The MLM company lured investors from several states by promising unusual high income on investing or buying gold products and further enrolling more people
Following the crack down on various multi-level marketing (MLM) companies in Rajasthan, another case Swarna Labh Tradelink has come to light. The MLM company had allegedly duped a number of investors not just from Rajasthan but also from other states like Orissa, Punjab and Maharashtra.
The company, selling gold jewellery, promised income on investing or buying its gold product and further enrolling more people in it. Initially it paid the promised amount. However later the cheques issued by Swarna Labh started bouncing.
One of the investor who is expecting more than Rs2.75 lakh from the company told Moneylife that, “Swarna Labh Tradelink has fraudulently collected multi crore rupees from Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. They have issued cheques, most of which have bounced. They are not even responding to our calls.”
Swarna Labh came under the scrutiny of Jaipur police, while investigating another ponzi scheme, Gold Sukh. According to a news report, while investigating the multi crore Gold Sukh scam, Rajasthan police raided the offices of other MLM companies including Swarna Labh which had business model similar to Gold Sukh, even as there were no formal complaints filed against them.
In November last year, Gold Sukh hit headlines after it allegedly duped 1.75 lakh investors for more than Rs300 crore. Gold Sukh promised returns 27 times than the investment in just 15 months and was able to lure many politicians, police officers and businessmen. The Jaipur police are probing the scheme and had also issued a Red Corner Notice, through Interpol, against directors of Gold Sukh, who are absconding.
Meanwhile there few other complaints posted on the discussion forums on the Internet. “I am also a member of Swarna Labh and this is a purely a fake company. I have invested my hard-earned money 2 years back and received only 4% of the invested money. I have done many follow up but they told me that now that plan has been scrapped and company doesn’t have fund. However they assured me that they will return my invested amount. Accordingly, he sent me a cheque of my invested money. But it bounced,” reads one such complaint posted on Consumercomplaints.com.
Swarna Labh promised around 25% monthly income, 10-20% binary income, apart from income guaranteed on reference. Recently Moneylife reported that police from the Bhilwara district are investigating lot of MLM schemes offering investment and high returns on gold, while others are selling some kind of products.
Here is a list of 19 people whose cheques, issued by the company, bounced.
Whatever the outcome of the legal battle, it raises some pertinent questions. The way a minor issue like an error in his date of birth has been allowed to snowball, it appears a deliberate mischief against the army chief
Suddenly, the media is on fire calling general VK Singh’s petition in the Supreme Court ‘unprecedented in the history of independent India’as if it were also ‘awfully unlawful’for him to seek justice through a constitutionally defined legal recourse at the country’s most honourable Supreme Court. Some have hinted at his ‘greed to hang on for a few months more’ by getting his date of birth changed from 10 May 1950 to 10 May 1951. Of these two dates, the aggrieved general says, the former is wrong and the latter correct—a simple issue of an error that was settled long ago, at the time of his admission to the National Defence Academy. It is genuine ambition, not greed, in every promising youngster to climb to the top of his career—government services or private.
Likewise for a youngster commissioned in the defence forces, there is no harm in his aspiring to reach the top. In fact, an earnest quest to excel isvery much needed and rightly fuelled in young officers everywhere for better overall accomplishments and evolution of future leadership. Once you reach the pinnacle of your ambition, your aspirations are largely fulfilled and a few months more or less in the chair do not matter. In general VK Singh’s case, he was fully entitled to be where he is today, irrespective of which of the two dates is taken as the basis of consideration for his promotion.Therefore, change or no change in the dates, his position remains unaffected. The question, however, is if there are two dates, which one is right and which one wrong? Only the right one must be kept, the ‘wrong’ must be removed from all records. Legally or ethically, is it ‘wrong’ to fight for what is ‘right’?
If ‘greed’ were his motive, the general had much more to gain from the post-retirement sinecures like a gubernatorial or ambassadorial appointments reportedly offered to him in bargain for letting the matter lie. That he could not be won over by such allurements only goes to prove that there is something more meets the eye in the vitiated atmosphere of civil-military trust deficit scenario between the ministry of defence (MoD) and the armed forces.
Whatever the outcome of the legal battle, it raises some pertinent questions. The way a minor issue like an error in his date of birth has been allowed to snowball, it appears a deliberate mischief against the army chief. The promotion process in respect of army officers is very comprehensively defined. No ‘undertaking’ is ever taken from any officer at the time of his promotion. It appears weird that making a departure from its own established conventions the army headquarters proceeded to extract an ‘undertaking’ from VK Singh prior to granting him promotion. If there was an ambiguity about the correctness of the date in his records, a Court of Inquiry (C of I) should have been ordered to investigate what was wrong and the cause thereof. Why did the authorities hesitate to order a C of I? An obvious inference is that concerted efforts were in progress to suppress rather than reveal facts at that time. Two facts that the C of I could have revealed were:
1) that his correct date of birth is 10 May 1951 and not 1950; and
2) that the error was settled long ago, which rendered any document showing 1950 obsolete and irrelevant.
But rather than uncovering the truth, the authorities chose to impose their choice on an upcoming meritorious officer by way of extracting an ‘undertaking’ from him before clearing his promotion. If not blatant and outright blackmail, what will you call it?
Some more questions also prop up alongside. Who will be held responsible if the government loses the case? Will the government be magnanimous to treat general Singh honourably if he wins the case or will a witch-hunt be unleashed to fix him somehow? May be the government will go slow for now for two reasons—one, the case being currently sub-judice, the government will be wary of the Supreme Court staying its hostile move against the general; and two, any hasty action at a time when five states are going to assembly polls, which are viewed as a precursor to the general elections due in 2014, will be politically inopportune for the Congress. The adversity does, however, offer an opportunity, ironically though, to the government to rise above the narrow lanes of its maligned bureaucratic wheeling-dealing and accept with magnanimity whatever judgement the Supreme Court gives.
The verdict, even if against the government (as appears likely), can be used as an opportunity to show the world that ‘rule of law’ has indeed arrived in India and the government has the capacity not only to endure it but to nourish it at a time when public is crying hoarse for good governance and inner cleansing. Logically, the ministry’s legal advisors who tendered legal advice and the bureaucrats who rejected the general’s plea will have to be sternly dealt with in a manner that becomes an example of fair, transparent and speedy dispensation at the highest level. It is becoming increasingly expedient to introduce accountability in our bureaucratic functioning because rampant corruption has only encouraged inefficiency, sycophancy anddestroyed governmental credibility.
Sadly, bigger issues have remained buried under the debris of murk and mirth dwarfing an illustrious soldier by frustrating his efforts for an honourable resolution. In times like these, on-going civil-military acrimony can seriously harm our national interests from within as is clear from the long-pending modernisation programmes, mass dissatisfaction in the armed forces against what is largely perceived as short shrift, step-motherly treatment by the 6th Pay Commission, repeated government appeals against high court/Supreme Court rulings favouring ex-servicemen, non-implementation of recommendations given by Parliamentary Committees on issues concerning soldiers and ex-soldiers are some indicators of a stubborn attitude that helps none but eats into the vitals of nation’s last resort—the armed forces.
At a time when India is aspiring for a higher global role the need is intimate co-operation, trust-driven cohesion and integrated work culture between the MoD and the service headquarters of the armed forces. This need becomes even more acute in view of the worsening security scenario across India’s western borders. China, too, will contest India’s quest for a global role as was evident from her objections to Indian naval ships at the South China Sea and her newfound interest in the Indian Ocean, even as her claim over Indian territories and military posturing across the Line of Actual Control continue unabated. The internal security environment, too, is worsening with militancy spreading to newer areas. When, if not now, will India wake up to realities?
It is high time the government decided to effectively implement the pending integration of the armed forces with the MoD, which has been always staffed with officers shockingly bereft of basic concepts of national defence and elementary knowledge about military matters. No other developed or developing country in the world has such a slip-shod defence organisation as India’s ministry of defence. Nations that humble their armies are doomed to be humbled by adversaries within and without. India’s proud achievements on the industrial front notwithstanding, she will not be acknowledged as a ‘global power’ unless she wields a credible coercive military power. Soldiers’ demands for genuine welfare and better treatment are therefore not so much for their personal comforts but most crucial for the nation’s honour, safety and wellbeing.
(Col Karan Kharb is a military veteran who commanded an infantry battalion with many successes in counter-terrorist operations. He was also actively involved in numerous high-risk operations as second in command of the elite 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guard (NSG) widely known as ‘Black Cat Commandos’. He conducts leadership training and is the author of two bestsellers (“Made to Lead” and “Lead to Success”) on leadership development that have also been translated into foreign languages).
AK Mohanty, chief manager and deemed PIO of Indian Overseas Bank was fined Rs12,000 for delay in providing information to a RTI user while AP Singh, general manager, Board Services Department has been served a show-cause notice by the CIC for similar reasons
The banking sector has been consistent in stonewalling Right to Information (RTI) activists from getting information. But a recent Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling gives hopes to the activists, by pulling up a bank for not providing information about non-performing assets, penalising the public information officer and issuing a show-cause notice to another top official for non-compliance with CIC orders and delaying disclosure.
Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has imposed a penalty of Rs12,000 on AK Mohanty, chief manager and deemed PIO of Indian Overseas Bank for not providing information to RTI user Kishanlal Mittal until 48 days after the CIC directed him to do so. For the same reason, AP Singh, general manager, Board Services Department has been served a show-cause notice to appear before the CIC on 16th February and answer why penalty under Section 20(1) should not be levied on him.
“The Commission notes that AK Mohanty, CM & deemed PIO was responsible for not sending the information to the appellant before 10 October 2011, as per the order of the Commission. He sent the information to the appellant only on 29 November 2011. Since the delay in providing the information has been of 48 days, the Commission is passing an order penalizing AK Mohanty Rs12,000 (Rs250 per day),” said the CIC ruling.
In September 2010, Mr Mittal filed an RTI application seeking information on loans forwarded to educational institutes above Rs25 crore. He also wanted to know how many of these loans have been classified as NPAs (non-performing assets) and how many have been written off, and demanded file notings on the decision taken in this matter.
The PIO, Mr Mohanty refused disclosure claiming that the information is voluminous, uncentralised and will tax the resources of the bank; and that the information is exempt from disclosure because it violates the fiduciary relationship, the bank has with its clients.
Not satisfied with the response, Mr Mittal went for an appeal before the CIC on 16 September 2011. While the commission upheld the exemption under the ‘fiduciary relationship’ clause, it ordered the PIO to provide the details of the NPAs sought by the RTI user. However, the information did not reach the appellant, and on November, he complained to the CIC about the delay.
A show-cause notice was served to the PIO for appearing before the CIC on 13th January. During the hearing, it was revealed that Mr Mohanty had obtained the information from the department concerned on 22nd September itself. “Mr. Mohanty states he did not send the information since he was waiting to receive the information on a query from the Board Services Department. This is no reasonable cause and the deemed PIO Mr Mohanty should have sent the information on the other two queried to the appellant before 10 November 2011 as per the order of the Commission,” Mr Gandhi said in his ruling.
The CIC thus served a show-cause notice to AP Singh, general manager of Board Services Department, whom Mr Mohanty alleges of not providing the required information. “The Commission is duty-bound to levy a penalty at the rate of Rs250 each day till the information is furnished. Once the Commission decides that there was no reasonable cause for delay, it has to impose the penalty and the law gives no discretion in the matter. The burden of proving that denial of information by the PIO was justified and reasonable is clearly on the PIO,” said Mr Gandhi.