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Author of book on Sahara hopes to probe the group further

Last updated on: June 13, 2014 15:15 IST

The Untold Story of Sahara lands in Kolkata

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Indrani Roy/Rediff.com in Kolkata

Tamal Bandyopadhyay was in Kolkata on Thursday evening for his book's launch at the Oxford Bookstore. Indrani Roy grabbed a few moments with him to file this report.

None of the characters -- living or dead -- and incidents mentioned here are fictional', reads the preface to business journalist Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s book Sahara: The Untold Story.

If the introductory words are unusual, and so is the book.

Bandyopadhyay was in Kolkata on Thursday evening for the book’s official launch at the Oxford Bookstore.

The inauguration was attended by D N Ghosh, former chairman, State Bank of India and former chairman, Peerless; Roopen Roy, managing director, Deloitte Consulting, and Pratip Kar, former executive director, Securities and Exchange Board of India.

An eloquent Aniek Paul anchored the evening’s proceedings.

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Image: Thespian Kaushik Sen (left) and Tamal Bandyopadhyay at the launch of the book at Kolkata's Oxford Bookstore.
Photographs: Indrani Roy/Rediff.com

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This book, as its publisher Jaico Publishing House states, ‘is based on painstaking research and interviews with a cross section of professionals across the country to demystify India’s most secretive and largely unlisted conglomerate that has 4,799 establishments and businesses under 16 verticals. . . and is the second largest employer in the country after Indian Railways. . .

Sahara: The Untold Story strives to answer everything you wanted to know about Subrata Roy and Sahara India Pariwar but were afraid to ask.’

Naturally, therefore, the book drew the group’s ire, enough for it to move the Kolkata high court against the book's publication and sought Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) as damages from the author.

After months of legal wrangling, Sahara India reached an out-of-court settlement with the author, enabling the book to come out at last.

The book does contain a disclaimer from Sahara which says, ‘The book at best can be treated as a perspective of the author with all its defamatory content, insinuation and other objections, which prompted us to exercise our right to approach the court of law in order to save the interest of the organization and its crores of depositors and 12 lakh workers’.

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Image: Cover of the book by Tamal Bandyopadhyay.


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The evening started off with a short video clip on the author toiling hard round the clock to put together his years of research on the Sahara Parivar.

His biggest challenge in writing the book, Bandyopadhya said, "was to demystify the group".

"Here is a business conglomerate which has 4,799 establishments under its fold through 10 business verticals, and only four of its companies are listed.

"It employs some 1.2 million people directly and indirectly. . . It was like feeling an elephant in a dark room."

Bandyopadhyay borrowed his son’s room for some time and kept himself cocooned there to give a final shape to this "difficult book".

“At times, I worked through the night -- the subject was so engrossing I forgot to touch the bed and came to know it was morning only when the newspaper man rang the doorbell,” Bandyopadhyay said.

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Image: Subrata Roy with Sahara employees.
Photographs: Reuters

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Author of book on Sahara hopes to probe the group further

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A large part of the book deals with shadow banking.

The author himself says, “The annexures. . . outline the history and growth of shadow banking; carry some of the communications between Sahara, RBI and others which are not in the public domain; and the timelines of the Peerless and Sahara sagas.”

The obvious question that arises is, is only Sahara to be blamed?

If the group was ‘encashing’ on the loopholes of the regulatory system, what were the regulators doing?

Both (Pratip) Kar and (D N) Ghosh were of the opinion that the onus lay with the country’s financial structure.

If Sahara managed to bypass the regulators for so many years, the government needs to sit up and prevent such incidents from recurring, they said.

Akash Shah of Jaico Publishing House rightly pointed out, ‘The larger focus of the book is shadow banking which has been growing the world over as banks are unable to take care of the capital requirements of business and individuals.

‘With the Reserve Bank of India preparing to open up the banking sector to more players, we hope the scenario will change in India.'

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Image: From left: Pratip Kar, Aniek Paul, Tamal Bandyopadhyay and Roopen Roy at the book launch at Kolkata's Oxford Bookstore on June 12.
Photographs: Indrani Roy/Rediff.com

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Author of book on Sahara hopes to probe the group further

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Part III of the book carries an exclusive interview with Subrata Roy, chief of the Sahara group.

This section is fraught with some unforgettable quotes by the ‘uncrowned king’ of one of the biggest conglomerates of India.

Here are a few:

‘I can only say one thing and you can record it ten times -- I have never done one wrong thing in my life.

‘That’s how I can fight.

‘People can make all sorts of stories. I call them chandukhana ki kahani (tales from the opium house).

During the interview, Roy insisted that he would not quit India.

For, he ‘loves his country and can die for his country’.

Soon after the book’s launch, thespian Kaushik Sen, impersonating as Roy, read out the interview section from the book with Bandyopadhyay acting the inquisitive journalist amid thunderous applause.

There couldn’t have been a better way of concluding the evening’s programme.

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Image: Sahara group chief Subrata Roy being taken to Tihar jail.
Photographs: Reuters

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To a question by rediff.com if interviewing Roy was more difficult than fighting a legal battle, the author said, “Both were pretty challenging and I am grateful to Jaico and to my lawyers who fought the case free of cost so that this book could hit the stands.”

To another question by rediff.com, if he has a sequel to the book in mind, Bandyopadhyay said he definitely wanted to add a chapter or two on Roy’s prison term.

“A large part of the Sahara mystery still remains unsolved. And given a chance, I would love to explore further.”


Image: Subroto Roy (R), chairman, Sahara India, with his wife Swapna Roy.
Photographs: Reuters

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