Suresh Kalmadi, the so-called darling of the voters and corporate chieftains from Pune, would not have come to much harm had he stayed content as the Lord Arbitrator in that once sleepy retirement town
On Monday, as the rumour mills in Delhi worked overtime on the Suresh Kalmadi arrest process, much attention was once again focused on what is known as the "CWG scam", as well as various aspects of the Indian Olympics Association (IOA) and its activities in India. The fact remains that till as recently as a year ago, even the accounts of the IOA and Commonwealth Games (CWG) in India were not open to public scrutiny, despite almost total funding by the Indian government, with complete support of the Indian government and its multiple arms. As a matter of fact, Suresh Kalmadi\'s IOA and CWG defended vigorously across all forums—from the Central Information Commission to the Delhi High Court—their rights to not provide any information pertaining to accounts and activities, and they were backed by the Union of India in this.
Against yours truly, incidentally, was this complete effort mobilised. Until a judgment by the Delhi High Court changed the course of history; by clarifying once and for all the meaning of the term "public authority". (This, incidentally, is being challenged again, by no less an entity than the Securities and Exchange Board of India and a few others, with support from—you guessed it—the same government!)
But is this only about the issue of misuse of public money related to sports activities in connection with a series of incidents referred to as "embarassing" by the current government?
Actually it is all this, and much more, and it certainly does not start or finish with the present high-profile developments over the arrest of Suresh Kalmadi—darling of the voting public in Pune as much as he was a darling of corporate chieftains also from Pune and the page-3 wonders there.
If anything, he was and still is even in absentia the ruling chief as well as \'Lord Arbitrator\' of this previously sleepy retirement town, which suddenly evolved especially over the last decade, as not just an extension of Mumbai, but as a hub of industrial, infotech, educational, religious and other commercial activities. This also included a property boom of the sort which Harold Robbin\'s "The Carpetbaggers" made famous, and a market for tax evasion and fake products which competed with Ulhasnagar; so extensive was its scale.
It has been said that every loaf of bread sold in Pune had two slices removed before it was re-packed, and these were reportedly for the "K Fund". The milk co-operatives were kept out of the retail market and Pune was one city where cooking gas was freely available, for resale, on the pavements of the city. So tight was his hold that even senior managers of central government organizations, like oil companies, would defer to him.
And lest we get taken in by the smug looks and grins on some of the faces of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) representatives doing their thing on television, be fully aware that the Big K was equally at home with the BJP and the Shiv Sena, as he was with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), in forming alliances as well as sharing the pie. In everything, there was a role and a share for everybody, and nobody knew how to keep things together with opponents as well as supporters as he did.
To a large extent, this was also because the growth in Pune was so exponential over the last decade, that there was enough to go around. So who was, or who is Suresh Kalmadi?
With an Indian Air Force background, which in itself has been the subject of some speculation on the how and why of his departure, to the rapid growth in and around his Poona Coffee House in the Deccan area of Pune\'s Jangli Maharaj Road, where he also started his filling station and Maruti as well as Bajaj dealerships, to greater game that is still whispered about in the corridors of Air India and ITDC, Kalmadi has been there and seen it all.
Big transport companies? Take a look at the track record of Neeta Travels and Ashok Travels and Tours, allegedly controlled by close friends. There\'s no smoke without fire, including all sorts of allegations pertaining to the misappropriation of cheques issued to similar sounding public sector companies, and the use of such inter-state bus companies for movement of a variety of contraband, including narcotics and counterfeit currency. Certainly, not proved, but then how does one prove such things?
Octroi evasion? Pune, like Mumbai, has its own octroi games. Along with Pimpri, as well as non-octroi areas surrounding both the municipalities, the environs in and around Pune are a genuine delight for those who wish to evade paying octroi, but certainly do not have an issue with charging it from unwary customers. It is well known that fake "octroi paid" certificates were available for almost everything, and every now and then the issue would be raised, to die down again.
Another racket in which Pune had become famous was as a location where the Road Transport Office (RTO) could be persuaded to do almost anything for a price. Whether this was responsible for Pune becoming a hub for the disposal of stolen vehicles is always whispered about.
But the real big games were always played out in Delhi. Whether it involved Air India or ITDC, or railways contracts, the Big K was always there in the background with his well-oiled fleet of fixers and movers playing their roles. Among various names mentioned in Delhi are his tie-ups with a nephew of the Nehru clan, who is also associated with a major international hotel chain which involves an ex-chief of Air India.
It has also been whispered that a hoard of documents have been kept by the Big K in these cases, with friendly contacts abroad—specifically with retired officers from a particular intelligence agency. And that\'s one reason for the delay in arresting him as these entities were slowly and steadily being neutralised.
Another good friend the Big K has is a famous filmstar-turned-BJP politician, whose daughter is an aspirational actress, and whose PR was handled by a company close to the Big K. The friend has been trying to use his not inconsiderable clout, as loud as a shotgun, but has been silenced due to reported linkages with Andhra politicians involved in the Hasan Ali case.
For sure, of course, we have not heard the last of the Big K. Unlike other people who have vanished quietly, he has been around far too long in the corridors of power in Delhi, and would have probably not come to much harm if he had stayed satisfied with his grip over matters in his part of the country. Nobody would, even now, dare question his hold.
But Delhi has always been the aspirational target for many people, and eventual graveyard for them too. While the efforts to save his skin continue, it seems that the word is out—he has been neutralised.
And Pune is now ready for a new leader, who will, hopefully, be loyal to Delhi, instead of trying to take on Delhi. You see, the real Marathas have already made their peace and signed their treaties, so others had to be side-lined. Besides, there is an old saying in Delhi—you really can not mix flour in salt, and then expect to make a paratha that everybody likes. Salt in small quantities in flour, yes.
The CBI had yesterday arrested Mr Kalmadi, Mr Lal and Mr Prasad for allegedly awarding illegal contracts to a Swiss firm for Timing-Scoring-Result (TSR) system for the Games causing a loss of Rs95 crore to the exchequer
New Delhi: Sacked Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee (OC) chief Suresh Kalmadi, arrested on charges of cheating, conspiracy and corruption in connection with awarding some Games contracts, was today remanded to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) custody for eight days by a Delhi Court for custodial interrogation, reports PTI.
The other two arrested OC officials Surjeet Lal, deputy director general (procurement), and A S V Prasad, joint director general (sport), were also remanded to CBI custody till 4th May by Special CBI judge Talwant Singh.
The CBI had yesterday arrested Mr Kalmadi, Mr Lal and Mr Prasad for allegedly awarding illegal contracts to a Swiss firm for Timing-Scoring-Result (TSR) system for the Games causing a loss of Rs95 crore to the exchequer.
The agency had sought 14 days' custody of 66-year-old Mr Kalmadi and his associates contending that they have to be interrogated to unearth the money trail in the scam.
However, the judge granted eight days to the CBI to question Mr Kalmadi and the two other accused.
The agency had submitted that Mr Kalmadi and his associates were not cooperating with the investigators and have been "evasive" in responding to the questions.
"The behaviour of the accused so far has remained evasive and non-cooperative and they are not revealing the true facts and circumstances of the criminal conspiracy leading to the award of TSR system contract to Swiss Timing in a wrongful manner," the CBI alleged.
"Mr Kalmadi as chairman of the Organising Committee of CWG, Mr Prasad as joint director general (sport) and Mr Lal as deputy director general (procurement) during the relevant period were among the main functionaries and key personnel in OC.
"They were deeply involved and instrumental in allotment of TSR contract to Swiss Timing in a pre-planned and premeditated manner at exorbitant rates, thus causing wrongful loss to the government," the agency claimed.
Mr Kalmadi, a Congress MP from Pune, and the two other officials have been booked under section 120B (conspiracy) read with Section 420 (cheating) IPC and other relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Mr Kalmadi's arrest has come weeks after his close aide and OC secretary general Lalit Bhanot and director general VK Verma were taken into custody in the same case.
The Nifty dipped below 5,800 as suggested yesterday, but bounced back. If it doesn't cross 5,900 soon, a decline is on the cards
The market was volatile ahead of the expiry of the April futures and options contract and an expected interest rate hike by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at its monetary policy meeting next week. Earnings performance influenced stocks of companies that have announced their results. The Nifty is still stuck around the 5,800 level, as seen in the last couple of days. A decline is inevitable if it doesn't cross 5,900 soon.
The local market opened flat, dampened by the Asian markets that were in the red on lacklustre earnings. The Sensex added 12 points to trade at 19,596 and the Nifty was a mere two points higher at 5,877. Selling in IT, metals, auto and consumer durables stocks dragged the indices further southwards till around 10.20 am. Thereafter the market was range-bound for nearly two hours and an institutional sell-off pushed the indices to the day's lows. At the intra-day low, the Sensex shaved off 277 points to 19,307 and the Nifty retraced 83 points to 5,792.
A positive opening in key European markets and US futures trading in the green boosted the domestic indices in late trade, taking them into positive terrain and to the day's high. The Sensex touched 19,626, up 42 points at its intra-day high, and the Nifty was at 5,893, up 18 points. But the gains were short-lived as the markets soon turned negative and ended the day in the red for the second day in a row. The Sensex lost closed at 19,545, down 39 points, and the Nifty finished at 5,868, down six points from the previous close. The advance-decline ratio on the National Stock Exchange was 574:809.
Among the broader markets, the BSE Mid-cap index and the BSE Small-cap index shed 0.03% each. BSE Healthcare (up 0.42%), BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 0.08%) and BSE TECk (up 0.06%) were the top sectoral gainers. BSE Consumer Durables (down 0.80%), BSE Oil & Gas (down 0.35%) and BSE Realty (down 0.31%) were the major losers.
Bharti Airtel (up 1.65%), Hindalco Industries (up 1.55%) and Tata Motors (up 1.50%) were the top performing Sensex stocks. On the other hand, Hindustan Unilever (down 1.99%), Maruti Suzuki (down 1.91%) and Sterlite Industries (down 1.56%) settled at the bottom of the index.
India's headline inflation is likely to remain high this year too, registering an average of 8.6% in 2011-12, as manufacturers are likely to pass on input costs to consumers, global banking giant Nomura said today.
The banking and asset management behemoth said in its 'Asia Economic Alert' report that it expects the RBI to hike the short-term lending (repo) rate by 100 basis points in 2011, with the purpose of curbing inflationary pressure.
Markets in Asia settled mostly lower on weak earnings reports from across the region. The recent earthquake in Japan has had an effect on Nintendo and Nidec, while auto majors were hurt with the S&P cutting its outlook on the sector on Monday. Rumours about rate-tightening measures for top five banks in China weighed on Chinese investors.
The Shanghai Composite declined 0.87%, the Hang Seng fell by 0.54%, the Jakarta Composite was down 0.36%, the Nikkei 225 tanked 1.17%, the Straits Times fell by 0.50%, the Seoul Composite decreased 0.44% and the Taiwan Weighted shed 0.03%. Bucking the trend, the KLSE Composite added 0.22%.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of stocks worth Rs377.59 crore on Monday, whereas domestic institutional investors were net buyers of equities worth Rs236.62 crore.