September 29, 2007
life in general: how at least the usa, china, france & india support burma's (myanmar's) military dictatorship
There is nearly almost double standards in the foreign policies of all the democracies with regard to non-democracies. Most human rights-supporting people of existing democracies know how the military dictatorship of Burma (Myanmar) has been repressing the rights of its people for so long. But most of these people wouldn't know how their own democratic governments, in order to further oil & gas interests or other corporate interests using the justification of doing this to maintain their economies for their citizens, have pampered Burma's military dictatorship all along.
We have been reading the current news (here, here and here) of Burmese military government's ugly attacks on its protesting citizens. There is a very insightful write-up on the dynamics in Burma here.
As far as my country (India) is concerned, I do not agree at all with my government (of India) pampering the military rulers of Burma and not pressing for restoration of democracy and release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Many Indians and government officials keep cribbing about US pampering Pakistan (which is true) at the cost of allowing extremists trained in Pakistan to carry on with their violent activities in Kashmir.
Indian military is known to supply arms to the military rulers of Burma to suppress the democracy-seeking rebel groups. Its a sorry state of affairs. In my work as a financial journalist, I had recently interacted with an official of Excise Revenue Intelligence department of the government and among other things that we discussed he told me that in quite some of their raids on companies and agencies they have come across caches of arms belonging to the Indian military and earmarked for dispatch to Burma.
Officially, Indian government denies sending arms. But it does harp on wanting to prevent insurgency operations by ULFA and other groups in North-East states of India (which, in my view, have always been excessively forced to be a part of India even when their local populaces would rather prefer to be independent countries) many of which, it claims, operate out of the the Burmese side of the India-Burma border.
Last 3-5 years, India is also trying to get oil & gas projects in Burma and has preferred to ignore the fact that Burma is run by a military dictatorship in its cheap attempts to bag those projects.
Other countries are no better. Dick Cheney, current US vice-president, was in the past a cheerleader for American companies oil & gas exploration investments in Burma among other countries. Read more about it here.
France's oil company, Total, has a presence in Burma.
China, as everyone knows, has always supported the Burmese military dictatorship.
September 21, 2007
I was reminded recently that all life in our universe (earth's living beings are not the only livings beings in our universe) originated from the void. The void, that is, the nothingness, is eternal. But from it parts continously emerge as living dots, each surrounded by white light. When a living dot surrounded by white light looks back at the place where it emerged from it sees nothing because you can't see something that is void. It looks elsewhere around, observes matter and gets attracted to it.
Assume the matter to be like a prism. When white light passes through prism it converts into VIBGYOR (violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red) colours. Thus newly emerged entertwines with matter and takes form of something different. This keeps on happening and getting manifested in different life forms. Humans are just one kind of the ongoing and continuous manifestations between living light and matter.
The search for identity by a soul (living dot) can only end through a return to the void.
The National Stock Exchange (NSE) is better than the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in many many areas. But in one area--that of information dissemination to the media--the NSE is as bad as the BSE. I say this because I interact with them as a part of my work as a financial journalist covering the stock market.
Two weeks ago, I sent a formal email to NSE's corporation communication department (firstname.lastname@example.org) asking for the 3.30 pm (closing time) values of the Nifty (NSE-50) index for the last three years.
The official closing values that is available at NSE's website for downloading purpose is calculated on the weighted average of the trades of the last 30 minutes of trading (usually 3 pm to 3.30 pm). I wanted the exact 3.30 pm value and not the weighted average based closing values.
I wanted this to compare with last traded values (usually the 3.30 pm ones) of Nifty futures and arrive at the accurate premiums/discounts of the futures prices to the underlying. Ideally, this should be provided by NSE at its website in the derivatives data download files. But the spot underlying value at the the time of last traded price of the futures and options trades is not given. So, I said let me do the hard work myself by getting the underlying spot values of at least the Nifty as at 3.30 pm and mix it with the last traded price of the futures price to get the premiums/discounts for the last 3 years.
This was only for the Nifty values. I also wanted the 3.30 pm prices for the stocks in which futures trading is very liquid. But I said let me first try for the Nifty values.
But, yesterday (Thursday) evening, when I followed up with NSE on my 2-week old email for the 4th-5th time I was told that I can not be given the information "because it is not published information for the public". I was appalled! Firstly, the 3.30 pm value is available to all members of the public if they visit the NSE's website at 3.30 pm and check the real-time values of Nifty and all the stocks. Since the public and the media might not be able to do it day after day they might want to get it later separately from the exchange.
NSE's egg-headed approach to such basic sharing of information is worrisome. This is not the first time I have encountered such egg-headedness of NSE's corporate communications department. It has happened earlier too. I have even brought this notice to the managing director of NSE, Ravi Narain, a couple of times. But he does not appear to have done anything in this regard. He seems to be blinded to the deficiencies of the corporate communications department.
September 17, 2007
In my work, I often have to download stuff from the website of the stock market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), www.sebi.gov.in. It is the slowest and the most user-unfriendly website I have come across of any regulatory body worldwide.
To give one instance, many documents like regulatory orders, monthly bulletins, IPO offer documents etc are available for download in pdf format. The download happens compulsorily in a pop-up window, so if you are using Mozilla Firefox browser you can't take it to a new tab. Then the speed of download is the slowest and there is no monitoring indicator during the download process. If Sebi's website server hangs, or your computer is giving some problem, you will never know because you will think the download is taking time becuase of a high file size. But in reality the download would have hanged and you will end up waiting a long time before realising it and trying all over again.
The Sebi website server is equipped with poor processing strength and is badly configured.
Stock exchanges, depositories, brokers, depository participants, listed companies, investment bankers etc use internet technology intensively as a part of their daily bsuiness activities and Sebi, as their regultor, has the powers to take them to task if their systems suffer from inadequacies and slow speed. But who will take Sebi to task for their miserable website?
There is another market site which is important for investors but which is just the worst designed one. I am referring to Bombay Stock Exchange's website www.bseindia.com which too I have to use heavily in my work. To get to advanced data you want to download you have to hunt for it endlessly in the site. Its worse than Sebi's site.
Another example is that of a commodity derivatives exchange in India. The website of Multi Commodity Exchange of India, www.mcxindia.com. Some months back when I wanted to download basic data on aggregate trading volumes monthwise across each commodity I couldn't. Because the data is given in such a manner that you have to take every day's data and aggregate it yourself on your computer. And even the daily data is not presented in a direct downloadable file. I noticed the site was giving 15-20 records in a single page. I could not but sense that there was a deliberate mischievous attempt by MCX to prevent researchers and journalists to analyse its trading data.
(this part was added on September 18) The fact that worldwide market regulators give a lot of significance to their websites can be gauged by yesterday's (September 17) press release of the US Federal Reserve Board pertaining to its website.
September 15, 2007
Today, a 10-day religious festival of Ganesha began here in Bombay and in all parts of India. Anyone and everyone who wants to revere Ganesha, who is considered as an important God by Hindus, can do so in a more enhanced manner during this 10-day festival. But, like all aspects of our society and polity, this has, by and large, become polluted with loudness, commercial exploitation, extortion, political manipulation, religious extremism and vulgarity.
Living in Bombay since last 37 years from the time of my birth I have seen with my eyes how Ganesh Chaturthi (as the festival is called) has come from a less shrill affair to the vulgar display that it has become today.
The big and small Ganesha idols, made largely from plaster of paris material that pollutes the sea and rivers where they are immersed, are taken through the streets in the most boisterous manner possible. The streets of many cities are taken over by the so-called devotees on 4 out of the 10 days of the festival. The most obnoxious thing, in my view, is their use of thousands, nay millions, of extremely loud and heavy smoke-emitting firecrackers. During Diwali festival, towards the end of every year, this is hundred times more worse.
To cater to false religious pride, the government and the authorities allow things to happen during the festival which on other days they will pounce upon any group or groups doing it. I consider this hypocrisy on the part of Indian society and administration.
To be sure, we see such fanaticism in the celebration of the festivals of most of the religions worldwide. But I wonder whether the fanaticism seen here during the current Ganesh Chaturthi festival, the forthcoming (in October this year ) Navaratri festival and the Diwali festival (in November this year), surpasses all of them.
September 14, 2007
Last month, I contributed to Business World a story on how investor complaints against companies, like old wounds, are still widely prevalent in India's financial system. The story is given below.
What Investors Want
Its a revealing peep into retail investors minds. They can't complain about losses in equities if the market prices go down but surely do if they don't receive declared dividends. And if their investments in fixed deposits are not redeemed by companies they do raise a hue and cry – you will receive at least two complaints a day if you invite investors to email you. This is borne out of an analysis of one year's data of investor complaints received by a Ministry of Company Affairs-funded and Midas Touch Investors Association-operated (MTIA) internet-based informal service called www.investorhelpline.in.
A first of its kind, this website had become operational on September 9 last year. In its first year of operations it has got 2,400 valid complaints against companies of which 950 were just for non-receipt of principal amounts and/or interest amounts in past cases of deposits with companies. About 430 investors said they were not receiving annual reports or annual general meeting notices, another 330 had not got shares alloted or amounts refunded in primary market issues and IPOs and about 250 claimed they were not getting dividends on shares they owned.
The depositors' grievances which formed the largest chunk mostly pertained to over five year old cases where companies were defaulting on principal repayments and interest payments (see table: 'Most complained against'). Around 30 such companies against which 663 investor complaints were received are undergoing judicial process involving court hearings or liquidation proceedings.
Most complained against:
Lloyds Finance - 313 complaints
Morepen Labs - 188 complaints
PAL-Peugeot - 69 complaints
DCM Financial - 45 complaints
Nagarjuna Finance - 39 complaints
Duncans Industries - 34 complaints
CFL Capital - 33 complaints
All the above are on non-refund of deposits
MTIA managers have got over 60% of valid grievances redressed. "The investor helpline service does not have legal power, yet the response from companies to redress the complaints was much beyond our expectations," says Virendra Jain, president of MTIA. The worrisome point, Jain found, was that there a little over 100 companies complained against came back undelivered because their names or addresses had changed and the BSE did not have their up-to-date contact information or status.
Shareholder complaints against listed complaints are actually supposed to be resolved by stock exchanges and Sebi but Jain says these are probably not given much importance by them. Depositor complaints lie with the RBI if the deposit taker is a NBFC and the rest lie with the Company Law Board (a judicial body set up under the Companies Act 1956). This is the reason for investorhelpline.in getting so many investors writing in with their grievances.
It also perhaps shows that helpline services are not only successful in social operations like child abuse, violence against women and suicidal tendencies among depressed persons but also for investors or depositors in the financial markets. At the same time, however, depositor complaints of the kind that investorhelpline.in got are legacy issues and will not arise afresh simply because there is very few companies who accept deposits from the public currently.
September 10, 2007
All over the world the governments are using the police force to take away people's rights to protest against undemocratic policies of the state and world powers. The latest example is what happened in Sydney in Australia yesterday (or day before).
Here is a fellow blogger's report on it:
They came in their thousands, in defiance of a month long fear and intimidation campaign by the state and federal governments, the police and the Murdoch media.
Of the more than 6000-8000 who marched, all but a few dozen protested peacefully, without violence or aggression. More than half of all protesters were women, hundreds of elderly people marched, joined by hundreds of families, with young children.
But the 2500 police deployed, backed by a full riot squad, a water cannon, backpacks full of pepper spray, dogs and snipers in a helicopter hovering above the crowd, were pumped for the long promised "worst riots ever seen in Sydney." A promise made only by the police and state government ministers over the past few weeks.
Protesters were wrestled to the ground, put in headlocks, had their arms twisted up behind their backs, had knees rammed into their spines and, in a number of assaults by police, were punched in the back and neck with a flurry of hard blows while being held down. Few of those assaulted and beaten displayed any resistance at all.
Dozens were removed from the Sydney protest on Saturday for taking photographs or video of police, dozens more were shoved, thrown to the ground and generally provoked. But still the crowd did not erupt into the expected mass violence and disordert.
An accountant, who crossed the street in the wrong place, was slammed onto the footpath and had his face rammed into the ground by at least six police officers. His young son stood nearby, clearly trembling in fear, as police wrestled the man who offered up no resistance, except to protect his glasses. He was held in a police cell for 22 hours and was denied contact with his lawyer and family members. Police didn't return his glasses until after he was released from custody.
But for all the violence unleashed on the protesters, only a few were arrested, and less than 10 face any charges at all. Two of the charges related to nudity. Some were detained for swearing, others were dragged away by police because they dared to question why someone else was being dragged away. Some were charged with resisting arrest. You could be arrested for resisting arrest by simply asking "why are you detaining me?"
The media came under attack from the police as well. Photographers and videographers were assaulted, detained and in some cases arrested.
The vast majority of the violent incidents mentioned above were captured on video.
Of the actions of police, the new Chief Commissioner, Andrew Scipione is reported as saying the tactics were well practised and cleared defined :
"That's the way that we do business in NSW now."The majority of police officers involved in all the violent incidents listed above had removed their mandatory identification badges before they unleashed on the vastly peaceful protesters who gathered in Sydney on Saturday to voice their dissent against the Iraq War and the presence of President Bush in their city.
Hundreds of police were captured on video with no visible identification.
The Police Service manual advises all uniformed police officers to follow the law and display identification at all times.
Hundreds of police and detectives disguised themselves as as protesters and infiltrated the huge crowd.
When a protester in Hyde Park moved as though he was acting to set fire to a small American flag, six to eight undercover police or detectives swooped on him and dragged him away.
One eyewitness claimed that one of those who took part in the arrest of the potential flag burner had earlier been seen throwing small objects from within the crowd and had been chastised by protesters. At least one protester was reported in the media to have been dragged away by police for throwing objects. The eyewitness refused to give their name, and said he was fearful of repercussions from police.
Sydney To Stay Under 'Martial Law' Until September 12
Posted by Darryl Mason at 8:34 AM
September 09, 2007
Worldwide, many hold passionate views on the three isms -- capitalism, communism and socialism. I, for one, think that all the three of them are the same in respect of good effects and bad effects, for the simple reason that each of them involve human management. The effects are good if humanity is not forgotten by the practitioners of any of the isms and the effects are bad if humans get driven by greed and manipulative tendencies.
The objectives of all three of them are to benefit a majority of mankind. But one sees cronyism in all of them. Many capitalists run their businesses in a manner which violates the basic tenets of capitalism -- including that of transparent and fair competitive bidding. Many communists exploit the very downtrodden classes whose rights they claim to uphold. Socialists allow anti-social elements to hold too much power in their system.
The isms that I would prefer are humanism and environmentalism. Provided, of course, humans practise it fairly.