October 29, 2008

life in financial markets&journalism: witchhunt against sellers

{Update, 1 Nov '08: In the post below I wrote about elements in corporate India using some of the top media editors to plug their agenda. I just came to know that one of the Chandra brothers of Unitech is using 1/2/3 top editors through their obnoxiously close connection with a notorious PR agency (that handles accounts of the several companies of largest corporate group in India, and is now pitching for Unitech's account or already got Unitech's account) to pressurise Sebi to haul up the imaginary short sellers. Unitech, a real estate company, is in deep shit with regard to its finances. A large chunk of its properties are currently lying mortgaged with Indiabulls. There is much more going on in these connections. Its very very ugly. Its a shame on Indian media as well, particularly on these top editors who are batting for Unitech shamelessly}

Elements in India Inc are playing their dirty games in the financial marketplace yet again. This time they are on a witch hunt against sellers, including short sellers, in the market by attributing the motive of market manipulation to them. Unitech's promoters, the Chandras, have already complained to Sebi to probe the fall in their stock's prices. Others are doing it subtly and one of their tactics is to use some of the top media editors to play up their agenda.
With their market capitalisation down they are finding it difficult to raise funds to repay earlier debts or fund committed expansion plans. A brokerage firm official from UK called up his friend in an Indian brokerage firm to tell him that some of Tata Steels debt issues were going for an effective yield of above 20% per annum in the UK market. That meant Tata Steels is not able to raise debt without having to offer a 20% effective rate of interest to lenders.
Through their confederations/associations they made the finance and commerce ministries they even got Sebi to direct FIIs not to lend shares abroad, with effect from 20 October, through offshore derivative instruments that was otherwise not prohibited.
When excessive leverage and massive long buying took up the markets to unrealistic heights then these very companies were silent because they could tap funds from the market (through new issue of shares from the public in the primary market) at any price they deemed fit. The DLFs and Unitechs of the Indian corporate world raised capital at absurd valuations during the 2005-07 bull run.
Witch hunts, says this website, "According to American Heritage Dictionary, a witch hunt is a political campaign launched on the pretext of investigating activities subversive to the state." In the context of the Indian stock market, it is a corporate campaign launched on the pretext of investigating short sellers and other sellers of stocks in the equity market. It is similar to the McCarthyism in the 1950s in the US when almost every Tom, Dick and Harry in the US was alleged to be a communist and anti-American.
I did some analysis of (i) world markets movements that showed Indian market being in sync with others in the world, (ii) trading pattern of FIIs, domestic institutional investors (DIIs), brokers proprietary accounts and retail+NRIs+non-institutional corporate investors and it showed the dominance of FII selling but also showed the buying by DIIs and retail-plus category, and (iii) the amount of shares lent by FIIs abroad before they were stopped from doing so from 20 October and after they were made to disclose their lent shares positions from 10 October. The three visuals below bring these out. Click on each one of them to enlarge and see clearly.

October 26, 2008

life in general: goondaism recycled

Exactly a week back, fanatic followers of Raj Thackeray (Raj T), the founder of the split faction of Shiv Sena (SS), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), brutally attacked some Railways-exams' giving students who had come from outside Bombay for giving the exams. Shocking though it was to see it happen, it was not the first time Raj T was stage managing such attacks against north Indians. This has been happening since about two years now. But this time the hue and cry was so much that next day, Raj T was arrested by the police and kept in the police lock-up for 24 hours. This was a simple implementation of the rule of the law and MNS hooligans went on a rampage holding Bombay, Thane, Nasik, Nagpur and Pune cities to ransom.
My heart goes out to the ones who, in the past many months, have been injured—or whose shops/property have been damaged—by MNS goons. But I don't get much shocked anymore by such violence. This is India's—and in this particular case—Bombay's and Maharashtra's ugly truth.
Raj T and his MNS have now replaced SS in such violent and extortionist techniques. Shiv Sena, under an ailing and aged Bal Thackeray is more or less dead now. The rowdyism of SS is now the rowdyism of MNS. Raj T is the son of Shrikant Thackeray (Bal T's brother) and Kunda (sister of Bal T's wife Meena).
During 1966-7, Bal Thackeray, and his newly-formed Shiv Sena, rose in prominence due to their violent agitation against south Indians. Just like Raj T is now building his political capital with the huge Maharashtrian voter base using the loss of jobs for locals due to north Indians, so had Bal Thackeray used the same excuse (but against south Indians) to build his fledgling SS into a larger political party. Subtle, yet shameless, encouragement and handing out respect to such goon parties is given by Congress party to Bal T in the 1960s and 70s and now Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance to Raj T. The Bombay police, and Maharasthra police, are, as always, puppets in the hands of the ruling parties (be it Congress-NCP, or SS-BJP, or in the future a potential MNS-BJP alliance).
The south/north Indians issue is just a ploy to gain political capital and Bal T never meant it to be permanent nor does Raj T mean it to be now. Sooner or later, these goons come back to Hindu identity politics. Two decades after his first agitation, Bal T, turned his violence against Muslims (the horrendous SS violence on Muslims in January 1993). I do not rule out Raj T doing the same 5-10-15-20 years from now. Such is one of India's ugly faces. The mindless violent reaction that one is currently seeing in Bihar and Jharkhand to MNS is another one. In fact, it is not just Bombay and Maharashtra where one such sees dirty political games. Go to Madras, Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Pune etc and one gets to see the non-locals being treated unpleasantly.

(An update on the above is in my 2 Nov '08 post)

October 24, 2008

life in journalism: shameless availing of diwali gifts

There is large-scale corruption among journalists and editors in India during Diwali festival (this year's is on right now) when companies and press relations companies send Diwali gifts. These gifts could range from a box of dryfruits/chocolates (that would otherwise cost about Rs 500 in the market) to a physical article costing between Rs 1,000-Rs 10,000.
The way I look at it is that a journalist or an editor should not accept any of these -- not even the box of dryfruits/chocolates costing Rs 500 or more. But I have seen, over the years, senior-level journalists and editors shamelessly accepting these and setting an ugly example for other journalists in their offices. They may not take all these boxes home and instead distribute the contents of some of these boxes internally, even among the peons and office assistants, but I still think this is a pernicious practise that needs to be strongly condemned by all right-thinking individuals.
If the editors and senior journalists do not care about ethics on their own it is high time that readers remind them to start caring. If you are a reader of a newspaper or a magazine, or a viewer of a TV news channel, fetch their email address (Letters to Editor or some other) and email them saying you would not approve if their journalists/editors are availing of Diwali gifts or gifts during any other time either.
As a journalist, myself, I am too sent such boxes. I have given a standing instruction to my office reception to whom the courier deliveries come to refuse to accept any boxes that look like they would be Diwali boxes. But sometimes the corporate communication officials or the PR company officials visit offices directly and leave boxes at the reception. Like, for instance, earlier this year, sometime in March I think, during the Holi festival, 2-3 corporation communication officials of Multi-Commodity Exchange of India had come to my office to distribute Holi sweets. They had got boxes for 3-4 journalists in my office including me. Now, without telling me anything about the box they just left it behind. I was furious. It becomes a time-consuming exercise to trace these guys back and tell them to take back their boxes. Last year (2007) during Diwali, Vaishnavi Communication, the PR company for the Tata Group, had sent me a dryfruit box on behalf of one of the Tata group of companies (I forget the name). It was left at the reception and I was not in office on that particular day. Later, I had to call them and ask them to send their person to take it back.
If all journalists and editors return all the gifts it will send a strong stinging message to the companies and PR companies not to take us for granted.

October 23, 2008

life in financial markets: when government manipulates equity markets

Its a ridiculous drama being enacted by the champions of capitalism. India's finance minister, P. Chidambaram was telling television news reporters today that the foreign institutional investors (FIIs) are being directed to reverse their short-sales positions. Such a step should be an anathema to free markets but when were the financial markers were every truly from cronyism. Even C.B.Bhave, who otherwise is calm and collected, is unable to resist pressure from above and comes down heavily on FIIs lending stock to each other through private contracts.
I would like to say this to market participants, investors, regulators as well as media editors/correspondents covering markets:
When the market shoots up rapidly, as it was during 2005-07, there was no clamour from you for a ban on long purchases or reversal of long purchase positions. But when the markets are going down rapidly, as it is this month, you want to ban short sales or ask for it to be reversed? You can't have it both ways. If that does make you a hypocrite then nothing much else will! It is also government-sponsored manipulation of the markets. Who will regulate the regulators?
Earlier it was the banks and companies in distress that were being shamelessly bailed out by governments and cronyists. Now, they want to bail out the equity markets.

October 16, 2008

life in general: india's democracy: only for a few

In a genuine democratic country the government will not wait for people to come and seek their basic rights of justice and fairness. It will hand out these rights automatically and quickly. But in India it does not work like that. Rights are automatically granted only to the moneyed, influential and crony capitalists/socialists/communists. Physically violent sections and religious fanatics also bulldoze their ways into extracting favours for themselves for no adequate justification. But the non-affluent and those staying in remote areas do not get to have their say without much effort and fight.
Here is what right so-called 'development' project-affected people are forced to do (come all the way from their far-away home to Bombay) to seek protection of their basic human and economic rights. The Bombay police force that acts meekly against violent politicians like Raj Thackeray and Bal Thackeray acts rough against the protesting villagers and their NGO-organisers.

Date: 2008/10/15
To: nbapresslist@lists.riseup.net

A Wing First Floor, Haji Habi Building, Naigaon Cross Road
Dadar (E), Mumbai-400 014 Ph. No-2415 0529 E-mail: napmindia@gmail.com
Thousands of displaced and affected people of various dams and projects;adivasis, dalits, farmers, fish workers, farm labourers, unorganized and skilled workers and basti dwellers and hawkers assembled at Mumbai, rising
their demands for justice and rehabilitation and against the current paradigm of destruction and displacement in the name of development. The uprooted displaced, combating displacement, deceit and half cooked rehabilitation, if any, are agitating and raising their demands with the Govt. of Maharashtra, calling the State to provide concrete and ultimate solutions.
Yesterday morning, all the displaced marched towards and assembled peacefullyon the footpath before the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Even as the protestors were agitating in a non-violent manner and trying to engage in a dialogue with the Congress President, the agitators were forcibly removed from there by the police, who indulged in lathi charge and taken to Azad Maidan. We strongly condemn this action of the Police and the Government. The agitators did not budge and continued to raise slogans for justice. It is also unfortunate that the Congress leadership not only did not pay a patient hearing but also allowed use of police force, which we condemn. It is a success of the struggle of the thousands that we made the same police to provide free water, lighting and other facilities at the morcha venue.
Yesterday evening, the Home Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Shri R.R. Patil met a delegation of ours, who gave us a patient hearing and promised that all the issues would be broached at deliberated upon in today’s Cabinet Meeting.
A detailed memorandum has already been sent to the Government. We also welcome the decision of the Minister to withdraw all the cases against
Gandhian activist Bhau Buskute and 47 other Satyagrahis who were unlawfully arrested and detained while agitating for the demands of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway displaced, upon the consistent campaigning and demand by Medha Patkar and NAPM.
The State Rehabilitation Minister, Shri Patang Rao Kadam met a delegation of the dam affected, project affected (PAF) and SEZ affected people, along with Medha Patkar, Ulka Mahajan, Simpreet Singh, Yogini Khanolkar, Suniti S.R. Bhavar Baba, Niketan Palkar, Prasad Bagve, Sampat Kale and others including those from Maval, Mulsi, Tata, Morba, Sardar Sarovar affected, and others, today afternoon at the Mantrayala and assured that he will positively look into all the demands and issues. The following decisions were arrived at:
- A high level Committee comprising of the Secretary of the Dept. of Revenue, Mr Dangre; Additionsl Secretary, Ms. Leena Satyanarayan and Secretary, Irrigation Dept. and Directors Maharashtra Krishna Khore Valley Development Corporation, Mr. Kolavale along with the District Collectors of Pune and Western Region Divisional Commissioner would deliberations the issues of various PAFs in Pune.
- The Minister promised that all lands that were acquired in excess for the Pavna and Tata dams would be returned back to the farmers and respective dam – affected people. He assured that Mr. Kolavale has already transferred 1011 acres of land to the Revenue Dept. for the purpose of rehabilitation. It is significant to note that the Minister agreed to the fact that rehabilitation is a public purpose, and therefore excess land must be being given to the original land owners or be used for their rehabilitation.
- A detailed field visit and investigation would be made by the aboveCommittee in the first week of November in four villages of Pavna and Tata dam affected areas, along with the village community.
- The Minister also promised that he would personally visit
The State Revenue Minister, Shri Narayan Rane met a delegation of the displaced urban basti dwellers. Upon the demand of the basti people of Mandala that they should get their promised and rightful share of 50 acres land in Mandala at the rate of Rs. 40 per acre, which is infact 40 times higher the price that was paid by elite builder Hiaranadani, the Minister promised that he will go into all the details of the land deal and ensure that justice is rendered to the people of Mandala.
People are firm that they would not budge from Azad Maidan, before concrete guarantees in writing are given to them on all their demands and unless the other related Ministers such as those of the Forest, Irrigation, Agriculture and Food & Civil Supplies Departments agree to meet them. The Tribal Development Minister will meet a delegation of activists and displaced from the Narmada valley tomorrow morning.
All the displaced have resolved not to budge an inch as long as Govt., of Maharashtra does not take concrete decisions, guaranteeing their rights, but in fact to intensify the Andolan at this very place. “This is just the beginning; we have come with questions and will not go back without answers and solid promise, backed with credible action” they all say in unision.
Mukta Srivstava Suniti S.R. Lal Babu Roy
(09969530060) (9423571784) (09987272484)

Details of the various struggle groups, issues and demands
The agitators include those affected by the dams built by Tata like Bhushi, Valvan, Somwadi, Sirwada, Morba, (Rigad) Thokalwadi and Mulshi and those displaced by the Pavna, Andhre, Jadhavwadi, Pusane, Kasarsai, Narmada, Malwandi – Jhuto, and other projects over the past decade to even 100 years ago, which have left them landless and homeless, while there has not been a simple cash compensation, let alone the hollow promise of land for land! The tall promises made have no where led to realization of even the limited rights as per the existing laws and Rehabilitation Policy, including the right to obtain 4 acres of land per family and house plots, at the rehabilitation sites, with all the basis amenities.
Though the bull dozers razing the bastis of the poor in the cities like Mumbai have stopped for the time being, the is still a luring danger of evictions at various places. Thousands of families who have been staying together on the lands for years and generations together cannot be denied their right to these lands. During the previous election campaign, it was promised that the rights of those who have been living up to the year 2000 would be considered and a survey to that effect would be carried out. At least this should be implemented immediately. The right to self – development of Bastis like Mandala must be recognized at the appropriate level in the Government immediately as under the JNNURM. The Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) must also be implemented effectively. When big and fat builders like Hiranadani can be given land at 40 paise per acre, against whom a case filed in the High Court at Mumbai is coming up for hearing today, even as we fight at the Azad Maidan, we question and challenge the Govt. as to why land cannot be allotted to us as well. We had infact paid Rs. 2000/- to the Govt. towards this end.
Another key issue is that beside lands that have been submerged, excess lands have been grabbed away, for various projects, than what is actually required, even if that Project had any merit. These lands were promised to be returned to the original owners. How come then that these lands are in fact sold to the brokers in Mumbai and the elite from artists to capitalist businessmen, the Singhanias’ and Amitabh Bacchans?
Those displaced in the Narmada valley due to the Sardar Sarovar Project are not yet rehabilitated and as on today the Govt. Of Maharashtra needs at least 4,500 hectares of land which they claim is not available. About 300 PAFs are not included in the list. We demand the Govt. of Maharashtra to take a clear stand that the dam will not go ahead without proper and just rehabilitation, including land for land.
We demand that the Tata Dam affected people must either be given full compensation or their lands must be returned back to them immediately. In spite of there existing alternatives to the Sapdi dam in Hingoli and Painganga dam in Yavatmal, they have displaced thickly populated villages, which is not acceptable. These and other big dams are only continuing to destroy thousands of hectares of fertile agricultural land, and thereby thousands of livelihoods. The people at the settlement at Krantinagar in Lonavla which has been there for a few decades, must be settled in the same place with due rights. The first right of fishing in the dam reservoir waters must be that of the project affected fish workers and not the contractors.
It is an absolute injustice to divert the water from the dams to the cities and industries, catering to the unjust demands of the urban elites, as against the proposed and promised claims of providing water for irrigation and drinking water purposes. Before the water from the Pavna dam goes to Pimpri Chinchwad areas, it should be made available to the dam-affected, for drinking purpose and for agriculture. Water from Warasgaon should be given to the adivasis and the farmers instead of the monstrous Lavasa Lake city, which is not thing but loot and destruction in the name of tourism. Similarly, various Project affected should be given employment wherever water has been diverted for industries and big cities. The ruling of the High Court of Mumbai (Aurangabad Bench) must be immediately and fully implemented. The state’s water policy must clearly ensure that agriculture and other traditional livelihoods are given a clear priority before industries.
A number of land transfers in the case of Lavasa and the Sahara City are illegal. They are carried out by cheating the small and marginal farmers and land owners and the tribals, most of whom are poor and illiterate. A thorough inquiry must be made into all these deals. The contractors in Lavasa and the middlemen are harassing and intimidating the villagers and locals. This should be stopped immediately and penal action initiated against any one indulging in such acts, no matter howsoever high or influential.
The’ Special Economic Zones’ are just a tool to make the rich more richer by providing them all forms of rebates and doling out huge tracts of prime agricultural lands to them. Those who are not ready to give up their houses, lands, village communities, water, fish, farms, are looted by making false promises. We oppose this blatant grabbing, in which the consent of the Gram Sabha is seldom sought, which is a mandatory requirement as per the 73rd amendment to the Constitution and the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. The entire process of promoting SEZs at Karla, Raigad, Maval, Gorai etc. should be stopped forthwith.
Some of the representatives of the various groups of displaced persons form across the state include:
Niketan Palkar / Shivram Bhavar – Tata Dharangrasth Samithi
Banda Rama Akhade and Saraswati R. Biskute, Pavana Dam affected(Sahayadri Bachao Andolan)
Pandurang Ambe – Kasarsai Project affected
Madhukar Sable – Diwad, Maval SEZ
Sitabai Dangre – Pavana Dam affected
Pandarinath Virale – Adle Khurd , Maval SEZ
Leelabai, Lavasa Lake City project affected
Sitaram Atmaram Nagap, Aruna Prakalpgrast Sangarsh Samithi, Sindhudurg
Yamuna Bandu Roke, Ditara Project affected
Amravati Chowdhury, Mahatam Mourya, Simpreet Singh, Ghar Bachao Ghar
Banao Andolan
Chandrashekar, Gorai Bet Bachao Andolan
Yogini Khanolkar & Vijay Valvi, Narmada Bachao Andolan
Noorji Padvai, Sardar Sarovar Project Affected, Chimalkedhi, Maharashtra

October 13, 2008

life in general: updated to a may '07 post on criminal wastage of electricity by big consumers

Two days back, I updated a May 2007 post on criminal wastage of electricity by big consumers.
This is the stuff that I put in the update:

months back, on 12 August, I came across another example of mindless use of electricity. See the pic alongside. I clicked it in the men's toilet of PVR movie theatre at Oberoi Mall in Goregaon East. There are three TV screens (the ones showing orange-coloured visuals) visible here but there were 3-4 more. These screens were showing trailers of movies that were going to get released in the coming weeks.

October 12, 2008

life in general: guava (peru) - poor man's delight!

Whenever guava ('peru' in hindi) fruit is in season here in Bombay and Maharashtra, I enjoy having its juice twice or thrice a week at home. See the first pic below taken by me today morning. Since its a local fruit and its tree naturally flourishing, guava is considered as the poor man's apple with its multitude benefits. Some even call it the most nutritious fruit.
Its in season for about 3 months in a year and its currently in season here. See the second pic below taken by me today -- i am holding a guava!

October 09, 2008

life in general&financial markets: yo yo! what a 'lament'!

The other day, my colleague, Venky, asked me whether I wanted to hear mp3 songs of a group called Deep Forest. I said "Sure!" and then copied about 7 songs of this group on my computer. I heard them and liked most of them. Among the songs is one titled 'Lament' that I have taken a liking to and have been listening to a lot in the last 2-3 days (this is a typical behaviour on my part as far as music is concerned -- if i like a song too much then i go overboard in listening to it till i get sick of it!).
Anyway, the song is kind of funny, sweet, lilting, all at the same time -- 'funny' because of the repeated 'yo yo yo yo' sung by a male singer that reminded me of the currently yo-yoing financial markets and the 'lamenting' investors, sweet because because of japanese/mongolian lyrics sung by a female chorus and lilting because of the tune which the two French guys of the group took inspiration from a Mongolian composer! Well, what the heck! You too can listen to it immediately at http://in.youtube.comwatch?v=2QEYOMpsEOk.
In the meanwhile, while financial market participants lament on their falling portfolios I will lament about the distortions and hypocrisies prevailing in Indian-&-global geo-politics, business-politics and the politics of 'terrorism'.
And I leave you with the Mongolian/Japanese lyrics of 'Lament' sung by a female chorus (in-between the 'yo yo yo yo' by the male singer) that I picked up from here:
Mandaj gardaj nara shnghenee
Manataygaa hoyoulaa daa huo

Martagdashghuy gurvan jill bolsson bolochigh

Mansuurahh noyrondoo hoyoulaa daa huo

October 06, 2008

life in financial markets: bloodbath everywhere

This is unprecedented. Stocks and indices crashing by 5-15% in all the world markets. Click on the following images individually to see how the panic is playing itself out:

life in financial markets: equity derivatives open interest position on the NSE

I did an analysis from data taken from 3 October 2008 trading data file of National Stock Exchange's equity derivatives segment to see what was going on. Here is a summary (click on the image for a clear view):

* – as on 3 October; based on Open Interest outstanding multiplied by (a) settlement price for futures and (b) (settlement price+strike price) for options

October 04, 2008

life in general: it takes anti-christian violence for world to notice hindus' violent behaviour

All organised religions creates their set of fanatical followers who resort to violence and violation of human rights. But behind them are also politicians, bureaucrats and police who manipulate such violence for their own greed for power.
India's population has Hindus in majority and the religion of Hinduism has its set of fanatical groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party. But these receive subte or direct support from political parties such as Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. On the other hand, political parties such as Samajwadi Party support the Muslim extremist groups in India. And in the fanaticism of so-called 'development' followers on the remote un-influential people of non-urban India ALL political parties, including all the communist parties, are the SAME.
Free India's 60 years history has seen shocking violence against Muslims many times and once (in 1984) against Sikhs. The world has, with some honorable exceptions like the European Union's 2002 express of distress at the mass murder of Muslims in Gujarat in February-March 2002, has kept silent.
In recent weeks, we have seen Christians being attacked (read here, here and here). Since most of the non-Hindu, non-Muslim, non-Jewish, non-Chinese/Korean/Japanese world is Christian, this has begun to rattle them (read here, here and here). India's Congress Party, that is notorious for manipulating every situation to its benefit, led by Sonia Gandhi and which has its people unelected member, Manmohan Singh, as India's Prime Minister, is also now beginning to take notice (read here and here), but only because of the world condemnation.
During the Nazis' rule in Germany, during the 1930s and 1940s, there was a guy called Martin Niemoller (he was an early supporter of Hitler but later changed his stance), who said this about the goings-on in Germany at that time. It applies to all Hindu Indians in connection with the Nazification of India. Here is what he wrote:
"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."