May 02, 2018

how "Thousands of People have lost their livelihoods to India's 'secret nuclear city'

From: "ESG List" <>
Date: 01-May-2018 22:32
Subject: An Appeal for your Support as The News Minute reports how "Thousands of People have lost their livelihoods to India's 'secret nuclear city'" and other updates from ESG

Over the past decade, Environment Support Group has worked with Amrit Mahal Kaval Hitarakshana aagu Horata Samithi (AMKHS) in highlighting the widespread environmental and human rights violations that is being caused in Challakere, Chitradurga district of Karnataka due to the promotion of India's "science city".  Over 10,000 acres of Amrit Mahal Kavals, pristine grassland ecosystems that local communities have protected for centuries, were secretively diverted between 2007-14 to locate a range of military, industrial, defence, nuclear, research and energy facilities as part of this 'science city'. If ever there was a case to consider science as an hegemonic project, this is it. 

As years have rolled on, local communities are distressed by denial of access to their commons which they consider was 'grabbed' from them illegally and secretively.  Barring a few hundred acres, large swathes of these commons have not been put to any productive use.  Instead, the Kavals have been walled off to prevent communities from grazing their livestock and watersheds have been destroyed.  This has intensified the suffering of over 300,000 people and their 250,000 livestock living in about 65 impacted villages.  A variety of social and health infrastructure that was constructed by the local Panchayats over time, such as Goshalas (animal shelters), breeding centres (in collaboration with the Animal Husbandry department), schools, hospitals, roads and walking paths has become dysfunctional. Unable to support pastoral and agricultural activities, hundreds of families are migrating in search of alternate livelihoods. For those that remain, the long drought has made life extremely difficult.

AMKHS, a network of impacted communities and various supportive organisations and individuals, has tried its best to draw the attention of the Government and the wide public to the distressing conditions in the impacted villages.  Environment Support Group  approached the National Green Tribunal against such illegal promotion of this 'science city'. In response, NGT endorsed the petitioners' concerns and directed the State and 'science city' proponents to not proceed without securing necessary environmental and other clearances.  NGT had also directed that the traditional rights of impacted communities and biodiversity must be protected.   Subsequent efforts, including those under the direction of the Chief Information Commissioner of India, reveal that several project proponents have commenced operations without compliance with law and in violation of the NGT directions. Thus the egregious violation of human and environmental rights in the impacted villages continues with impunity.

Please view this video report on the prevailing situation in Challakere made by Raksha Kumar for The News Minute.

To secure the rights of the impacted communities, and to protect the unique biodiversity of the this semi-arid grassland, and also to respond to the distressing conditions of the impacted communities, ESG is working with AMKHS on advancing a variety of initiatives. This includes the need for a Resource Centre to help rehabilitate and rebuild thousands of forfeited livelihoods. Local communities are also keen that legal efforts are initiated to secure their environmental and human rights.  All this needs your support and cooperation, and we fervently appeal to you make a monetary contribution to support these causes.  If you wish to volunteer in support of these causes, please contact us or write to hemavathi

We are also happy to share that a critical examination of the 'science city' on the basis of screening of "Beerappa's Angst", a film conceptualised by Bhargavi S. Rao and Leo F. Saldanha for AMKHS, is being hosted by two premier academic/research institutes of India:  Sthayi of International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Bangalore and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment at its Bangalore campus. Details of these two independent events are enclosed.  In case you wish to participate in these discussions, please RSVP the hosting organisations.

We also share with you the latest edition of Environment Justice Matters.

To know more about ESG, please visit our website.   

Thank you for your solidarity and support.

ESG Team

Environment Support Group
1572, Ring Road, Banashankari II Stage
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Fax: +91-80-26713316

February 26, 2018

Gold MF schemes outperform other equity, debt schemes in last 2 months

A story I wrote, for the media company I work for presently, last week on gold ETFs & gold saving funds outperforming all other mutual fund categories, year to date, as equity markets waver & bond yields continue to rise

 Gold MF schemes outperform other equity, debt schemes in last 2 months

    Returns from gold saving funds and gold exchange traded funds have seen an uptick in the last few months on the back of a traction in the price of physical gold in the London bullion market.
    This has coincided with the recent decline in equity market and rise in bond prices. And, as a result, the gold funds category has outperformed equity and debt fund categories so far this calendar year.
    The year-to-date return of the gold saving funds category stood at 4.1% as of Feb 21, according to data from Value Research. This was significantly higher than 0-1% returns delivered by fund categories such as liquid funds, ultra short term debt fund and credit opportunities debt funds.
    Equity fund categories have been in the red in year-to-date performance, with equity multi cap funds down 4.6% and equity large cap funds down 2.6%, the data under review showed.
    The outperformance of gold saving funds has come on the back of gold ETFs touching one-year high in the last one month.
    HDFC Gold ETF, for instance, touched a one-year high on Feb 16, while Reliance Gold BEEs touched a one-year high on Jan 25.
    Domestic mutual fund schemes investing in gold include gold exchange traded funds. Gold saving funds do not invest directly but instead invest in the units of domestic gold ETFs.
    Gold ETFs are designed to mimic the price performance of physical gold in the London bullion market, carrying only the risk of foreign exchange rate fluctuations.
    On the London bullion market, the gold price touched a one-year high of $1,360.25 an ounce on Jan 25. Since then, it has shed some of the gains, but the positive effect on the performance of gold ETFs tracking the gold prices has remained.
    Gold prices have risen on the back of buying in two largest gold markets in the world--India and China. In January, India was loading up gold in preparation of the ensuing wedding season and China was readying for the lunar new year, said Chirag Mehta, fund manager of Quantum Gold Fund at Quantum Asset Management, in a monthly outlook note to investors.
    "In times of geo-political risks, weakening dollar or impending Fed rate cuts, gold has been perceived to be a safe haven currency," Abhishek Bisen, fund manager at Kotak Mutual Fund told Cogencis.
    The dollar index's recent nosedive to 88 mark led to sharp spike in commodities in general, and gold benefitted from the same and became one of the best performing asset classes in last three month, said Bisen, who manages Kotak Gold ETF.
    The outperformance of gold saving funds in the last two months follows a year-long period when it was underperforming almost all the fund categories during last year.
    As calendar 2017 ended, gold saving funds had turned in annual returns ranging from 2.3% to 3.9%. In contrast, equity multi-cap funds delivered annual returns ranging from 25% to 51%, and short term debt funds' annual returns came in between 5.2% and 9.4%.
    Gold prices in London bullion market had a golden run in 2010-2012. Around half the gains seen in this period were erased in 2013-2015. In 2016, gold prices rebounced again for a short while.
    The table below lists the returns from different mutual fund categories as of Feb 21:

                     YTD      6-month   1-year
                     ---      -------   ------
                              (in %)
Gold funds           4.1       4.5       2.2
Debt: Liquid         0.9       3.2       6.5
Debt: Ultra ST       0.9       2.9       6.4
Debt: Credit Opp.    0.7       2.3       7.1
Debt: Short Term     0.6       1.8       6.1
Debt: Income        -0.1       0.0       4.9
Debt: Dynamic Bond  -0.6      -1.1       3.6
Debt: Gilt          -1.6      -3.6       2.0
Equity: Large Cap   -2.6       5.9      16.4
Equity: Multi Cap   -4.6       7.3      18.6
Equity: Small Cap   -6.1      15.7      30.7
Equity: Mid Cap     -6.2       8.7      20.9
YTD: year to date

February 16, 2018

The case of PNB, Nirav Modi & Mehul Choksi -- 2 (Gitanjali Gems)

The case of PNB, Nirav Modi & Mehul Choksi -- 2 (Gitanjali Gems)

Mehul Choksi is named in CBI's FIR of Jan 30, 2018 He is MD of Gitanjali Gems Ltd, & the case could link to this company & its subsidiaries/associates

Gitanjali Gems Ltd
Consolidated financials (in Rs crore)
               EBITDA*      PAT**
H1FY18    472             133
FY17        930              166
FY16        910             104
*Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation & amm.
**Profit after Tax
Company has postponed Oct-Dec '17 results disclosure. No new date given.

Gitanjali Gems consolidated Net Debt (Long Term + Short Term - Cash) (in Rs crore) at the end of:
Sep'17     6,900
Mar'17     7,700
Sep'16     7,600
Mar'16     7,600
Figures are approximate

Auditors note in Gitanjali Gems FY17 (2016-17) Annual Report:
As of 31-Mar-17
Principal+Interest due in FY17 not paid to:
ICICI Bank (external commercial borrowings):$9.8 mln (around Rs 64 crore)
Bank of Baroda (ECB): $0.7 mln (Rs 5 crore)
LIC (non-convertible debentures): Rs 3.5 crore

As per Gitanjali Gems' annual report for FY17 (2016-17):
- working capital facilities from banks overdrawn by Rs 31 crore in FY17 due to non-servicing of interest
- outstanding working capital borrowing balance as of 31-Mar-2017 was Rs 4,994 crore, carrying interest rate charge of 5-13%
- the amount due for Principal+Interest payment in FY18 (2017-18) on external commercial borrowings is $43.5 mln (Rs 282 crore).

February 15, 2018

The case of PNB, Nirav Modi & Mehul Choksi -- 1 (Timeline)

The case of PNB, Nirav Modi & Gitanjali Gems -- 1 (Timeline)

Timeline in Nirav Modi - Punjab National Bank PNB scam case:

Feb 5: Media reports CBI filing FIR against Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi (MD of Gitanjali Gems Ltd) & 2 others in a Rs 280 crore cheating case based on complaint by PNB

Feb 6: A tweet from says bookies were hearing about a Rs9,200cr scam on PNB matter

Feb 7: Gitanjali Gems informs stock exchange that Mehul Choksi is not involved in the dealings in the case (as reported by PTI on Feb 5) & is being falsely implicated

Feb 8: Gitanjali Gems informs stock exchange its Board Meeting will be held on Feb 14 to approve results for Oct-Dec 2017 quarter

Feb 13: Gitanjali Gems informs stock exchange board meeting of Feb 14 to approve Oct-Dec results is postponed as "due to certain pressing contingencies the quarterly results of the Company couldn't be finalized....."

Feb 14: PNB informs stock exchange it detected fraudulent transactions... worth $1771 million... in its branch.. (& that) the matter is already referred to law enforcement agencies.

General detail:
Nirav Modi's cos in India inclde Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd & Firestar International Pvt Ltd

February 10, 2018

Algo trading - no cause for panic: SEBI's Tyagi

"No cause for panic from Algo Trading... Algo trading adds liquidity to the market": SEBI chairperson Tyagi in today's press conference in response to my question to him on whether he agrees with the view that algo trades can accentuate any panic selling in the stock market.

February 02, 2018

Budget: Cap gains tax, dividend tax to reduce mis-selling by MFs

Story I wrote yesterday on impact of Budget move on LTCG and dividend distribution tax on mutual funds:

[C] BUDGET: Cap gains tax, dividend tax to reduce mis-selling by MFs
Cogencis, Thursday, Feb 1

    By Rajesh Gajra
    NEW DELHI - Equity schemes and equity-oriented hybrid schemes of mutual
funds will be hit by the Budget's imposition of a 10% tax on long term
capital gains from investments in equity oriented schemes of mutual funds.
    This came on the back of a similar 10% long term capital gains tax on
investments in equity shares of listed companies.
    Long term capital gains arise when an investment is sold off after a
minimum holding period of one year at a profit.
    The capital gains tax on equity funds will be applied prospectively with
January 31 being the base date for determining the cost of acquisition. The
derived capital gains will be taxed at 10% without inflation indexation
    The Budget has also made dividends declared by equity oriented funds
subject to a 10% dividend distribution tax.
    The impact of the new tax proposals will be widely felt by the mutual
fund industry.
    Just last year, the industry witnessed saw record inflows into equity
funds last year. In calendar 2017, equity funds saw net inflow of 1.49 trln
rupees, four times more than in the previous year.
    Further, since the definition of equity oriented funds covers all mutual
fund schemes which invest more than 65% of its assets in equity shares, the
long term capital gains tax will also cover several hybrid funds where the
equity investments form more than 65% of assets size.
    In the second half of last year, when some investors got concerned with
the high valuations of stocks in the equity market, fund houses aggressively
marketed equity-oriented hybrid funds as a safe bet.
    Hybrid funds attracted strong net inflow of 881 bln rupees last year, 4.2
times more than in calendar 2016.
    A chunk of this inflow went into equity-oriented hybrid funds which were
investing 65-80% in equities and the balance in debt securities.
    Further, the monthly and quarterly dividend plans of hybrid funds were
pushed the hardest in an attempt to lure investors who would generally invest
in bank deposits and were disappointed with falling interest rates on bank
    In fact, 41% of average assets under management of all hybrid funds in
the quarter ended September were in dividend plans, with the balance being in
growth plans.
    The 10% dividend distribution tax on dividends by equity oriented funds
will make dividend plans less attractive than before, and any one trying to
push dividend plans at the cost of growth plans will not find it easy any
more, G Pradeepkumar, CEO of Union Asset Management Co told Cogencis.
    The long term capital gains tax and the 10% tax on dividends will reduce
churn and reduce mis-selling, according to Aashish Somaiyaa, MD and CEO of
Motilal Oswal Asset Management Co.
    According to Pradeepkumar, the government had to levy a dividend
distribution tax on dividends as otherwise fund houses would have
circumvented the capital gains tax by using dividend plans to distribute
gains on investments to investors.
    Interestingly, the tax arbitrage between debt funds and equity funds
(including equity-oriented hybrid funds) will also reduce.
    According to Rajeev Thakkar, chief investment officer of PPFAS Mutual
Fund, taxation may cease to be a crtical factor in selection asset classes by
mutual fund investors.
    While long term capital gains tax on equity funds will be at 10% without
inflation indexation benefit, that on debt funds will continue to be at 20%
with inflation indexation benefit, he said.
    "Say a debt fund generates 8% returns and inflation is 5%. The tax will
come to about 20% on 3% or 0.6%. This comes to slightly less than 10% of the
returns," said Thakkar.
    According to Jimmy Patel, MD & CEO of Quantum Asset Management Co, fund
Houses may have to realign the income distribution strategy on their schemes,
and fund houses prone to use dividend stripping may get reigned in.  End

February 01, 2018

No more buoyancy in Personal Income Tax recepits expected?

In today's Budget 2018-19 presentation, the government's confidence in buoyancy in Personal Income Tax receipts appears to have waned.

Check these figures:

YoY change for Personal Income Tax receipts:
20%   (FY18 Revised Estimate to FY19 Budget Estimate)
25%   (FY17RE to FY18BE)
18%   (FY16RE to FY17BE)

Corresponding figures for Corporate Tax receipts:

YoY change:
10%   (FY18 Revised Estimate to FY19 Budget Estimate)
 9%     (FY17RE to FY18BE)
 9%     (FY16RE to FY17BE)

January 20, 2018

Net inflow in existing equity funds touch six-month low in Dec

A story I wrote earlier this week (in the media company I write for currently) on inflows in domestic MFs"

Net inflow in existing equity funds touch six-month low in Dec

    Existing open-ended equity funds saw net inflow slow down to a six-month low in December, as investors were guarded with many turning to investing in hybrid funds and alternative investment funds instead.
    Last month saw net inflow of 106.2 bln rupees flow into existing equity funds, sharply lower than the previous month's level of 173.7 bln rupees and the lowest in six months, data from Association of Mutual Funds in India showed.
    The analysis excluded close-ended funds and subscriptions garnered by new fund offers.
    The fall of net inflow of open-ended equity funds to a six-month low in December was primarily on account of a spurt in redemptions during the month to 220.6 bln rupees which was the highest monthly redemption level in more than a year.
    Redemptions have risen in the past two months. In the Nov-Dec period, total redemptions stood at 392.9 bln rupees, significantly higher than 256.9 bln rupees seen in the previous two months of September and October.
    High networth investors are booking profits in some of their current holdings in equity schemes of mutual funds and re-deploying the funds with alternative investment funds and portfolio management schemes, according to Kavitha Menon, a Mumbai-based investment advisor.
    According to Rishi Kohli, Managing Director at Pro Alpha Systematic Capital, lot of high networth investors and family offices with liquidity but scared of current high levels of equity markets were pouring in money into alternative investment funds that promise steady returns with negligible risk and 8-12% range of post tax returns which some of them are offering.
    This is reflected in the declining on-month growth rates in assets held by corporate investors and high networth investors in equity funds, excluding tax-saving funds.
    Assets held by corporate investors, which include family offices, in equity funds last month grew marginally by 0.1% on month to 1.11 trln rupees. In November, the same had seen an on-month assets growth of 4.2%.
    High networth investors' assets in equity funds rose 5.3% on month to 2.43 trln rupees in December, compared to a higher on-month growth of 5.9% in the previous month.
    Alternative investment funds are regulated by Securities and Exchange Board of India. They are separate from mutual funds as they raise funds from investors privately and have to raise at least 10 mln rupees from an investor in any new scheme.
    Further, the sponsor of an alternative investment fund is required to itself invest a minimum of 2.5% of a scheme corpus.
    As per last available data from Securities and Exchange Board of India, alternative investment funds had raised funds to the tune of 137 bln rupees in the Jul-Sep quarter, which was close to double the 72 bln rupees amount raised in the previous quarter.
    Net inflow in existing equity funds fell to a six-month low in December also due to retail investors slowing down in their rush to invest in equity funds.
    Assets held by retail investors in equity funds, excluding tax-saving funds, grew by 4.5% on month in December to 3.07 trln rupees. In the previous month, the same had recorded an on-month growth of 5.3%.
    According to Menon, retail investors were being advised by mutual fund agents to shift from investing in equity funds to investing in equity-oriented hybrid funds.
    Fund houses and brokerage firms which act as mutual fund distributors have been aggressively marketing hybrid funds to retail investors under the premise that these funds will partially protect their capital and yet give them better returns from the equity market.
    This is also seen from the fact that last month investors ploughed in investments worth 98 bln rupees in the net (gross inflow minus gross outflow) in hybrid funds. It was the highest monthly net inflow in at least last two years.
    With equity markets touching new highs in the current month, and valuations rising still further, the equity funds will continue to find it difficult to attract large new investments from investors, big or small.
    The table below lists the last one year trend in open-ended equity fund inflows

                     Existing funds                   New fund offers
         -----------------------------------------    ---------------
         Gross inflow   Gross outflow   Net inflow     Subscription
         ------------   -------------   ----------     ------------
                             (In bln rupees)
Dec '17      327         221             106              5
Nov '17      346         172             174             25
Oct '17      276         122             154              3
Sep '17      323         135             188              0
Aug '17      282         111             171             21
Jul '17      252         144             108              0
Jun '17      233         170              63              2
May '17      207         123              84              4
Apr '17      184         103              80              2
Mar '17      256         203              53              0
Feb '17      182         138              44              1
Jan '17      156         120              36              2

October 08, 2017

SEBI lays out 6 categories & 38 sub-categories for open ended MF schemes to classify into

Story on SEBI's circular of Oct 6, 2017, on categorisation of mutual fund schemes

SEBI lays out 6 categories & 38 sub-categories for open ended MF schemes to classify into
    Securities and Exchange Board of India today laid out new
norms for categorization and rationalization of open ended mutual fund
schemes, following which the total number of schemes is likely come down.
    There are around 830 open ended schemes in operation at present as per
current classification by Association of Mutual Funds in India. Of these, 257 schemes are classified by AMFI as income, 316 as equity, 28 as balanced, 52 as liquid, 41 as gilt and 42 as tax-saving equity.
    These schemes will have to categorise themselves as per the new Sebi
norms which specify 11 categories for equity funds, 16 for debt funds, seven
for hybrid or balanced funds, two for solution-oriented funds and one each
for ETFs (exchange traded funds) and fund of funds.
    One only one scheme will be permitted per category for a fund house, SEBI
    Further, after classifying a scheme in any one of these categories, the
fund house will to ensure a minimum threshold of investment in specific type
of securities or asset class.
    For instance, a mid cap--and a small cap--equity fund will have to
minimum 65% exposure to mid cap stocks and small cap stocks.
    Among debt funds, an ultra short duration fund will require its portfolio
duration to be between three months and six months, while a low duration
fund's portfolio duration will have to be in the 6-12 months range.

    With the latest move by SEBI, the number of mutual fund schemes is likely
to come down.
    A fund house having more than one schemes with similar investment
objectives and which can not be fit in more than one of the new specified
categories will have to merge these schemes into one category.
     According to LIC Mutual Fund's CEO, Raj Kumar, it was getting too
confusing for investors to navigate multiple schemes with similar investment
    "The clear definition of the schemes will give clarity to the investors
where a scheme is investing," said Gopal Agrawal, chief investment
officer-equities at Tata Mutual Fund.
    SEBI said in today's circular that there was as need to bring in
uniformity in the characteristics of similar type of schemes launched by
different mutual funds.
    Going forward a fund house will be able to successfully get SEBI's
approval for a new scheme launch only if it does not already have a scheme in
the category under which the new scheme falls.
    For equity funds investing in large cap, mid cap and small cap stocks,
SEBI has simplified matters by laying out their definitions.
    Large cap companies will include the top 100 companies by market cap
while mid cap companies will include the next 150 companies by market cap.
Small cap companies are defined as those which fall beyond the top 250
companies by market cap.
    Based on current market cap levels, and using the new definitions, the
smallest large cap stock has a market cap of 260 bln rupees while the
smallest mid cap stock has a market cap of 76 bln rupees, according to

    SEBI has given fund houses time till Dec 6 to analyse each of their
existing schemes and revert to SEBI with the category classification of each
scheme and proposals, if any, to merge multiple schemes into one category.
    Within three months after SEBI reviews a fund house's proposals and issues its observations, the fund house will have to have ensure completion of all action to comply with the new scheme categorisation norms.  End

October 06, 2017

MF debt exposure to money mkt & short term paper rises in Jul-Aug

A story I wrote yesterday for the news organisation I work for currently:

MF debt exposure to money mkt & short term paper rises in Jul-Aug
     Debt funds chose to maintain a high investment presence at
the lower end of the yield curve for the second consecutive month in August,
an analysis of the latest mutual fund deployment data from Securities and
Exchange Board of India released on Wednesday showed.
    Investments by debt funds, gilt funds and balanced funds collectively
held 20.1% of their aggregate debt assets in money market securities at the
end of August. It followed a 22.8% exposure to money market securities as of
July-end and a 15.0% one as of end of June.
    The analysis excluded liquid funds since they have to mandatorily stay
invested in money market securities having maturity less than three months.
    Excluding the assets held by liquid funds, the total debt assets of
mutual fund schemes totalled 9.60 trln rupees as of August-end of which 1.93
trln rupees were invested in debt securities having maturity of less than 90
days, the data under review showed.
    From June-end to August-end the aggregate debt assets of the non-liquid
fund schemes clocked a growth by 16% while their exposure to money market
securities jumped higher by 55%.
    Liquidity is usually the main consideration behind a short-term, or
long-term, debt fund being invested in money market securities but that does
not explain the a higher level of above 20% exposure to these securities.
    "In addition to liquidity consideration, in the last couple of months
there has been a general rise in yield and fund managers have likely chosen
to reduce their longer-duration securities exposure and park it in money
market securities," said R. Sivakumar, head of fixed income at Axis Mutual
    The shift from longer-duration debt to debt with shorter maturities is
also evident from the fact that mutual fund schemes have also increased their
exposure to debt market securities with maturity terms between 90 days and
one year.
    At the end of August, the investment in debt paper having 90-365 days
maturity was 2.03 trln rupees, or 21.1% of aggregate debt assets held by
funds other than liquid funds. This was higher than the exposure of 19.0% at
the end of the preceding month.
    With funds other than liquid funds jacking up their money market exposure
in the last two months, preference for some certain types of money market
instruments has also increased.
    In the combined holdings of liquid funds and other funds in money market
securities, the exposure to collateralised borrowing and lending obligations,
which are typically one-day instruments, has shot up by 76% to 808 bln rupees
as of August-end from 458 bln rupees at the end of June.
    This meant that of aggregate money market investments by all funds, these
CBLO instruments, accounted for 14.9% at the end of August, up from just 9.8%
at the end of June.
    The bulk of aggregate money market exposure of funds is in commercial
paper whose exposure has stayed consistent around the 49% level in the last
three months.  End