Radical Steps Required!
This is with regard to “Coal India: All Is Forgiven.” With billions of tonnes of coal reserves in the country, it is time government takes radical steps to decentralise the operations of this mammoth enterprise.
The reserves of this company are huge but are not utilised optimally to develop its mines by import of state-of-the-art machinery and mining technology. The government must become a 26% shareholder by sale of its holdings. Let each of the seven major units become independent entities and let there be serious competition. This will enable higher production and India can reach the ambitious production target of one billion tonnes, in the next five years.
Shareholders of Coal India have not been rewarded adequately, so far. Let there be capitalisation of reserves by bonus issues and let the government volunteer not to take its share of this bonus. Such a move would bring investor confidence and government must also provide incentives to the staff to hold shares and get production bonus on a fair scale.
Such measures will reduce our dependence on imports.
Dr Anantha K Ramdas, online comment

Landed in Calcutta?

This is with regard to “For the Want of a Nail…” by Bapoo Malcolm. There was a case in Calcutta, during the British Raj, of an arrest warrant being issued to an Indian which stated that, should he ever land in Calcutta, he would be arrested. This gentleman came to the city by train and was promptly arrested! In his defence, he maintained that the warrant stated that he should be arrested only if he landed in Calcutta. Whereas he had not landed but merely alighted (from the train)! He was set free by the local courts! Language and grammar do matter in a court of law!
Suresh, online comment  

Credibility of Indian Media 

A recent survey conducted by The India Iris has revealed dissatisfaction with mainstream media including television and print. The survey covered individuals from IIT, IIM-A/B, University of Southern California, professionals from top firms, including research fellows from IIMs, XLRI, etc. It was conducted online (via email and Facebook) and offline, and had respondents mostly in the age-range of 18-40 years.
A whopping 80% are dissatisfied, as against 12% who are satisfied. For the question ‘Is today’s mainstream media fair or unbiased’, the responses are even more startling. A vast majority (87%) thought that mainstream media are heavily biased. Shockingly, only 4% found the electronic media reliable. 
Two recent examples shed more light on the issues plaguing our Fourth Estate today. The first pertains to the controversies surrounding Lalit Modi and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Barring a few, all news channels were running live commentaries, organising prime-time debates and arranging special interviews, until a few pictures of Robert Vadra, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi with Lalit Modi surfaced on social media. This raises serious questions on the credibility of media and how it got silenced so quickly. 
The second example concerns the death of a four-year-old child in a road accident involving erstwhile actor-turned-member of Parliament, Hema Malini. This too raises serious questions about how media prioritise news. While full attention was given to the head injuries of the MP, the death of the child was largely ignored! In the quest of TRPs! A quick Google image search on this news clearly shows the difference.
Subrahmanian SH, by email  

Greed is Universal!

This is with regard to “Will Life Insurers Now Bleed with Fraudulent Claims?” by Raj Pradhan. Medical fraud in the US resulted in the near-collapse of a company called Tenet Health Care, the 2nd largest hospital operator in the US. The fraud was on the Medicare and Medicaid support from the government and was perpetrated by Tenet Health. In addition to performing unnecessary procedures, billing was done for procedures that were not actually performed.
The worst crime, of course, was the performance of unnecessary heart surgeries and angioplasties on patients who did not need it. Human greed is universal!
Ralph Rau, online comment  

Buying Most Popular Stocks?

This is with regard to “Tough Job for Fund Managers” by R Balakrishnan. I think, the problem is this: Most of us are under-qualified and do not have enough time to acquire CA-level knowledge of finance and the in-depth research skills needed to locate great stocks. Many people owning stocks do the same ‘herd’ thing: buy the most popular/talked-about stocks. Stocks also don’t have the buffer that mutual funds can provide (averaging losses too).
Anand Vaidya, online comment  

Massive Business Cartel?

This is with regard to “Mind, Brain and Drugs” by Prof BM Hegde. We should not forget that Peter Gøtzsche, MD, has challenged the way our medical system works on another front: mammography. He has been the leading critic of systematic screening with mammography for well over a decade. Apart from “The Mammogram Myth” by Rolf Hefti (TheMammogramMyth.com), Dr Gøtzsche’s book Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy is among the few extensive, eye-opening and detailed accounts about mammography. These treatises are the only comprehensive works on the profound lack of science behind the pro-mammogram view and the all-pervasive vested interests dominating the mammogram industry and the ‘scientific’ studies in favour of mammograms. Virtually the entire allopathic medical fraternity is corrupt, by and large. It should be expected because it is a massive business cartel. Understandably, the flip side of Dr Gøtzsche’s impact is that the official powers of big medicine don’t like him.
Pan H, online comment

Support from a Section of the Media?

This is with regard to “Name Games” by Sucheta Dalal. Moneylife and Sucheta Dalal deserve special thanks for persevering in the thankless job of creating awareness about the ‘games people play’ just to mislead consumers with the primary idea of earning profit. Misleading advertisements and brand names get support from a section of the media, as they are dependent on advertisements for revenue. Even government-sponsored advertisements, which are misleading or misrepresenting, are accepted by ‘big’ newspapers and channels that claim to be ‘investigative’. Celebrated artists in film industry and sportspersons who have become popular also do not mind receiving some pocket money, by being part of these games.
MG Warrier 

No Driving Licence?

This is with regard to “5 Kinds of Financial Illiteracy” by Sucheta Dalal. Admittedly, all kinds of illiteracies are seen in the society. But why and how are these allowed and tolerated? The only reason for the prevalence and proliferation of such illiteracies is due to the laxity in governance standards throughout the country and allowing profiteering, at any cost, ignoring the ethical way of doing business. Who is responsible for this? And why do these things happen? Because of our administrators, governance systems and tolerance of exploitation by the new genre of marketing executives who are given targets for profits exploiting all weaknesses in governance standards. Liberal practise of greed has been allowed and all are paying for the greed of some who have all possible exit routes. Passing on the blame to the end-users of the services is easy. But are there any checks & balances from an effective and efficient administration? It is akin to permitting all to drive all types of vehicles without any need to know driving and having any licence.
Gopalakrishnan TV


Be Tax Smart!
It is time to file your tax returns. While filing, it is important to remember the changes introduced in Finance Acts of 2014 and 2015 to plug the leakages in tax collection. Do you own a second home lying empty? Know about the ‘deemed rent’ taxation. Are you selling property? The income-tax department is checking if your gains need to be taxed. Hide the income at your own peril. Passport and Aadhaar numbers need to be specified if they are available. Declaring all your savings account numbers, if you have multiple accounts, is now mandatory. Raj Pradhan has done a comprehensive review of the changes this year and gives you the details of taxable investment instruments which are now under the scanner. Finally, take your time and avoid careless mistakes, as these can lead to unnecessary tax notices. Computer systems can catch the discrepancies in the filing, but there’s no benefit of doubt for the assessee.
Investors are constantly asking us how to choose mid-cap stocks. Bala’s piece, this time, should clarify all your doubts. 
It’s been over a year of the Modi sarkar and there is an increasing sense of unease. There is a lot of talk; but action on the ground has been missing. Sucheta, in her Different Strokes column, writes on PM Narendra Modi’s hits and misses. However, it’s the misses that raise a serious concern—be it the draconian ‘Black Money’ Bill, lack of interest in public sector banks or continuing with Aadhaar, after an unexplained volte face.
While the PM has announced a Make in India initiative, the State has launched a brazen display of aggression against Nestlé. In her Crosshairs column, Sucheta writes that though multinationals are no angels, the government should act in a reasonable manner to protect consumer interests on an on-going basis, not in sporadic bursts of vindictive action.
Our homes are usually our largest investment. But how much do we know about how safe the structure is? We have a terrific seminar lined up for you on the 22nd August, precisely on this subject. Don’t miss it.


Attend to Chikki scam on top priority: Julio Ribeiro tells the chief secretary
Shocked by reports in Moneylife on the notorious chikki scam, the Public Concern for Governance Trust, headed by retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro has taken up the issue and shown willingness to even file a PIL, if required
After reading exclusive reports in Moneylife about the Chikki scam, retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, who is also a founder-Trustee of Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT), has written a letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary for taking up the investigation into this multi-crore scam on top priority. 
Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar has procured tell-tale documents pertaining to the Rs206 crore ‘Chikki’ scam by Pankaja Munde, the Minister of Women and Child Welfare, in Maharashtra. 
Mr Ribeiro, in a letter to SS Kshatriya, Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, said, “…regarding the Chikki Scam, a lot of evidence and documents are now in our possession, as they have been collected by activists for good governance. I am forwarding their findings for your perusal and analysis.”
The former Commissioner of Mumbai, has also requested, “an early decision on this matter, as it is of utmost public significance” in the letter.
Soon after a series of four articles pertaining to the Chikki scam were published in Moneylife (http://www.moneylife.in/article/pankaja-munde-ups-purchase-order-by-three-times-in-six-days/43054.html), Mr Ribeiro termed the issue as “scandalous”. Then, PCGT wrote to Sucheta Dalal, founder editor Moneylife, stating, “after learning through your Moneylife article on ''Chikki scam'', Mr Julio Ribeiro, ex-CP, Mumbai, DGP-Punjab and Gujarat and presently, Chairman, Public Concern for Governance Trust, Mumbai is interested in taking the matter to its logical conclusion through courts of law, as per his comment below forwarded for your information.”
Mr Ribeiro has also forwarded crucial documents to the Chief Secretary for early perusal of the same.
The documents forwarded by PCGT can nail the evidence of Pankaja Munde’s involvement and pertain to chikki being a major portion of procurement, but it involves malpractices and corruption in Ayurvedic biscuits, handmade paper, steel plates, sprinkles, protein powder, books, growth monitoring machines and plastic mats.
The issues under investigation would be as follows. 
Chikki: The Maharashtra chikki scam was first unearthed in sometime first week of June 2015. Several malpractices came to light in the procurement of chikki, biscuits, steel plates, water filters, plastic mats and so on. Many of the units which were awarded work didn’t exist at all, or were closed. Vaidya Industries was one such unit. After the scam was unearthed, media brought to light the facts that Vaidya industries was actually a fabrication unit, was closed long back and didn’t have the capacity or machinery to manufacture steel plates. Media also published visuals of this unit. 
Ayurvedic Biscuits: Pankaja Munde on 12 February 2015 citing same reasons as in chikki, ordered purchases of Ayurvedic biscuits worth Rs95.51 lakh. But, the very next day, it was increased to Rs5 crore without any changes in number of beneficiaries. When the order was passed, no competitive bids were invited, rate contract with company was not in force (As per GR dated 28 July 2011, rate contract was applicable till 27 July 2014). Neither did the company have its own production unit. The company did not even have Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) license for any of its products
Water filter cum purifiers: The haste shown by all the concerned offices in procurement of water filter-cum-purifiers raises so many questions. Officers of Women and Child Department and Industries Department went out of the way so that Everest Industries can get the contract. Interestingly, Everest Industries, which has been eligible for supply of water purifiers this year, was made eligible for supply of Plastic mats by the Industries Department. It shows that the contractor is well acquainted with “procedure” of WCD and Industries Department.
Handmade paper: The Women and Child Development Minister awarded around Rs12.31 crore printing contract to Handmade Paper Institute (HMPI) of Pune without a tender and any competitive bids. Everybody in this deal knew that Hand Made Paper Institute was leased out way back and not entitled for any rate fixation. 
Magic plastic mats: This is another case of a nexus between officials of WCD and contractors. As per media reports, a company to whom this contract was awarded was closed since last many years and was actually in the business of school benches and pipes. Even then, this closed unit participated in the tender process started by Industries Department. Interestingly, this non-existing company was successful in winning the contract for plastic mats. 
Growth monitoring machines: These machines are used to weigh malnourished children. Two contractors, Sai Hi-Tech Products and Nitiraj Engineers, were awarded the contract at a cost of Rs6 crore and Rs18 crore, respectively, flouting all norms and curiously, Nitiraj Engineers had not even applied for clinching the contract.
Last month, while giving Pankaja Munde a clean chit, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the setting up of the three-member Committee, headed by the present chief secretary to investigate the chikki-scam.
However, it is worth noting that the three-member Committee under the Chief Secretary is yet to be named.
(Vinita Deshmukh and Vijay Kumbhar, both are RTI activists from Pune. Ms Deshmukh is also consulting editor of Moneylife, and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.



Meenal Mamdani

1 year ago

The vigilance of Mr. Kumbhar and Ms. Deshmukh has unearthed this scam within months of its perpetration. We all are grateful and beholden to these individuals for their courage and integrity.
Question is why do these pols continue to commit these crimes. Is it because they are counting on the notoriously slow judicial process?
I think that it is time that activists target the judicial reform vigorously. Until perons like Pankaja Munde are put behind bars expeditiously, the corrupt pols and babus will not change their ways.


1 year ago

Those who are corrupt must not be spared.

Also, it is heartening to see, scaremongers are not feeling threatened anymore in their own country.

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