sexual orientation by the military and hence would be able to maintain their privacy. But they could not be openly gay. President Obama himself had been sitting on the fence about his support or opposition for gay marriage though the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy had been repealed as being too restrictive.

America has also been moving in favour of gay marriage with now a simple majority favouring gay marriage, a number which is increasing with each passing year. The momentum seems to be only gathering steam and what used to be a plurality has now become a majority. A participant summed it up beautifully on the State of the Union Programme on CNN—she said that the fact of the matter was that her parents knew no openly gay people or had no gay friends but she has several. It seems that once you know someone who is gay your view on gay relationships and gay marriage change even if the people you ‘know’ are only characters on TV soaps.

Immediately this announcement roiled the election campaign. Mitt Romney had tried to pre-empt Obama’s announcement by reiterating as stand that marriage was a union between a man and a woman. At Liberty University, an important Christian college, he reiterated his stand. Mitt Romney is not only against gay marriage but is also against civil unions between gay people something supported by President George Bush.

The president’s announcement was a leap of faith but also had an eye on opinion polls. Recent opinion polls indicated that a majority supported gay marriage. Recent opinion polls also indicated that a majority of independent voters supported gay marriage—but no one quite knows how the announcement would play out. He seemed to have gained a boost in fund raising with gay couples stopping off on the highway to send money by the Internet and at least in the liberal press the coverage was mostly positive. They positioned it as a civil rights issue—perhaps the most important one since the Civil Rights Act. It was framed as an issue; as an issue of constitutionality Vs issue of Christianity. But they were jumping the gun a little. Congress leaders are no closer to repealing the Defence of Marriage Act which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman and it was unlikely to happen anytime soon. In a mostly Christian nation theirs was as pushback. Some said this marriage in the Garden of Eden was between Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve. Some called for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between men and women.

The airwaves across the world burst into frenzied opinionating . Some said that any couple in love should be allowed to make permanent their relationship whatever their sexual orientation. There were couples from Nigeria and India which supported gay marriage (the Indian couple said they were engaged and hoped to get married in 18 months. The floodgates seemed to have opened and everyone tried to get a word in.

But Obama’s getting off the fence clearly has some risks. A lot of black churches who support the president are opposed to gay marriage. Also it is less than certain how swing voter states like in North Carolina (which passed an amendment defining marriage); Ohio, a key swing state; and Virginia will vote but Obama has clearly added another arrow to his election campaign apart from the economy. It actually may be Obama’s insurance policy if the economy tanks.

(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)


BCCI suspends five uncapped players exposed in the sting operation

The BCCI also decided to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident by Ravi Sawani, former chief of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit

New Delhi: Five uncapped Indian players on Tuesday were suspended with immediate effect pending completion of an inquiry as a rattled Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) cracked the whip on tainted cricketers in the wake of a television sting operation which claimed to have exposed corruption in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), reports PTI.

BCCI, headquartered at Mumbai, is the national governing body for all cricket in India. The strong action to suspend Mohnish Mishra, Shalabh Srivastava, TP Sudhindra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali was taken after a lengthy tele-conference of top BCCI officials and members of the IPL's Governing Council.

The BCCI decided to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident by Ravi Sawani, former chief of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit who is now heading the BCCI's newly set-up Anti-Corruption Unit.

"The IPL Governing Council met on teleconference today at 2:30pm and they recommended to the BCCI President for strict action against those players who were found guilty and found suspicious on the television footage shown on India TV," IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla told reporters.

"Since it also involved matter relating to other matches and previous IPL, it was referred to the President. The president after due consideration has decided to have a preliminary inquiry for which a commissioner has been appointed. Mr Sawani who was the ICC ACSU chief and now advisor will conduct the inquiry and he will submit a report to the Disciplinary Committee," he said.

"Pending inquiry the five players have been suspended from all cricket activities with immediate effect. We will await the report of the preliminary inquiry and proper action will be taken only after that," he added.

Television channel India TV yesterday claimed to have blown the lid off "murky deals" in the IPL among players, organisers, owners and big guns of Indian cricket.

That some tough measures would be taken against the players was evident when the BCCI president N Srinivasan, who is currently at Kodaikanal, made it clear that no player would be spared if found guilty.

He admitted that he was surprised by the sting operation and reiterated the BCCI's zero tolerance towards corruption in cricket.

"We will not tolerate this nonsense. We have zero tolerance on corruption and you will not be disappointed by the action we take," he said.

"Some evidence have been found against some players," he added.

The TV sting operation which was aired at prime time yesterday created a flutter in the Indian cricket establishment prompting the BCCI to react quickly. It took less than 24 hours for the cricket body to take action against the players.

The channel had claimed it had done a sting operation in which many players confessed on hidden camera they get much more than their prescribed auction under the table.

According to the channel, its operation also revealed that spot-fixing is not only prevalent in IPL but also that first class matches are fixed and women played an important role in match-fixing.

The IPL's Governing Council had sought video footage from the TV channel and is understood to have scrutinised the tapes before taking the decision of suspending the players.




5 years ago

I wonder, why all are so much bothered about some alleged malpractice resorted to by some persons entirely in a private, profit-making enterprise. Neither BBCI is an authority for any purposes under any Act of Parliament, nor is IPL anything other than a private affair. It is reprehensible that these things, including a profit making private body which has been unofficially accorded the status of selecting/sending abroad our cricket teams without any legal status behind them, must be given so much media bytes and print space. When will our media finally emerge from its adolescence?

SEBI asks MPS Greenery to deposit Rs1,169 crore in escrow account

Despite orders from SEBI in the past, the MPS group company continued to collect money and publish ads in local newspapers

Capital market watchdog, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has asked  controversial MPS Greenery Developers to deposit Rs1,169 crore in an escrow account of nationalized bank. SEBI also barred MPS Greenery from entering the capital market for violating the regulator's provision by collecting money under Collective Investment Scheme (CIS) without proper registration. The amount has to be deposited within 15 days of the order.
MPS is among many companies which had come under the regulator's scanner for accepting deposits under CIS. Earlier Moneylife had reported on how several dubious conglomerates are flourishing in West Bengal and Tripura, thanks to a combination of financial illiteracy and political protection, irrespective of the political parties in power. (Will Rose Valley’s clones, flourishing with CPM’s help, come under the lens now?)

SEBI in its order, dated 11th May, said that, "…MPS Greenery Developers Ltd to deposit with a nationalized bank in an interest bearing Escrow Account, an amount of Rs1,169.39 crore, which it has raised through its collective investment schemes, without obtaining certificate of Registration and in contravention of the conditions imposed by Securities and Exchange Board of India while granting provisional registration…"
MPS Greenery Developers, the flagship company of the MPS group, is based in Jhargram (West Bengal), and deals in agro-products and food processing. In 2000, it had applied for registration under SEBI's Collective Investment Schemes Regulations, 1999. However, in 2002, the regulator rejected MPS's application and ordered it to repay the deposits it had collected from the public after noticing that it raised the money in violation of SEBI circular (dated 24 February 1998) and Delhi High Court's order (dated 7 October 1998) which made it mandatory for all plantation companies to comply with the circular. It had also ordered the company to wind up its scheme.

Further, the company challenged the SEBI's decision in Calcutta High Court. According to the SEBI order, in June 2009, the High Court disposed off MPS's petition but asked SEBI to "reconsider the matter and revisit the issue as to whether the registration as sought by the petitioner company can be granted." However the court also, according to SEBI order, did not remove the restrictions imposed on the company by the SEBI.

In August 2009, SEBI granted MPS a provisional registration as a Collective Investment Management company in accordance with its CIS Regulations, 1999 with certain conditions. This included restrictions on launching any new scheme or on raising fresh money from the investors; even under the existing schemes, unless a certificate of registration is granted to them by SEBI. This provisional registration expired on 20 August 2011.

However, a press note from SEBI says that, "MPS not only failed to fulfil the conditions of Provisional Registration, it also raised money from the public in violation of the conditions of provisional registration and it appears to be still mobilizing money from public. As per information provided by ICRA Limited, the total outstanding balance of funds with the company stood at around Rs1,169.39 crore as on 25 January 2011. Moreover, MPS had issued a newspaper advertorial which wrongly stated that the company is allowed to carry out Collective Investment Scheme activities."

Interestingly, according to the details of the advertorial (published on 30 March 2012 in Kolkata's edition of Business Standard) given in the SEBI order, the company claimed to have 14 lakh of investors, 1.25 lakh marketing members, 4 thousand direct and indirect labourers and more than 6 thousand workers and officers associated with MPS Group. It also said that it was looking to investment Rs30,000 crore in a project, 80% of which will be raised through collective investment schemes.
Apart from ordering the company to return the deposits, SEBI has also directed MPS not to collect any money from investors or to launch any scheme.


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