December 31, 2012

(part 4) abuse of women/girls -- india's shame

While one did not expect the horrific crimes against women and girls in India to come to a halt, at least one new case of a horrific rape in West Bengal state does not fail to shock and outrage as much as the Delhi gangrape did. The woman was murdered after the rape and her husband was attacked with extreme brutality. 

I pray for the soul of the woman to get healed and my heart goes out to her husband and children. This incident, as reported in the media, is very difficult not to get affected by. The rapists need to be brought to justice swiftly and with the severest punishment. The idea, here, is not just about punishment but about the most stringest deterrent message it will send out to men in all parts of India.

Here are 2 newsreports which, among others, reported on the horrific incident:

'Raped' wife dead, man critical
TNN | Dec 31, 2012

KOLKATA: Fifty-two-year-old xxxxxx xxxxxx wakes up with a start every 15 minutes in his ICU cubicle at RG Kar Medical College Hospital. Eyes wide open in horror and gasping for breath, he asks for his wife, who was allegedly gang raped and bludgeoned to death at Sonakharki in Barasat on Saturday evening.

"They are killing her. Please do something," he mumbles hoarsely, before lapsing back into unconsciousness. Doctors say xxxxxxx is in critical condition, his throat scorched by a chemical that was allegedly forced on him by the attackers. His condition worsened suddenly on Sunday morning after which he was shifted to ICU. He has not been told about his wife's death.

"He says he is burning up inside ever since an acid-like liquid was pushed into his mouth by the gang. Every time he wakes up, he breaks into tears. His limbs are still shaking and he is repeatedly falling unconscious," said xxxxxx xxxxxx, a neighbour who has been with him since he was brought to RG Kar on Saturday night. xxxxxxxx isn't poor but took up work at a brick kiln to raise money for his four-month-old grandson who has a kidney ailment.

From his fragmented accounts, xxxxxxxx's son xxxxxx and xxxxxx have reconstructed a horrific tale. He had gone to the brick kiln to escort his 45-year-old wife home around 6.30pm when he saw a few men dragging her away into a bamboo grove. It was dark and barring a house, there is no settlement in a 100-metre radius. xxxxxxxx says he ran to rescue her.

"But there were around seven of them. While four raped his wife, the other three pinned him down, tied him and poured acid down his throat. He tried to scream but they shut his mouth with the bottle. After a while, he gave up fighting because his throat and chest had been singed and he had no strength left in him. The ordeal must have lasted about 15 minutes," said xxxxx. xxxxxxx could apparently see his wife being battered.

Nightmare on Barasat streets
By Sanjib Chakraborty, TNN | Dec 31, 2012

KOLKATA: Barasat, it seems, has gone back to the dark ages with the crimes against woman continuing unabated. The retail and real estate boom, that was to make it Bengal's Noida, has instead brought to it the vices seen in the 'badlands' of north India. The alarming rise in the crime graph has left women afraid and insecure in the area.

Aparna Roy (24), a fashion designer, said she was at an exhibition on July 27 when she received frantic calls from her parents. An On that evening, just an hour before she was to return home, an 18-year-old girl was molested by some drunken youths near platform No. 1 of the busy Barasat railway station the same day. Again, the audacity of the criminals had shocked the town that serves as the district headquarters of North 24-Parganas.

Saturday's murder spot is barely 6 kilometres from the Barasat district town, where crimes like molestation, eve-teasing, rape and subsequent against women like molestation, eveteasing, rape and subsequent murder have become a common phenomenon now.

Saturday's tragedy occurred at Sonakharki under Kokapur gram panchayat area in Barasat. The area is surrounded by several brick kilns, where hundreds of people hailing from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha work. Locals alleged that a gang, active in the area, are involved in several crimes in the locality. According to sources, the gang operates illicit liquor business among the brick kiln workers and even the women workers are forced to join flesh trade by the gang members.

A local, on the condition of anonymity, said, "We are always scared to step out of our houses after dark, as some local goons, along with some brick kiln workers, drink openly and are also involved in several crimes. Some places in the area have become criminal hubs. The drunken men are also involved in drunken brawls which led to the attack on each other.

Despite our repeated appeals, police hardly take action against them."

Sources said another woman, a brick kiln worker, was gang-raped and murdered in the same area two years back and two persons, including a panchayat member and a local criminal, were arrested in this connection.

On Sunday there was a panic among the local residents of Sonakharki following the brutal murder of a homemaker even the panick stricken women refused to say anything in this connection. The family members of xxxxxx  xxxxxx, the owner of the house is barely 10 metres from the murder spot were severely panicked following the heinous crime took place on Saturday . The xxxxx's house is only the residence at the murder spot and adjacent to the pond where xxxxx's body was lying. " After the dark the area which is surrounded by the bamboo trees is turned into an isolated and we do not dare to step out from the house. Around 7 p.m. on Saturday I just returned home and was taking a rest while we heard a chaos. Initially I thought it as a drunken brawl which is common in the area and feared to come out from the house. Later while I realized something was wrong I rushed out and found the woman's body lying beside the pond in a naked condition. We are feeling very insecure to live here with my family members," said xxxxx.

xxxxxx  xxxxxxx, a local youth said that the woman, the victim was very good in her behavior. "She loved her family very much and used to think well-being of her family members. She was very happy that she earned something to cure her little grandson which she told us several times. But the criminals did not spare even a middle aged-homemaker and brutally killed her after abusing her sexually," said xxxxx

"It's a matter of shame that such criminal activities take place so close to the police station. In fact, the crimes are patronized by the police. If proper raids are carried out, criminals from several parts of Bengal, who take refuge here, can be nabbed," said advocate Gouranga Pal. On July 25, Pal and his family were assaulted and driven out of their home in Subhas Nagar for protesting against a neighbourhood grocer selling liquor at his shop. Pal said he got police protection only after he moved the Calcutta high court, but the miscreants haven't been arrested yet.

Subhas Nagar is about a kilometre from Kadambagachhi, where Bikash Bandhu Mullick, a homoeopath, was murdered recently. After Bikash Bandhu's murder, police were under tremendous pressure. The SP was also removed.

But after this brief hiatus, the Saturday incident returned to haunt the residents of Barasat with 45-year-old homemaker xxxxxxx xxxxx being gangraped and brutally murdered near her residence at Sonakharki on Saturday evening. The woman was hit hard on her head with a blunt weapon after she was being allegedly raped by around six persons. The goons also attacked her husband xxxxxx xxxx and poured acid in his mouth while he tried to resist the goons to protect his wife. The woman died at the spot and her husband is still fighting for his life in RG Kar hospital.

Kanishka Niyogi (Mangalore)
Barasat was a peaceful town during the '80s & much of the '90s as well. The town was home to decent, cultured, educated middle class people. Many would choose to settle there after retirement. Problems started when Barasat's connectivity with Kolkata improved. With travelling time between Kolkata & Barasat greatly reduced, the latter saw a boom in real estate. The real estate boom brought the promoters & with the promoters came the criminals. Syndicates cropped up too that would supply building materials. The CPM had managed to keep these elements under a leash. However, with the current CM having rushed to her local police station to get her men involved in a brawl released, criminals not just in Barasat but the entire state are now an emboldened lot. On numerous occassions of crime, Mamata & her men have been found to be looking for faults in the victim of a crime & not its perpetrators. This seems to have given anti-socials a feeling that they are beyond the reach of the law with the victims of a crime themselves being put under scrutiny. Insensitive remarks on crimes against women have been made repeatedly. This particular incident has been no exception with Firhad Hakim finding it to be a fall out of a family dispute. Such a dismissive attitude of people in the ruling party towards crime has given criminals a free run. That's the reason for the recent spurt in crime in the state. I feel apprehensive about how much worse things can get. After Firhad Hakim's callous statement on this incident, I have a feeling that Mamata & her men aren't at all serious about tackling the rise in crime, especially those against women.

December 24, 2012

(part 3) abuse of women/girls -- india's shame

This editorial contribution I made yesterday to the newspaper I presently work for touches upon the connection between economy, governance and 'rule of law' for Indians and not just foreigners:

Freeing India for one-half of Indians
Governance is not just about economic reforms to attract foreign investments. It is as much about giving Indians the economic confidence

"Rule of law", which is one of the handful of strongest attractions offered to foreign investments in India in Indian government's and private companies' roadshows abroad, has now taken centre stage within the country. 

The weekend protests in the country's capital and elsewhere, driven primarily by young women and aided by their empathetic male counterparts, has brought the rule of law, or rather the lack of it, to the forefront of the consciousness and this time of the country's own citizens. Barring a few unfortunate attempts, towards the end of it, to hijack it politically by a few vested interests, this phenomenon is a rare show of genuine outpouring of concern by one-half of our population of the daily doses of ugly sexual harrasment they face in public places and the consequent dangerous risks of severe crimes such as rapes they are subject to, and which are increasingly bearing out in horrific ways as the gang-rape in Delhi a week ago showed. 

This raises relevant questions of governance and enforcement of law for a government which has never lost a single opportunity to harp about the rule of law when enticing foreign companies and businesses to invest and set up shop in India. Any government which uses this line of argument must then face up to the question of whether not having a rule of law for a crucial half of the country's own population will not have a severely adverse impact on not just the social and political spheres but also the economic sphere. 

From all angles, a long-standing apathy by any ruling government towards ensuring women's right to safety in public places as well as everywhere else is not good for the country. Even in cold mathematical and economic terms, working women pay taxes on the income they earn. They pay service tax and other government taxes on expenditure incurred by them from their incomes for the purchase of goods and services. This does not mean the non-working women and girls have no contribute. They contribute indirectly, by way of managing other needs of the household and family members which enable the working male members to earn his monthly income. 

The entire basis behind a taxation system by a government is that it will provide some essential public services and basic governance in return for the taxes it collects. This includes protecting basic rights of women to move about freely without the real threat of daily sexual abuse. 

Policing is a basic function of a government and the police machinery runs from tax-payers money. It is there for the bigger public purpose and if, as in the case of the capital city of Delhi, one-third of it gets used to provide security to politicians, as again Delhi police does under orders from the home ministry under whom the Delhi police works, then it is an outright failure of government to justify a good portion of the taxes. 

A placard at the weekend protests in Delhi asked "Is this the characteristic of a fast developing country?" The answer is obvious. It is a not a characteristic but it will be a cause for development to slow down more than what global economic factors are already causing it to. No country where any section of the population which does not receive what is due to it from the ruling government can ever prosper in a sustained manner. 

Governance is not just about reforms for freeing up the country's economy for foreign investments but also about ensuring reforms in the police and criminal justice system which protects domestic citizens' basic rights. It is not governance if it can not offer citizens the confidence to carry out basic life-sustaining economic activities.

December 23, 2012

(part 2) abuse of women/girls -- india's shame

The government of India is drunk with power and gotten so arrogant that it imposed a sick legal provision (Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code) of banning the people from meeting in groups of 5 or more in the entire city of Delhi. This is to prevent people from protesting the most brutal gang-rape of a young girl in Delhi a week ago.

This is plain fascism by the government of India which comprise of prime minister, Manmohan Singh, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, ministers (holding various important portfolios) such as home minister Sushil Shinde, finance minister P Chidambaram.

The protests happening in Delhi in the past 3 days have been sought to be tear-gassed brutally, water-cannoned cruelly in the ongoing harsh winter days, and physically beaten up by policemen's heavy sticks.

For the government of India democracy is something you pay a lip service and as long as citizens do not protest their decisions.

I am disgusted, but am fully sure that justice will be done in the form of taking away power from the ruling party. Not that the alternative BJP is any better and more so when a violent-minded Narendra Modi is being cheerleaded by a vast majority of Hindutva-minded Indians. But at least the current government should go. Congress-UPA's second term from 2009 should never have happened and I hope all those who voted for it are regretting it heavily.

Here are some images from another blog:

Where were you dear policemen when she needed you? [Delhi protests in pictures]

It is astonishing to see the sudden activity of the law keepers in the city. As a huge number of people turned out at various parts of Delhi to protest against the rape incident, they were cruelly dealt with by the “active” Delhi Police.
Delhi protests againts bus rape case
You can see pictures of water cannons and how gushes of water was used to drive away “angry” protesters. Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t be angry?
Delhiites protesting
You can see people holding banners of “Is this the characteristic of a fast developing country?” Are they wrong in asking dear government? Of course you claim to be building broad roads, letting the FDI in retail and all the hullabaloo about being progressive, but we simply don’t care. Where are our basic rights?
Delhi protests
Women also get beaten up by the policemen. Such a pretty picture of a free democratic nation. Isn’t it?
Aam Aadmi
Aam Aadmi party members were also participating in the demonstrations. Such an ironic picture the above is, wearing aam aadmi caps, they get beaten up by police. A very apt depiction of the exact situation of our country.
India gang rape protests
A really large number of people have been turning out at the demonstrations.
Delhi protesters
Is this what they mean when they talk about taking strong measures to protect women in the city?
Delhi Protests
Police use teargas, water cannons as protests intensify at India Gate. Here is more on the situation

December 21, 2012

(part 1) abuse of women/girls -- india's shame

Five days ago, during early night hours of Sunday, December 16, another crime against humanity took place in the India part of our planet, on the streets of its capital city, Delhi. But this time the degree of the crime was extremely high. Not that this crime was a first of its kind but it was indeed much much more shameful than previous crimes of the same dastardly nature.

A 23-year old girl was raped by 5-6 men, her private parts violated with such violence (sexual and with metal rods) that it shudders one to even think about it (this newsreport has some of the shocking details --> ....The girl is in a critical condition and faces the prospect of never being able to eat a meal in her life if she survives.But doctors said she was fighting on, and her brother told HT that she had written, “Mother, I want to live,” on a piece of paper. As outrage continued to build across the nation, he added:  “We want the culprits to be hanged as early as possible.” A doctor in the hospital said that it appeared that the girl had been violated with a metal rod. “It appears to be that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines along. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines,” he said. According to sources, one of the accused persons who were brought to the hospital for a medical examination on Tuesday confessed to having seen a rope-like object — likely her intestines — being pulled out of the girl by the other assailants on the bus. The sources said that the girl had bite marks on her body. “There was permanent damage to her intestines, and with the intestines completely gone she will have to feed through intravenous fluids all her life. But that is secondary, our primary focus at the moment is to save her life,” said Dr BD Athani, Medical Superintendent, Safdarjung Hospital. ) and beaten up with metal rods; and her boy-friend was brutally beaten up as well. All this happened in a moving bus........).

My heart goes out for this young girl, her boy-friend and their families and friends. The girl is in a critical condition as of this moment.

The police of Delhi, the central government of India under whose jurisdiction the Delhi police comes and the state government of Delhi under whose jurisdiction the transport department (supposed to monitor movement of buses, among other vehicles) have pre-dominantly been in a denial mode or at best adopting a defensive posture. Delhi police serves more as the private army of Indian government's politicians and bureacrats than as the protectors of the general public.

The hope is that the outrage among women, men and children of Delhi and rest of India against this rarest of rare crime will lead to improvements in the law and order scenario for women and girls in India.

Foreigners, particularly the Americans and British, when they look at India for investment and business purpose, they all harp about how India's rule of law is attractive. Well, certainly, it is attractive for them (companies and businesses but not female foreign tourists), but it is largely absent for Indians themselves.

Here are some recent posts from another blog which offers more information and perspectives on the rate of crime against Indian girls and women.

Girl Brutally Gang-Raped in Delhi; Outpouring of Indian Women’s Rage!

December 19, 2012

photo by The Hindu
New Delhi, December 2012 
On December 16, a 23-year-old woman returning home with her boyfriend after seeing a movie, was brutally assaulted in a moving bus in New Delhi by seven men.  She was gang-raped and physically assaulted for over an hour with an iron rod.  She’s currently battling for her life in a hospital in the country’s capital.  Her intestines were badly ruptured in addition to a number of other injuries, and she has undergone numerous surgeries already.

This however is not an isolated incidence, and it is not limited to this city.  Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women and girls have reached epidemic proportions in India.  Rape is fastest growing crime in India has seen an increase of 871% since 1971.  See this post.
For the first two days the government of India had no response! The political leaders did and said nothing! And then there was an outburst.  Women and girls poured into streets, demanding justice, government accountability and action! Twitter and other social media networks became a platform for this OUTRAGE!

As women gathered to protest outside the home of the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, demanding to know why the city was so unsafe for women under a woman’s leadership, the police attacked the crowds with water cannons!
It finally forced the government to respond.  Women leaders finally spoke out.  And where earlier the response from politicians, even the female politicians and heads of departments like The National Commission for Women has been to blame the female victim,  saying they didn’t wear the right clothes, they shouldn’t be out at night etc.  the government realized the mood of Indian women is changing.  They are not going to take it lying down any more!!  They are demanding harsher penalties and police action.   It has forced the female politicians, even ones like Mayawati that have governed states with high rape rates and have consistently blamed and humiliated women, to change their tunes!! They too are mouthing what the female public is now demanding!



The 50 Million Missing keeps a log on available newspaper reports of violence against women and girls in India.  Click on the news tags listed below to read the latest reports posted.
Most Recent News Reports
Killing of Infant Girls (Infanticides)
Killing of Women for Dowry (Dowry Murder/Dowry Death)
Dowry “Deaths” (via Maps for Aid)
Women Killed for giving birth to a girl
“Honor” Killings
Women Dying Due to Forced Abortion of Girls
Rape of Minor Girls
Gang Rapes
Women Tortured or Killed as “Witches” (Witch Hunting)
Reports on Rape
Forced Abortions of female fetuses (Female Feticides)
Female Infanticide/ Feticide (via Maps for Aid)
Rape (via Maps for Aid)
Rape and Murder (via Maps for Aid)
Reports on minor girls
Reports on dowry
Reports of Gang style violence on women
Reports involving police
Sexual Harassment at Work (via Maps 4 Aid)
Sexual Harassment on Streets/ Public Places (via Maps 4 Aid)
Women raped commit suicide (via Maps for Aid)


November 1, 2012 7:52 am
Oh my God..! These events are awful..! How anyone can treat other human beings like this is beyond my comprehension and fills me with great sadness for these poor souls that reside in nightmare realities such as you’ve highlighted here…
I sincerely hope that change can be brought about by people such as yourself.. who highlight and bring awarerness to others through dedication and caring.. the knowledge about the plights of these souls and how the perpertrators of these horrendous actions actually get away with it yet again because of corrupt people who sit in positions of power….
Jennifer. xxx

December 10, 2012 8:09 pm
This is the most important blog/site on the internet! We must get governments to react! We hear of horror stories in the Middle East, but nothing happening there can top these horror stories. The entire world needs to react with the outrage needed to stop this. What is the Indian government doing to stop this kind of killings? INDIA! Your women are your most important assets! STOP MURDERING THEM! The entire world knows now. The Indian governments should make this their top priority!

December 12, 2012 5:24 pm
Jean — you are absolutely right! This is exactly what we are saying. That the sort of horror stories that one hears in India on a daily basis is far worse than what is actually happening in many countries in the Mid-East. So we too are puzzled why many people in the west who feel very angry about misogyny in ‘Muslim’ countries are so much more tolerant when it comes to this scale of violence in India which is much worse, and almost ‘normalized’ the way it happens every where, every day.

December 02, 2012

quid-pro-quo between mutual funds & banks

Quid pro quo between mutual funds and banks is not a new phenomenon and I have written about it a few times in the last 6-7 years. But it is still relevant to take note of it. 

Here is a story (article) I did a month ago which touched upon this in detail along with another issue.

Liquid & debt funds susceptible to large investor holdings?

Liquid funds carry the highest investor concentration risk and cross-holding incidences. Is it a cause for worry yet?

The latest half-yearly period of April to September did not see any departure from the normal concentration levels of investors in the mutual fund industry, as per Association of Mutual Funds in India's latest quarterly update on scheme category-wise assets under management and investor folio numbers.

But a Financial Chronicle Research Bureau analysis of latest half-yearly financial statements of the five largest mutual funds revealed there still existed a few cases of eye-popping concentration levels among a handful of individual schemes among these five fund houses.

The September-end AMFI data showed the regular trend of diversified investor presence in equity schemes and concentrated investor unit-holding in fixed-income schemes. Of total industry AUM of 7,22,500 crore as on September 30, equity-oriented schemes, excluding exchange traded funds, balanced funds and overseas fund of funds, accounted for 26 per cent, or Rs 1,87,300 crore. Seventy per cent of this was from 3.5 crore retail investors' folios which made up for 98.4 per cent of all investor folios invested in these equity-oriented schemes.

Another 19 per cent of total equity-oriented schemes' total AUM came from high-networth individuals' folios, which comprised 1 per cent of equity-investing folios, while investments by companies, banks and institutions, whose investor folios number was only 0.6 per cent of total, accounted for 10.5 per cent. The dominance of individual investors in equity schemes was, therefore, seen once again with 90 per cent of equity AUM coming from them.

Similarly, the dominance of corporate investors and banks in fixed income funds was also evident in the September-end quarter, seen from AMFI's figures. Investments in liquid funds, debt-oriented funds (except balanced funds and ETFs) and gilt funds were from just 57.56 lakh investor folios (12.8 per cent of all investor folios investing in the mutual fund industry) and the aggregate AUM was a huge Rs 5,02,584 crore (70 per cent of total industry AUM). Just two per cent of the 57.56 lakh folios were corporate investor folios but they accounted for 62 per cent of the Rs 5,02,584 crore debt AUM. Another 0.03 per cent of folios, of banks, took up 5 per cent of AUM while HNI and retail investor folios were 8 per cent and 90 per cent of total and accounted for 27 per cent and 5.3 per cent of AUM respectively.

Concentrated unit-holding

These are the latest half-yearly period cases among 5 largest MFs

Single       investor holding (%) Sep 30 '12 corpus (Rs crore) Mar 31 '12 corpus (Rs crore)
UTI-Treasury Advantage Fund               25.3 10220 3938
HDFC Liquid Fund 38.8 8500 3629
UTI - Short Term Income Fund 27.4 1830 418
ICICI Prudential Floating Rate Plan 30.0 1363 755
UTI Dynamic Bond Fund 31.0 599 832
Reliance Liquid Fund Cash Plan 31.2 534 422
UTI - Gilt Advantage Fund Ltp 26.7 215 126
ICICI Prudential Gold ETF 49.6 195 165
Birla Sun Life Gilt Plus - Regular Plan 42.9 119 96

The data covers largest 5 MFs only & represents their Sebi-mandated

disclosures of >25% holdings by a single investorin any scheme

All cases involved one investor only who held more than 25%

Two cases where Sep 30 corpus is less than Rs 100 crore have been excluded.
Source: Respective MFs' half-yearly financial statements.  Analysed by FC Research Bureau

But what is revealing are the findings of the analysis of various disclosures in the latest April-September half-yearly financial statements of the five largest mutual funds by size -- HDFC MF which had an average AUM of Rs 97,773 crore in the July-September quarter, Reliance MF (Rs 86,327 crore), ICICI Prudential MF (Rs 76,388 crore), Birla Sun Life MF (Rs 72,905 crore) and UTI MF (Rs 70,783 crore).

The analysis reveals a few instances of concentrated unitholding in a scheme, several instances of cross holdings between banks and debt schemes, and a couple of instances of high commissions paid out to group company distributor.

Among other data elements, Sebi's mutual fund regulations require all mutual funds to disclose in their half-yearly financial statements a note giving percentage details of large single-investor holdings of over 25 per cent of the net assets of a scheme. There were 11 schemes across the five analysed fund houses where this limit was breached during the latest April-September half-yearly period (see chart), most of them being liquid funds or ultra-short-term debt funds.

Basing their greater-than-25-per-cent percentage holdings on their September 30 AUMs, the single-investor holdings, for all the 11 schemes, added up to Rs 7,360 crore. This was not an insignificant figure if one looked at it against the five MFs' collective average AUM of Rs 4,04,175 crore in the July-September quarter;  it made up for a good 1.82 per cent. Individually, the proportions were highest for UTI MF and HDFC MF. The single-investor holdings of over 25 per cent in each of 4 UTI MF schemes, added up to 4.7 per cent of the fund house's total average AUM of Rs 70,783 crore and that in 1 HDFC MF scheme added up to 3.4 per cent of its total average AUM of Rs 97,773 crore.

But industry analysts believe this level of concentration of a few investors in debt funds does not pose the danger of sudden redemptions causing a problem for the remaining investors. Says Dhirendra Kumar, founder and CEO of Value Research, a mutual fund research firm, "The valuation norms for liquid funds and ultra-short-term debt funds are so strict that the underlying investments' liquidity is very high and there is no risk of investors being left with residual garbage (which is possible if it happens in an equity fund) if they face sudden redemptions from large investors."

Moreover, Sebi regulations require a mutual fund to make an investor, whose average quarterly holding in a scheme exceeds 25 per cent, a one-month balancing period after that quarter is given to the fund house and if the breach is still present then the investor has to redeem its exposure beyond 25 per cent within the next 15 days.

But worries about high investor concentrations prevail among industry observers. Sebi mandates disclosure of corporate investor names investing more than 5 per cent of a scheme's AUM and the corresponding investments by any of the same mutual fund's schemes in the shares, certificate of deposits, bonds and other securities issued by that corporate investor.

In the analysis, cross-holdings were commonly seen in the Sebi-mandated disclosures. For instance, Canara Bank had invested a minimum 5 per cent each in Reliance Liquid Fund Treasury Plan (RLFTP) and Reliance Liquidity Fund (RLF). These two schemes had respective AUMs of Rs 10,174 crore and Rs 7,676 crore on September 30 and Canara Bank would have invested at least Rs 509 crore and Rs 384 crore respectively in these two schemes. In return, RLFTP had outstanding investments in Canara Bank's CDs to the tune of Rs 641 crore as on September. Other debt schemes (including other liquid funds) of Reliance MF had outstanding investments of close to Rs 1,000 crore in Canara Bank's CDs.

According to Kumar such cross-holdings between banks and debt schemes, while being legitimate, occurs due to tax arbitrage as banks pay only 24 per cent dividend distribution tax on income from liquid fund investment which if deployed in other money-market or debt instruments would require them to pay 30 per cent tax on the returns earned.

Sebi has been monitoring the concentration levels and cross holdings in the mutual fund industry and that should provide some solace to worried investors.

November 30, 2012

cash transfer of subsidy is just a better disbursement tool & notthing else

Earlier this week (beginning Monday, November 26, 2012), the government of India operationalised the first phase of its 'cash transfer of subsidy' scheme. A lot of debate has ensued since then. A day before the formal announcement, I contributed an editorial on this subject matter in the newspaper I presently work.

Here is what I wrote in it:

Gaining superficially

Cash subsidies are worth a try but can't replace need for propriety

An unknown animal is about to be unleashed by the government in the economy about whom the only two things known with certainty is its speed and the trail it leaves behind, somewhat like that of a cheetah which is the fastest sprinter on our planet and also leaves behind identifiable footprints. But among the things not known about this animal are the two most important ones -- whether it will target its intended prey or whether it will end up eating the wrong prey. 

The government is ready to go live with its direct cash transfers scheme for managing various kinds of subsidies under different welfare programs. To be implemented in phases, both with respect to the type of subsidy and the coverage of districts, with effect from the first day of 2013, the new cash transfer scheme is aimed at reducing the debilitating diversion of subsidies from the targeted needy beneficiaries to the un-targeted greedy intermediaries. There is no disputing this good aim. Even the technological tool chosen -- electronic transfer of subsidy amount to transfers to bank accounts of beneficiaries -- is very sound. 

But there are no other shortcuts to the aim. Those in charge of steering and administering the new scheme of cash transfers will still be expected not to be unscrupulous and dishonest so that there is no fraud in the transfers. Those responsible for providing necessary inputs to the scheme such as the identification of intended beneficiaries and collating their data, including the bank account numbers, will still have to do their job devoid of inaccuracies--deliberate or out of inefficiency--which can have the same effect of subsidy mis-use as the current regime has. Sure, an audit trail will be available in the electronic transfer mechanism and it will be easier to track and investigate later if there are allegations of continued mis-use. But there were elaborate laid-out procedures along with several checks and balances in the current in-kind subsidy system too, but which were skillfully manipulated by the pilferers. 

In other words, if the government is thinking it will, through the implementation of cash subsidies, be able to evade the biggest responsibility of ensuring zero leakages then it is being short-sighted. Effective monitoring mechanisms will still be required to be in place in the new scheme and be actually used. 

The question, therefore, still begs -- if there was no governmental and political will to seriously stop diversion of subsidies, and some even allege the monetary benefits of that going to political parties, will there be one in the new scheme of things? Still, a case exists for the new scheme to be tried out as otherwise we will never surely know whether the it is better, at least in parts, than the existing subsidy regime. More importantly, the dual pricing that exists in the current regime is not a desirable one given the temptations it poses to the manipulators. It is aptly stated by the government's June 2011 interim report on direct transfer of subsidies on kerosene, LPG and fertiliser that "ensuring that goods move in the supply chain at market prices can minimize the incentives for diversion." These three products, incidentally, will be in the first phase of the new cash subsidy implementation. 

Cash subsidies will also help in areas where there is no illegitimate diversion but there exists a cruel, though legal, use of subsidies. Diesel use is one such area and which also gobbles up a big chunk of the subsidy bill. Direct cash transfer to farmers and targetted transporters of essential goods will mean market-driven diesel price which will be hugely welcomed by one and all. But how soon will the government move to bring that in the cash subsidy regime remains to be seen.

November 28, 2012

rights-violating clauses in india's IT Act

The Information Technology Act has a clause or two which is extremely dangerous in terms of being violative of basic human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Below is a news report which sheds more light on it:

Where’s the hidden landmine? In the IT Act

A large pool of the legal fraternity describes section 66A of the IT Act as a “hidden tool” to curtail free speech and expression in the guise of controlling electronic communication.


November 27, 2012 09:18 IST

A friendly warning: think twice before uploading criticism against anyone, particularly public personalities and politicians, on social media.
Before you can say “Tim Berners-Lee”, the police can enter your premises without warrant, and arrest and put you behind bars in no time while acting on any complaint that may describe your criticism as “grossly offensive” or “of menacing character”.
Yes, in the age of information and technology, we appear to be kissing goodbye to the Constitution-guaranteed fundamental right of freedom to speech and expression ever since Section 66A was introduced in the Information and Technology Act (IT Act) in 2009.
Recent examples
Instances are plenty, the most recent, high-profile being the arrest of two young Mumbai women.
One posted a comment on Facebook on the megapolis shutting down after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it.
Both were arrested and terrorised.
And who can forget the arrest of a Jadavpur University professor after he forwarded cartoons of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier this year.
Ms. Banerjee went on the offensive terming the act of posting her pictures by the professor on the Net a cyber crime that deserved legal action.
Also arrested recently was a small-scale industrialist for posting what was called “offensive” tweets on the Union Finance Minister’s son, Karti Chidambaram.
Vaguely worded
A large pool of the city’s legal fraternity describes this section of the IT Act as a “hidden tool” to curtail free speech and expression in the guise of controlling electronic communication.
“Section 66A undoubtedly is not only vague, but also [strikes at] the very root of the Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every citizen,” says B.V. Acharya, former Advocate General and former member of Law Commission of India.
He wants these provisions to be immediately repealed or amended by Parliament to protect the Constitutional right of free speech and expression and to ensure that misuse of power is avoided or eliminated.
Power to the police
The worst part of the Section 66A is that its subsection (a) does not spare anyone from the offence even if their comments are found to be true.
Mr. Acharya says anyone disseminating information in electronic form — whether it is true or false — faces the consequences once the complainant claims that comments are “grossly offensive” or “of menacing character”.
However, terms such as these are “vague” and also not defined in the law, Mr. Acharya says and points out that this gives unbridled power to the police to interpret them as they please.
Pointing out that punishment prescribed in a law should be proportionate to the gravity of the offences, he says that offence under Section 66A is cognisable, non-bailable, and the police have power to arrest without a warrant.
Besides, he says, imprisonment (up to three years) is an automatic result of a guilty verdict as the courts have not been given the power of choosing imprisonment or fine as mode of punishment, unlike under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) related to defamation.
‘Shoddy legislation’
Prakash K.M., an advocate practising in the field of IT law, confirms that provisions of Section 66A “can be interpreted in any way” and is certainly a “hidden tool” to restrict free speech in a democratic country.
“Section 66A, no doubt, is the result of a shoddy piece of legislative work. At the same time it reflects on the quality of debate that takes place on legislation in Parliament. One should find out how much time Parliament spent to pass the IT (Amendment) Act 2008, which introduced Section 66A,” according to Mr. Prakash.
Chandrashekar, another advocate, says that nowadays it has become common for people to express their views frankly on social media.
He says unprecedented levels of corruption, mainly involving bureaucrats and politicians, “and naturally criticism against them”, dominated all forms of media, including social media.
“Now people are beginning to experience the landmines buried in Section 66A by our administrators as a tool to protect them from criticism,” he says.
Hazy picture
Though the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics disclose a steep increase in the number of cases registered under IT Act and as well as the number of persons arrested (from 154 in 2008 to 1,184 in 2011) under various provisions of the Act, they don’t disclose either the number of cases booked or persons arrested under Section 66A.
Many legal experts say that the need of the hour is a countrywide online and on-road movement against Section 66A to protect our fundamental rights.