Delhi is also famous as a cremation ground and subsequent memorial places for top political leaders. However, there exists a semi-VIP class in the capital, created by the babus at the crematorium ground for themselves and other privileged people
On Thursday, the Union Cabinet gave its nod to construct a “Rashtriya Smriti” at the Samadhis Complex near Ekta Sthal in New Delhi. This would be used as a place to perform last rites of departed national leaders like presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers and other leaders decided by the Cabinet. While this may take care of the VVIPs in and around the capital, the babus and other powerful people in Delhi have already created some special semi-VIP cremation spots. But more about it later.
The Cabinet's idea behind this project was to save land, which might be claimed by the followers of the departed leader to build a samadhi or memorial. The original decision not to develop any memorial was taken by the Cabinet in 2000. In the past, separate memorials for departed national leaders were created near Rajghat, which left hardly any place for cremation of new VIPs.
The government has run out of space to be used as a cremation ground for VIPs. (This scarcity of land is not limited to Delhi, though. Mumbai, the island city, also faces similar problem.) Second reason behind the idea was the growing pressure for sparing these VIPs from embarrassment of common people in death as well.
Besides providing cremation space to VIPs, the Rashtriya Smriti would also be used for public gathering during the last rites.
While the netas would continue to receive VIP treatment even after their death, the rich and affluent from Delhi have big ambitions in this area as well. And they received support from ever willing babus and authorities from Delhi as well.
Noted Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, has been trying to bring attention towards the discrimination between common and the powerful people at funeral pyres at Nigambodh Ghat, on the bank of the river Yamuna, in Delhi. In one of his RTI applications, he alleged, “It has become a usual practice to mint money by developing and encouraging semi-VIP culture of cremation at Nigambodh Ghat Cremation Ground. Earlier also, when the matter reached before CIC they removed grills around a platform, which was known as semi-VIP platform. Now again there is a similar case of allowing the sort of semi-VIP cremation, which again the public authority is now promising to remove and give a commitment for not repeating the same in future.”
While giving a decision in on this RTI application on 23 September 2011, the then Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, had said, “... (the) information now appears to have been provided to the complainant but it is distress that it required a vigilant citizen's constant attention to ensure that corrupt practices are not allowed to continue even in the cremation ground.”
Before March 2003, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was responsible for the working of the Nigambodh Ghat. Later the MCD entered into public-private partnership (PPP) with Arya Samaj at Lodhi Road. Following an inspection, the Lt Governor of Delhi ordered that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) would carry out development work at the Nigambodh Ghat. Subsequently the DDA erected iron grills around three pyres that were being used for the semi-VIPs.
In a letter on 3 August 2008, the Arya Samaj at Lodhi Road stated that since at times the VIP platform in the crematorium is not empty, the DDA has constructed some platforms and around the platform of three pyres, a grill has been erected for the cremation of privileged persons for cremating semi-VIP bodies.
Surprisingly, the DDA in an RTI reply provided to Mr Agrawal on 1 July 2007 had mentioned, “no grills/ railings were provided by DDA on any pyre platform at Nigambodh Ghat”.
While hearing the matter on 4 August 2010, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, said, “The Commission was not aware of the categorization and discrimination between ordinary citizens, VIP and the special category of semi-VIPs in crematoriums and wonder where the promise of equity to all citizens has disappeared.
In a democracy that proclaims equality amongst all human beings, the existence of such a practice encouraged by any public authority would be a matter of great shame. Looking at the creation of separate class in death, one can unfortunately say, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others...”
Traded value of gold ETFs on the National Stock Exchange hardly rose on Akshaya Tritiya. Besides, last month Rs36 crore went out of gold ETFs
On the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya, an auspicious day for buying gold, the National Stock Exchange (NSE) recorded a traded value of Rs691 crore in gold exchange traded funds (ETFs). This was just about 14% higher compared to the traded values on the auspicious day, last year, which stood at Rs608 crore. Despite the fall in prices, and intense propaganda by NSE and its members, the growth in traded volumes has been much less compared to the previous years. Over the year from 2011 to 2012, gold volumes increased by as much as 44% from Rs423 crore in 2011. The annualised growth rate from 2010 to 2012 has been a whopping 85% on this auspicious day. Gold ETFs, for the month of April 2013, faced a net outflow of Rs36 crore. Are Indian investors moving away from gold ETFs?
Gold ETFs have been very popular among fund companies. Most of the fund houses have launched gold ETFs and have been vigorously pushing this as an essential part of retail investors’ investment portfolio. Many investors may have been buying ETFs without fully realising the downside of them—low liquidity that can play havoc with the price at which you buy and sell when the market is volatile. Gold ETFs emerged as the favoured investment avenue for the retail population, seduced by the relentless rise in gold prices. Many investors accepted the continuing rally in gold as a foregone conclusion and put their savings in this asset, cheered on by AMCs and their distributors.
(Read our cover story on gold where we look into the different myths about gold: Gold turns cold)
Have investors realised the perils of investing in ETFs after the recent crash? Gold, which has been delivering tremendous year-on-year returns, has delivered a negative return over the past year. Indian investors often seek guaranteed and safe returns, seeing the price of gold rise continuously over the previous years; they would have been led to believe that the price of gold would never crash. However, that belief seems to be questioned now.
The popularity of these stock-like investments, have probably helped driving up the commodity’s price to record highs over the past few years. Gold futures have fallen by nearly 15% over the year and much of it is said to be caused by the huge outflows from gold ETFs. Billionaire investor, George Soros, defined the theory of reflexivity saying that rising prices attract buyers whose actions drive prices higher still until the process becomes unsustainable. Has the process become unsustainable now? Soros, the chairman of Soros Fund Management, has been increasingly bearish on gold. He recently sold nearly 1.3 million shares of SPDR Gold Trust, worth more than $227 million just before the gold crash.
The SPDR Gold Trust in the US has grown to become one of the largest gold exchange-traded funds, with assets under management (AUM) of roughly $50 billion. In April 2013, nearly $7 billion in funds left the SPDR Gold Trust. SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) has seen outflows of 11% this month amounting to 1,083MT. Gold has tumbled below $1,500 an ounce probably due to a stampede out of SPDR Gold.
Prices for ETFs are determined continuously in exchange trading. Orders are executed immediately. ETFs can be traded at any time while the stock market is functioning. It is like investing in shares where you can theoretically buy and sell on a daily basis. That leads us to the flip side of ETFs. And at Moneylife we have constantly been highlighting this in its articles and workshops. (Read: Market volatility exposes perils of Exchange Traded Funds).
A CPI(M) leader from Kolhapur has alleged that 59,000 investors in Kolhapur have lost money in LIC ULIPs. Agents had created a rosy picture of almost doubling the money in five years. CVC has forwarded the issues to CVO of LIC. Is the lack of understanding about ULIPs to be blamed?
CPI(M) leader Com. Chandrakant Yadav from Kolhapur has written to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) alleging that 59,000 investors from Kolhapur who received 15%-20% less than their invested amount after five years of investment in Money Plus and Market Plus ULIPs of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). In response to Mr Yadav, CVC has asked the LIC’s chief vigilance officer (CVO) to look into the complaints and take necessary action in the matter.
The letter claims that investors were given impression by LIC agents that their money will be almost doubled in five years. While we cannot corroborate on what agents may have promised, we have come across LIC agents who often mis-sell about a product giving 10% guaranteed returns even though the benefit calculation with respect to 6% and 10% are only for illustration purposes.
As per LIC sources the Kolhapur, investors had put in over Rs104 crore in such schemes. According to Moneylife, this is a case of mass mis-selling to investors who were used to traditional LIC products. They were not told, neither did they find out on their own, the complexities of ULIP, especially of the numerous charges and market linked performance. But, Mr Yadav has a different explanation.
Mr Yadav’s letter states, “Most of the companies (approximately 140) wherein LIC claims to have invested money from these schemes have made tremendous profits during this period. In such a case, where is the money earned by LIC used? Is it being used on fat salaries, bonuses and luxuries of officials and staff? The finance department of Government of India should get a hold and investigate the working of these new schemes launched by LIC and why they are making losses as they claim. LIC is making overall profit. They can very well pay the investors of these schemes and pay them the assured amount. To regain the confidence and credibility LIC should pay the amounts assured to the investors of the above schemes which are profitable, rather than based on stock market.”
The assured amount may be something agents wrongly promise. ULIP do not assure anything, unlike traditional products wherein you can expect some bonus and hence positive returns.
Yadav argues that LIC has earned billions of rupees during the last 60 years. If a particular scheme has failed, LIC should make the arrangements to make the assured payments, rather than making its agents face angry investors. Moneylife has asked LIC about its views on this issue, but there has been no response.