The elusive birthday boy’s missing phone
First Published : 06 Jul 2010 12:09:54 AM IST
Last Updated : 06 Jul 2010 12:52:09 AM IST
Inscrutable ways: While courtiers celebrate their birthdays, royalty would prefer cooler climes. So it was with Rahul baba. To commemorate the great day, his party organised feeding-of-poor and went to Dalit homes while he was away in London hobnobbing with the Badshah of Bollywood and the Steel Baron. As always, news stories, photographs and ads hailing the visionary appeared, but not a word about where the birthday boy was. As a fitting finale, the birthday boy lost his mobile at IGI airport, but it was retrieved in double quick time.
Rewarding the corrupt: Of the newly elected Rajya Sabha members, 28 per cent have criminal cases pending, including attempt to murder, cheating and forgery. Their declarations of assets defy popular perceptions. Former steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Rs 2 crore declaration had many gasping in disbelief. So it is not surprising that an ex-CMD of a steel Navratna (now Maharatna), who has been under the scanner in a multi-million modernisation programme, is among the frontrunners to be Central Vigilance Commissioner. Surprising are his backers in the PMO. No wonder Fali S Nariman recently said that corrupt officers at higher levels are shielded from the CVC.
Good news first: Is India rising at eight per cent? Perhaps eight per cent of India is rising at eight per cent. A study finds that the number of millionaires has gone up by 50.9 per cent to 1.27 lakh. Is it on the back of a strong market spiral, or the government’s three tranches of stimulus? After the stimulation, they purchased luxury jets and yachts.
What ails Bhopal: India Inc’s immediate concern is to help bail out Keshub Mahindra, using the legitimate argument that for a driver’s fault, the owner cannot be held responsible. Not realising that the same yardstick applies to Warren Anderson. So how does one explain the fact that the PM had Keshub Mahindra on the PM’s Council for Trade and Industry despite the Bhopal tragedy hanging like a Damocles’ Sword over him? And about the Group of Ministers, why didn’t the PM give it a 10-day headline when he headed it? Till June 2008 he presided over eight meetings of the GoM on Bhopal.
Elusive bonhomie: With the Ambani brothers going full throttle for mega power projects, traditional rivals Ruia brothers are taking a cautious step back. The Ruias’ plan to set up 7,850 MW of capacity over the next three years, but will be hampered by coal availability. Interestingly, from a faltering position they phenomenally rose while the Ambani feud was on. But will they stoke old flames, lighted by the illustrious patriarch?
Access is not all: This was a subtle but cryptic response from 10 Janpath, to a constant query from party henchmen who asked who was really close to ‘the family’. Many voices claimed closeness, and this was clarified through private channels — access means nothing. It is merely functional access. Some hearts were mollified; those who had claimed access were miffed. This dashed the hopes of an ex-PSU czar who claimed to be a victim of the P V Narasimha Rao era, and who had wanted to continue on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council. But he was dropped at the insistence of the Crown Prince. The second instance was more glaring, that of a steel baron who is an MP and flaunts his youth. He made it a point to flank his leader at the latter’s rare appearances in Parliament. As a result, officials and bankers all bowed to his wishes. Then, out of the blue, his projects came under scrutiny. Basic clearances were missing, multiple rules violated. Things came to a halt, and now the MP is seeking khap treatment.
Goodies for retiring babus: In their quest for a post-retirement sinecure, officials are prepared to break every convention and trample every rule to circumvent obstacles. Some even ensured that the regulatory post in their ministry was vacant till the time they superannuated. One person retiring this December was unique. First, he approved special privileges for retired secretaries in that particular ministry so that they were given automatic upgrade and facilitation at airports, etc. The precedent cited was a similar one existed for ministers. Now other secretaries are examining how to extract similar advantages from their ministries. By this logic, all retired steel secretaries may get subsidised steel and all urban development secretaries sanctioned sarkari houses/land. One retiring secretary hankered for the directorship of the Nehru Cultural Centre in London, although it was of a joint secretary’s grade. Status doesn’t matter when you can be in London with your daughter while she completes her studies. Others knock at the doors of corporates for non-executive positions or join corporate-run think-tanks. At least three retired finance secretaries have become chairman of private sector banks recently. Some join politics, like Yashwant Sinha, and some like N K Singh and Pyari Mohan Mohapatra see their writ literally run in Bihar and Orissa, respectively. Babus never say die.
Bailing out hapless barons: Vijay Mallya’s and Naresh Goyal’s swagger says it all. After steel barons were given relief for just a few thousand crore rupees, it is now the turn of the airlines. The banking industry, led by the SBI (the nation’s largest lender), wants to restructure the ballooning debt of domestic airlines. If the banks don’t, they need to set aside money to cover bad debts, which will severely dent their profitability. They have formulated a special dispensation package for loans granted to beleaguered airlines, citing ‘poor financial health, capital intensity of the sector and long gestation periods’. The same reasons were advanced for the debt restructuring of the steel industry. And nobody even whispers about the barons’ profligacy. The RBI has been opposing this move for some time now. Kingfisher has debt of Rs 7,413 crore and Jet Airways Rs 13,759 crore. Strangely, Kingfisher was the recipient of a Rs 2,000-crore loan which was recast once. Normally, when debt comes up for restructuring a second time, management control is wrested from the promoters. With patrons like Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, this is inconceivable.
Heard on the street: According to a panel of US financial economists history’s most hated companies are Standard Oil, Union Carbide, the United Fruit Co, Exxon, ITT, and British Petroleum.
(The writer is a former executive director of SAIL)