“Our main job is to neutralise the incumbent’s advantage,” said CEC Dr SY Quraishi, at Moneylife Foundation’s seminar “Democracy at Crossroads—Need for Electoral Reforms”
“The ruling party hates us (Election Commission). Our job is to neutralize incumbent’s (party) advantage. Neutrality is important as the entire election process is conducted by the bureaucracy, a professional body. Governments come and go but bureaucracy remains, said Dr SY Quraishi, India’s Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). He was speaking at a seminar titled “Democracy at Crossroads—Need for Electoral Reforms”, organised by Moneylife Foundation and V Citizens Action Network (VCAN).
Referring to the EC’s effort to neutralise the election process, Dr Quraishi said, “That’s why the ruling party hate us. But when they (ruling party) loose the elections, they start loving us.”
One of the ways the ruling party tilts the balance in its favour is by getting the government to release huge advertisements in the newspapers. Dr Quraishi suggested that, “the government-sponsored advertisements to be banned six months prior to polling. These advertisements are actually for the ruling party, and they drain the public exchequer.”
Another measure to neutralise the ruling party’s advantage is to “ban the transfer of the election-related officers six months before the election day. As the term of parliament/state assemblies are for a fixed tenure, political parties have a fair knowledge of the probable election dates. So they (political parties) start planting their trusted officers to interfere in the poll process. We do our own intelligence gathering along with monitoring certain officers. This becomes a task for us. We then remove some officers while keeping an eye on others. In the past we had removed chief secretaries, home secretaries, DGP (director general of police) from election duties. Not that we are happy doing it. But we strive on neutrality. If we have evidence that a chief secretary is attending a meeting of political party then we have to take action against him.”
He gave an interesting anecdote about one police officer working at a behest of a political party. “Many political parties had complained against a particular officer from Tamil Nadu, acting as an intermediary between the parties. He also used to order every SP (Superintendent of Police). Normally we don’t touch officers dealing in security and intelligence. But since there were complaints we had to address the issue. We asked this officer to go West Bengal as an observer. However, he refused citing that he has inputs that LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) has a ploy to kill some of the top politicians and to create disturbance. However, we smelt a rat and cross-checked the details with the home secretary, who refuted them and also said that the officer no longer belonged to a particular wing. Further we told the officer that any if disruption was created during the poll days, he would alone be responsible for it. Instantly he asked for leave to go abroad. And he actually went.”
Another hybrid mutual fund scheme investing in gold, and the second from Taurus Mutual Fund. Are investors made aware of the risks?
Taurus Mutual Fund plans to launch an open ended debt oriented hybrid scheme—Taurus Twin Advantage fund, according to the offer document filed with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The scheme plans to generate returns through a portfolio that invests in debt and money market instruments and gold ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). Around 65%-95% of its assets would be invested in debt and money market instruments and 5%-35% in gold ETFs. The performance of the scheme will be benchmarked against a customized benchmark, 65%-Crisil Short Term Bond Fund Index and 35%-price of gold. The allocation is similar to Canara Robeco InDiGo Fund, launched in July 2010, which follows an allocation of 65%-90% towards debt and 10%-35% towards gold ETFs. When launched, this fund would be the second hybrid fund from Taurus MF which invests in gold, the first being Taurus MIP Advantage Plus.
Moneylife has written extensively on the risk of investing in gold and such hybrid funds which include gold as an asset. Surprisingly, both Taurus MF and Canara Robeco MF treat investing up to 35% in a highly speculative asset such as gold a medium risk. The debt portion of these schemes on an average would earn 8%-9%, however, a 20%+ crash in gold prices could result in a loss of capital. Where are gold prices expected to head no one can accurately predict, thus investing in any schemes that allocates some portion towards gold is risky.
Gold, however, seems to be the flavour of the year with two hybrid funds being planned to launch which invest in gold—Axis Life Plan and SBI Edge fund. Two other fund houses have filed offer documents to launch gold funds—Union KBC Gold Fund and Canara Robeco Gold Savings Fund. Last year saw as many as seven hybrid funds being launched that invest in gold, which is quite high considering that just eight (non-hybrid) equity schemes were launched in the same period.
In the last one year Canara Robeco InDiGo Fund was the only one among the gold hybrid funds that provided a return above 12% in the last one year with an allocation of nearly 30% towards gold. This is probably the same reason why Taurus plans to launch a fund with a similar asset allocation. However, such a high allocation to gold could be risky. In the last three months gold prices fell by nearly 4% which took a toll on the returns, Canara Robeco could muster up a return of just 0.04%. Other funds with a high allocation to debt and a low allocation to gold and some towards equity like Peerless MF Child Plan and Taurus MIP Advantage fund returned 2.32% and 4.62% respectively.
Sundaram launches hybrid scheme to invest in equities and gold ETFs
SBI EDGE Fund: Investing on the edge
Additional Scheme Details
Minimum Investment amount: Rs5,000 and in multiple of Rs1,000 thereof
Additional Investment amount: Rs1,000 and in multiple of Rs1,000 thereof
Minimum Instalment for SIP: Rs1,000
Annual scheme recurring expenses: 2.25% p.a. of average daily net assets
Exit load if switched before one year: 1%, and nil after one year
Taxation: Investors would be subject to long-term and short-term tax on capital gains.
Gen VK Singh’s leaked letter led to demands by SP, JD(U) and RJD for his dismissal yesterday even as the government and opposition were agreed his concerns should not have come out in the open
New Delhi: Facing demands for his dismissal, army chief General VK Singh today said the leak of his letter to the prime minister presenting a grim picture of the force’s defence preparedness should be treated as “high treason” and the source of leakage dealt with ‘ruthlessly’, reports PTI.
The assertion by the general to trace the source of the leak came even as defence sources said that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been asked to inquire into leakage of the letter to the media.
As tensions between him and the government escalated over the leak of his official letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh, Gen Singh hit back saying a “cynical approach” to tarnish his reputation should stop.
In a brief statement released by the Army Headquarters, Gen Singh, who is currently in Jammu and Kashmir, further said his official communication with the prime minister and defence minister is ‘privileged’ communication.
“The leakage of the letter should be treated as high treason. Cynical approach to tarnish my reputation should stop. Sources of the leakage should be found and dealt with ruthlessly,” said Gen Singh, who is due to retire on 31st May.
Gen Singh’s leaked letter led to demands by SP, JD(U) and RJD for his dismissal yesterday even as the government and opposition were agreed his concerns should not have come out in the open.
There was a strong demand to launch a probe how the letter was leaked to the media. It was also felt that the army chief should have first raised his concerns on the risk to the country’s security directly with the defence minister. The general was also accused of breach of discipline.
The media leak of the letter came on top of acrimony between the army chief and the government since early this week over his media interview in which he had claimed that he was offered a bribe of Rs14 crore by a retired Lt Gen for swinging a sub-standard defence deal.
“I have made serious note of the observations. After consulting the prime minister and colleagues, we will take appropriate action,” Mr Antony said in Rajya Sabha yesterday after members expressed serious concerns over issues of national security.