India Insight

Investors fear for their deposits after Sahara chief’s arrest

The arrest of Sahara chief Subrata Roy last week and the court case over an outlawed bond scheme are raising fears among some investors who worry they will not get their money back.

One of them is Anil. The 30-year-old travel agent put his 200,000 rupees ($3,276) in another investment scheme offered by Sahara, which bills itself as “the world’s largest family.” He fears that the case could hurt his investment.

“I have told my agent to surrender my deposit [partially] … I am worried, but my money will come back, my agent has said,” Anil told India Insight, declining to give his last name. “I will hesitate a bit to invest any money now. If the court case goes on, I will redeem all my Sahara investments.”

Roy, the 65-year-old head of the Sahara conglomerate which has business interests from shopping malls and life insurance to finance and real estate, was sent to Delhi’s Tihar Jail on Tuesday. Police arrested him after his company failed to comply with a Supreme Court order in 2012 to repay investors in the bond scheme, which the court has said was illegal.

Sahara, also famous as the former sponsor of India’s national cricket team, has a net worth of $11 billion, more than 36,000 acres of real estate and 1.1 million salaried and field workers, according to its website. It also co-owns the Sahara Force India Formula One auto racing team with liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

Scarred victims of acid attacks struggle to get their due

Sapna is a 21-year-old woman from a lower-middle class family in the Nand Nagri area of eastern Delhi. Her face is scarred by acid. Last August, her 32-year-old relative hired men to throw it in her face as she returned from her part-time job as a helper at an adhesives factory. The relative was angry because she rejected his marriage proposal.

She was supposed to receive 300,000 rupees (around $4,800) from the Delhi state government to help her with medical bills, according to a directive from India’s Supreme Court. Of this amount, 100,000 rupees or $1,600 was to be given within 15 days of the attack. But it took six months for Sapna to get her due.

Sapna is not the only person to have suffered bureaucratic difficulties and indifference that make it hard to move on from the initial attack, according to anti-acid attack activists.

Back to the grind for Maharashtra’s dance bars

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Dance bars are set to reopen in Maharashtra, with India’s Supreme Court rejecting a state government ban in 2005 that forced the popular nightspots to close.

At the time, I was a crime reporter with an English daily in the city of Pune and visited a couple of bars operating alongside the highway to Mumbai.

These dance bars would often be run in seedy and dark air-conditioned halls. Up to 100 customers at a time would sit at tables positioned around the dance floor, where girls in their twenties would gyrate to blaring Bollywood music under flickering disco lights. The smell of liquor and cigarette smoke would linger in the air as the clients would ogle the girls, who typically would wear gaudy free-flowing skirts with blouses.

The way ahead for India’s “caged parrot”

When India’s top court berated the government this month for interfering in a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report, it put the spotlight on a long-standing opposition gripe that the federal law enforcement agency was being politically influenced.

“The CBI has become the state’s parrot. Only screaming, repeating the master’s voice,” Justice R.M. Lodha said on May 8, urging the government to strengthen the agency’s independence.

The CBI denied the accusations and emphasized its impartiality.

Reuters India Online spoke to various experts for their views on whether the CBI was indeed a “caged parrot” and if yes, how best to ensure it could withstand political pressure. Excerpts:

Should India ban Internet porn?

(This commentary reflects the thoughts of the author. It does not reflect the views of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

Neighbours China and Pakistan do it. Guyana in South America and Egypt do it. Even South Korea, where 81.1 percent of the population is online, does it. Should India make Internet pornography illegal too?

The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a public interest litigation which seeks to make watching online porn a non-bailable offence.

Cauvery River water fight paralyses Bangalore on Saturday

(This article was reported by Gokul Chandrasekar, Vineet Sharma and Bidya Sapam. Photos by Bidya Sapam)

The water was running in Bangalore on Saturday, but the buses were not.

“I have been waiting for a bus for over two hours now,” said Prabhat Kishan, 60, at the Majestic Bus Station in Bangalore.

India’s information technology capital shut down on Saturday over a state-wide “bandh,” or strike, that shut down shops, malls and restaurants. The bandh’s organizers paralysed the city to protest a decision by India’s Supreme Court to demand that the state of Karnataka allow the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu to get precious additional reserves of water from the Cauvery River. It is the latest episode in a dispute that has endured for years in a country that is facing alarming shortages of groundwater.

Court order pulls the plug on Salwa Judum

By Annie Banerji

In a case where the federal government was excoriated due to its passivity on anti-extremist violence, India’s Supreme Court took matters into its own hands to rein in the Salwa Judum counter-insurgency movement in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

The apex court on Tuesday prohibited the recruitment of tribal youth as special police officers (SPOs) in the Salwa Judum, which means “campaign for peace”.

“The appointment of tribal youth as SPOs, who are barely literate, for temporary periods, and armed with firearms, had endangered and will necessarily endanger the human rights of others in society,” the judiciary said in its order.

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trial

Amnesty International has accused the government of detaining hundreds of people each year in Kashmir without charge or trial under a “draconian” Indian law.

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trialThe rights group said India’s Public Safety Act (PSA)  had been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial over the past two decades. Public Safety Act allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

Tens of thousands have died in the disputed region, which India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in parts, since a revolt against New Delhi’s broke out in 1989.

Fight corruption – at your own risk

The judges in the Supreme Court had finished hammering out for delivery the next day a landmark verdict in the battle against corruption, when a thousand kilometres away, another anti-graft crusader was beaten to death.

An activist shouts slogans during a protest in New Delhi March 4, 2011. REUTERS/B Mathur/FilesNiyamat Ansari’s killing on Wednesday night in the poor eastern state of Jharkhand came days after he exposed large scale embezzlement of funds meant for India’s flagship social security programme.

A recent spate of corruption scandals has sparked off outrage among Indians and the newfound zeal against graft has been reflected in the Supreme Court’s tough stance. But the killing shows, these measures may be just curing the symptoms, not the ills.

Congress’s corruption calamities continue as the Thomas saga unravels

In a season of corruption charges that have shackled India’s ruling Congress party’s political ambitions, the ongoing saga of the country’s tainted anti-corruption chief is perhaps the hardest to believe.

The curious case of P.J. Thomas, the accused fraudster appointed to head India’s corruption investigation agency by the Prime Minister last October, took another twist on Monday to further undermine Manmohan Singh’s party’s ability to tackle graft that threatens to become the overriding legacy of its current term.

India's Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram speaks during a news conference after a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) interior ministers meeting in Islamabad June 26, 2010 REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

In a fillip for the already emboldened opposition, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said on Monday that the three-man selection committee headed by the Prime Minister that appointed Thomas to the role of Chief Vigilance Commissioner was aware of the pending fraud case against him – but made the appointment regardless.

  •