Indrajit Hazra may be a journalist by profession, but his book The Bioscope Man confirms what others have suspected for long - that he needs a day job. Currently a Consultant Editor of Hindustan Times, he writes the fortnightly music column Rock'n'Roll Circus and the sometimes satirical, sometimes not satirical at all Sunday column Red Herring. When no one's looking, he writes in other publications too.
When was the last time you were overcome with emotion on encountering something that went beyond your personal life? Well, last Monday I was moved to a point where I started to choke and burst into tears.
Sahara, as we all know, is a company we don’t get to know much about. Chairman Subrata Roy pops up once in a while, tells us that he’s alive and kicking and then vanishes into the landscape in which folk-archetypes such as Amar Singh would be as visible as a stripper in Vegas.
To cut a non-paper trail story short, last Friday the Supreme Court ordered the Sahara group to refund Rs 17,400 crore (more than $3 billion) it allegedly collected from millions of small investors. It was a bit like the kid pointing out and shouting, “But the emperor’s not wearing any clothes!”
The court ruling backed a Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) order which insists that the Sahara Group’s money-raising acumen was busting a few regulations. “Despite restraint, one is compelled to record, that the whole affair seems to be doubtful, dubious and questionable. Money transactions are not expected to be casual, certainly not in the manner expressed by the two companies”, the court said, referring to Sahara’s “We deal with faces in India’s villages and small towns; we don’t need impersonal data”-way of picking up public investment.
But I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of all that. The Supreme Court can speak its mind about Roy and his PC Sorcar-ish empire. I’ll get sued for even thinking that Sahara is a giant pit-stop for truckloads of money that politicians of almost all hues need to dip into when they need to dip into un-petty cash.
My subject of interest – and naked wonderment – is in the full-page advertisement on page 6 of the September 3, 2012 edition of The Economic Times which Sahara had issued. If there was any confusion as to the tone of the “announcement”, it was titled “Emotionally Speaking”. That by itself got me reaching for my shirt sleeve.
With a picture of “Bharat Maa” (who “is our strength as savior from evils”) riding on a four-lions-driven chariot right on top, Sahara India Pariwar had issued a riposte, a wounded, hurt reply to the charges made by the Supreme Court. In my mind’s eye which is usually clogged with more colourful entities, I could even see Subrata Roy sulking while making his statement point-by-point-by-point.
A few excerpts from the bullet-pointed ad:
* Here we want to inform all our Hon’ble Depositors and investors that you need not worry about anything and be at absolute peace since Sahara is the most dutiful and absolute honest custodians of your money and by the grace of God, we are so healthy with all-round strength that there cannot be even one day delay in any payment commitment of Sahara.
* People cannot accept Sahara’s meteoric growth. Instead of being appreciated, all along we have been at the receiving end of bashing from all authorities again and again.
* Of course we shall never blame the Respected Judges of Hon’ble Courts of our beloved country. However, it is the fault of the machinery which presents facts incorrectly and in such a manner so as to create a false and negative perception everywhere that Sahara has collected unbelievably large sums of money from public which are actually ill gotten and fictitious.
* FURTHER CHALLENGE OF SAHARA TO ENTIRE AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTRY TO COME AND VERIFY OUR CLAIM THAT SAHARA HAS NOT DONE ANYTHING EVER AGAINST THE LAW OR SPIRIT OF LAW, SAHARA HAS NOT DONE ONE RUPEE BLACK MONEY BUSINESS, NOT EVER GONE TO ANY AUTHORITY FOR UNDUE FAVOUR (whether through licensing or beneficial quotas) FOR EVEN ONE RUPEE EARNING WE ONLY BELIEVE IN HARD WORK WITH ABSOLUTE HONESTY AND DEDICATION.
* We should rather always get a pat on our backs for such good social work. Had our Ten lakh workers not gone to those small depositors they would have spent those monies in non productive activities, we are saving their money and bringing them to the nation’s mainstream and thus helping those poor people for their better future out of forced savings.
* The saddest part is sitting on the chair in air-conditioned offices, they imagine and allege and never bother for any sort of verification.
You may now pause to blow your nose, wipe your tears and hug a friend for comfort. This should effectively end any doubts you harboured about Sahara being a shady organisation, a UP version of Dr Evil’s empire in the Austin Powers films. Once the guilt of you ever considering Sahara anything other than the socialistic company Manoj Kumar prayed for in the director’s cut of Upkar, it will become clear how wonderful Sahara is.
If another “company” can learn anything from Sahara’s “Emotionally Speaking” exercise, it has to be that other pariwar, the United Progressive Alliance. With an all-pervasive coal scam happening and exposed under its watch, after a telecom scam sent one of their ministers in jail, this is not the time for Messrs Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibal, Sonia Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh and Manmohan Singh to be hostile towards its critics and “exposers”.
The right thing to do would be to sulk and sulk clearly, looking hurt before the nation that the “company” that put its full focus on the “aam admi” (“Stand up when spoken about!”); that invented the perpetual engine of the NREGA; that is so careful about making any policy decisions which would ultimately benefit every single Indian, that it chooses not to take the decisions – the very same UPA is being charged for being inept, incompetent and incontinent by, in Subrato Roy’s wonderful term, “the machinery”.
Once the UPA issues its version of a full-page “Emotionally Speaking” response to the nation at large – preferably in all media outlets at market advertising rates – the tar it’s coated with from all quarters will magically disappear. Jai UPA Pariwar!
Image By: [Swarnabha Banerjee]