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  Sucheta Dalal

Sucheta Dalal earned a fearsome reputation as India's foremost investigative financial journalist when she unearthed the Great Indian Securities Scam while working at The Times Of India. Now a freelance journalist and author she still has an uncanny way of sending shivers down the Sensex.

Why Kelkar's tax plan has angered middle-class India
Not only do middle class taxpayers feel shortchanged, they are also irked by the fact that despite being honest they are constantly harassed by a corrupt bureaucracy, says Sucheta Dalal.

So how credible is the Web?
Even cautious persons tend to believe everything they pick up on the Internet. Why? Does the Net enjoy more trustworthiness than it deserves, asks Sucheta Dalal.

A thousand changes in the FMCG sector
In several product categories the threat is not from China, but right here from local brands, says Sucheta Dalal.

Beyond plagiarism and the new student
Plagiarism is rampant, but how does one classify all those requests I get from students trying to get me to do their project work? asks Sucheta Dalal.

The Cable Bill: So how consumer-friendly is it?
'It is time we woke up and took a long hard look at the manner in which cable operators are choosing what we view and how much we pay,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Sorry, Sachin, this is just not cricket!
'The duty exemption to him for his Fiat-gifted Ferrari must be stopped. The issue is not Sachin and his Ferrari (which he can well afford), but the misuse of discretionary powers by our politicians,' says Sucheta Dalal.

How operators manipulated the Wipro scrip
'If the bourses and Sebi are unable to investigate the hammering of Wipro during the last 15 minutes of trading on Monday and Wednesday, then Indian investors can never depend on secondary market regulation,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Frank Simoes: An advertising legend and a self-made man
'I came from a good family, but we had no money for me to go to college. I was a typist before I got into advertising,' the advertising wizard had once told Sucheta Dalal.

Prabhu's exit: End of a fairy tale
Let's stop moaning over Prabhu's exit. He may have had his fairy tale, but we can't expect a much bigger one to transform this nation, says Sucheta Dalal.

'Tatas must restore contact with Press'
The Tatas should try out a more open approach, instead of sneering at the media, says Sucheta Dalal.

How to find a lotus in the muck
'When political parties stop colluding and start flinging dirt at each other, we can hope for some real cleansing,' says Sucheta Dalal.

'Govt must accept liability to help UTI survive'
UTI's existence depends on better support from the government and a gameplan that helps stop its continuous sales and improves returns on its schemes.

Does sending an SMS really cost Re 1?
An SMS message costs Re 1 only if you send it from your home city. Charges vary when you travel. And sending SMS to India when you are abroad can be very expensive,' says Sucheta Dalal.

He achieved what none even dared to dream about
His instincts as a trader and his people-skills are what turned him into what is popularly described as a 'messiah' of Indian investors,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Will Jaswant Singh be a successful FM?
The industry morale is down and the economy desperately needs a shot in the arm, but the new finance minister inherits a bad situation, says Sucheta Dalal.

FDI in print: It's all about money, honey!
Protests against allowing FDI in print media have nothing to do with national interest. The opposition is all about money, as the ban denied smaller newspapers access to capital and allowed large newspaper monopolies to grow unchecked, says Sucheta Dalal.

Need to monitor advertising for children
The pressure of emotional blackmail will soon reach alarming proportions. Concerned parents must protest the most blatant forms of exploitation of their children's' credulity, says Sucheta Dalal.

Why the world has overreacted to Indo-Pak war fears
India is a lot safer than many low-income ghettos in Europe and the US, yet the West's paranoia seems unabated. Industry lobbies, NRIs and the government need to do more to set things right, says Sucheta Dalal.

Public transport and pollution: Don't bring the courts into it
Instead of trying to bring a ban on private vehicles in big cities, the government must provide efficient public transport to ease pollution and congestion levels, says Sucheta Dalal.

The future looks bleak for Dabhol
'Unless the cost of power generated by the DPC is reduced, there is no point in trying to run the plant,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Home Trade's 'starry' gameplan
Mega celebrities can be used as cover for a meticulously planned financial scam, says Sucheta Dalal.

CNG crisis: are we deliberately suppressing cheap options?
An award winning, low-priced catalytic converter invented by an Indian still awaits patent registration and has little hopes of getting a fair trial due to the opposition of powerful lobbies with vested interests, says Sucheta Dalal.

Manu Chhabria: a fierce fighter till the end
'For all the trappings of wealth - his Swiss chalet, the fleet of Mercedes cars, the Armani suits and Bally shoes - at the core he remained the same old street-fighter,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Infrastructure issues and the information gap
'Should we allow infrastructure projects to be scuttled due to an absence of information leading to ill-considered protests and litigation?' asks Sucheta Dalal.

Enabling infrastructure development, AP style
The entire country must learn from Andhra Pradesh's AP IDEA 2001, a statute that has helped clear core projects with speed, clarity and transparency, says Sucheta Dalal.

Is Star TV looking to replace NDTV…?
The buzz is that Star TV and Prannoy Roy's New Delhi Television Ltd may part ways, throwing up for grabs the most powerful news and current affairs channel in the country, says Sucheta Dalal.

Enron fallout in India: auditors feel the heat
The new accounting rules set by the Department of Company Affairs can be effective if it acts swiftly, so that its punishments strike hard at future business opportunities of audit firms if they collude with unscrupulous managements, says Sucheta Dalal.

Political arithmetic far more important than the Budget
With its numbers in Parliament none too comforting, the BJP-led government may find it difficult to push through a reform-oriented Budget, says Sucheta Dalal.

Price manipulation and big industrial houses
SEBI needs to ask a lot of questions into the sale of L&T shares by Reliance Industries to Grasim, says Sucheta Dalal.

S Gurumurthy on the warpath against Reliance again
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch leader has filed a complaint with the SEBI against Reliance Industries over the allotment of 120 million RIL shares to the Ambanis in January 2000. Sucheta Dalal gives an account.

Hawkers: Need to get corporates into the loop
The business interests of corporate houses can be put to work to counter the helplessness of hawkers by creating a support group for them. This can also ensure that corporates do not pursue their business interests by promoting illegal hawking, says Sucheta Dalal.

Should marketers be allowed to influence your child?
'Parents must pay close attention to the manner in which companies influence tender minds by entering schoolrooms to sell - sometimes forcibly - their products,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Confusing people with doublespeak
'Many suggestions of the Malegam Committee, like the demand for a complete audit of the UTI, have been disregarded. The government is trying to peddle cosmetic changes as reform,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Harshad Mehta: From Pied Piper of the markets to India's best know scamster
'It was a tragic end to the man who was the first broker to become a mega-star of the Indian capital markets and fire the imagination of every middle class Indian in the early 1990s,' says Sucheta Dalal.

UTI gets another dole without stricter accountability?
The government will again get away with the massive bailout of UTI without any protest, says Sucheta Dalal.

Moving on to an Indian battle for DPC
Confusing reports over the status of the Dabhol Power Co may be deliberate, as this helps policy makers and bureaucrats in covert deal-making, feels Sucheta Dalal.

Oh, the problems of finding a capital market regulator!
'Sebi at present is so directionless and demoralised that a clean-up and a reorganisation will have to start at the very bottom and go all the way up to the top job,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Investor activism: Indian capital markets' missing link
'The world over, powerful investor groups supplement the efforts of regulators by tracking corporate decisions and filing class action suits against anti-investor activities. Their actions compel companies to follow good business practices,' says Sucheta Dalal.

'Auditors, directors must be more accountable'
'Individual investors, partners and stakeholders depend on audit statements to get a true picture of a firm's financials. Thus, auditors must be more responsible,' argues Sucheta Dalal.

Are politicians plotting to lose the battle against Enron?
'People must demand full disclosure of the Enron deal. Only then can they evaluate government action and stop vested interests from scuttling the probe against the MNC,' says Sucheta Dalal.

A retirement plan for Indian politicians
Like top CEOs, political leaders too must retire, making way for young, dynamic, confident decision-makers if India has to get out of a rut, says Sucheta Dalal.

Don't just stop at throwing Enron out
There is a need to fix accountability for the huge financial loss caused to the nation through the Dabhol deal and to set some ground rules to avoid a repeat performance, says Sucheta Dalal.

Should the media be more restrained in its reportage?
We need more maturity in reporting, tighter editorial control and some introspection by sections of the media,' says Sucheta Dalal.

Will calling parties pay or will they not?
If a 'calling party pays' regime is introduced, local calls to mobile numbers will be as expensive as long-distance ones, says Sucheta Dalal.

When everybody else takes pay-cuts, our netas get a hike
'The raise to 790 super-privileged persons is resented by most of India's billion-strong population.'

Wanted: Activists and supporters for abundant causes
'Another Independence Day has gone by generating the same frustrating debate about untapped potential and missed opportunities, along with rising public anger against rampant corruption and economic degeneration.'

The more things change...
'From Haridas Mundhra in 1957 to Harshad in 1992 and Ketan in 2001, the politician-industrialist-broker nexus has been the recurring theme.'

Agitating brokers refuse to learn from the past
'Brokers need to draw their lessons from the capital market and accept the new realities or pay a heavy price.'

KP scam: Bigger than the 1992 scam
'If one were to simply add up the amounts mentioned in SEBI's various reports, the size of Parekh's manipulations is far bigger than the Rs 50-odd billion securities scam of 1992.'

JPC 2001: Will it be another wasted effort?
'There is nothing in the JPC 2001's deliberations so far to suggest that this committee will be any different from the last.'

Unit Trust of India: The messy change-over
'Whatever the decisions in the next few days, or the outcome of public interest litigations filed by unit holders, it seems clear that UTI's days as an investment behemoth with a disproportionate influence over the Indian capital market are fast coming to an end.'

Scam of 2001: Fodder for Ripley's Believe It or Not
'Every day brings a bizarre new development, which makes you wonder if the investigation is a big joke being played on the Indian people, literally at their expense.'

The Maheshwar project: getting to the root of the matter
'Are FIs too lenient while funding controversial power projects?'

Sure, I love my India, but is Mera Bharat Mahaan?
'Tragically, the division between Bharat and India has been growing alarmingly since the liberalisation process began a decade ago.'

Is world opinion more important than public interest?
'Our message to the international community is that India is no banana republic and that it can stand up for its people and its rights.'

Cracks already in the JPC's gameplan
'Excluding UTI, which has been at the centre of all the controversy connected with the stock market crisis, suggested an outrageous cover up and made a monkey of those who had been baying for an investigation into its activities.'

Nedungadi Bank and the saga of RBI inaction
'The RBI made a decisive effort to free Nedungadi Bank from the grip of Rajendra Banthia who controls nearly 40% of its equity by telling him to step down from the board.'

Sterlite and Videocon: The Harshad link
'Harshad's manipulation took Videocon up from Rs 51 to Rs 168 (a 232 per cent rise) between April and June 1998 at a time when the BSE Sensex dropped 11 per cent. In the same period, Sterlite moved from Rs 272 to Rs 385.'

BPL: The Harshad Mehta connection
'When BPL was finally barred last week, from accessing the capital market for four years, many people wondered why Sebi's punishment to BPL was harsher than it was for Videocon and Sterlite. '

How Harshad Mehta did it again
'Sebi's investigation reveals that a set of brokers was happy to deal with unknown companies with no financial standing or professional expertise and without taking any security or deposit, only because of their faith in the Harshad Mehta magic.'

Shonkh Technologies: Still a mystery
'Ever since the Ketan Parekh debacle, my mailbox has been crowded with scores of messages about one company -- Shonkh Technologies.'

Arvind Johari: The cyberguru who ran away
'Meet Arvind Johari, promoter of Cyberspace Infosys, who has run away after cheating thousands of investors of their hard-earned savings.'

Ketan Parekh: Delusions of invincibility?
'The crashing markets trapped Parekh in the double bind of having to continuously top up margins on his borrowings and cover the losses on his investment.'

First Global Stockbroking: Are they victims or villains?
'One name that has been making it to the front pages of Indian newspapers after the payment crisis on charges of hammering down stock prices, has me totally foxed. It is First Global Stockbroking, a firm headed by a bright and dynamic duo -- Shankar Sharma and his wife Devina Mehra.'

Clean up the mess
'If we insist on forcing the government to resign, look at what we would have instead - a government formed by a third front cobbled together by opportunistic, geriatric old former Prime Ministers.'

Déjà vu on the BSE crisis
'What is not clear is whether this crisis will force the government to end the 'clubby' supervision of the capital markets and a regime of "market friendly" regulators.'

Games MP Play
'The divestment of PSUs has always brought out the most reprehensible and illogical arguments from politicians, irrespective of the politics they pursue.'

Why they oppose foreign money in print media
Large newspapers take a fairly uncritical view of the ruling government in return for protection from foreign competition...

Rebuilding a State from the debris
India Inc rose to the occasion to pour aid into quake-devastated Gujarat, even as it realised that lack of preparedness during disasters could push back development by several years...

The Enron crisis reaches a flash point
'If the central government had exceeded its powers and the PPA obtained by misrepresentation of facts then the entire agreement can be declared invalid in a court of law.'

Why we need a DMP before disaster strikes!
'Our problem is we refuse to learn from the past and tend to mothball reports and studies, instead of using them to prepare for the future.'

Urgently needed: A Budget to kickstart growth!
'If Sinha keeps his promise of announcing changes which are expected to bring in investment of '$ 100 billion in the next 25 years,' then oil companies and consequently stocks can look forward to an upsurge.'

Bharat Shah's arrest is a wake up call
'It is up to the film industry and the regulators to make the best use of it by ensuring a thorough clean-up.'

Enron: Does the government have the guts?
'Clearly, the benefits of IPPs are exaggerated and there are several ways out of the contract. The question is does the Indian government seriously want a solution?'

Happy 2001: Welcome to mindless action and callous inaction
'Welcome to the country that many believe will leapfrog years of bad economic policies, state-induced backwardness, bureaucratic mismanagement, run-down equipment, poor work ethic and complete absence of accountability through its newly discovered skills and prowess in information technology.'

Y2K: A year of contradictions and hope
'Y2K began with high drama and tension but the apocalypse never happened, planes did not fall out of the sky and even the minor collapses that were predicted did not materialise. But on the ground, the dear motherland continues to tear away in a myriad contrary directions.'

The Enron fiasco
'The cost of Enron power is so high (Rs 7.80 per unit) that even an averaging of tariffs would force government to treble tariffs to domestic consumers. This only underlines how foolishly the project has been negotiated.'

Corporate rivalries: the bloody wars and the bloodless ones
If there is business, there has to be business rivalry and accompanying hostilities. The difference is that it is all hidden under a veneer of affability.

Let the Congress not be allowed to derail reform
'The party is free to choose any public rhetoric to win votes, but if its new economic agenda is aimed at derailing the reform process by playing an obstructionist role in Parliament then it ought not to be tolerated.'

Media's patchy memory and disproportionate hype
'The fault does not lie with inexperienced juniors who get assigned these breaking stories - at that age they are bound to be carried away, but aren't there any supervisors anymore?'

Websites are not publicity brochures
'As things stand, it would appear that barring some of the better private sector companies, it is the government sites that may have a lot more to offer.'

Private sector corruption threatens to be a bigger menace
'Graft bleeds the private sector as much as it debilitates public sector companies and the loser is the honest person who sticks to the straight and narrow.'

State governments: A decade of financial crisis
'Several factors are responsible for the rapid degeneration of state-owned undertakings and the financial bankruptcy of states. But the biggest factor is probably the changing political equations at the Centre and the states.'

Global corruption could threaten democratic systems
'To people living in India, the findings of Transparency International's Bribe Payers Index are only a confirmation.'

India is way ahead in IT already
'A trip to Germany opened my eyes and changed my views.'

Competence should come before core competency
'Claiming core competency in IT is just as silly as blaming Indian sports persons alone for their poor showing at the Olympics. Indians would do as well in other disciplines as they have in IT, so long as there is an accountable government which provides a conducive business environment.'

Corporate Governance: More form than substance
'Indian boardroom etiquette does not permit board members to embarrass the chairman and/or MD by asking difficult questions.'

The Bill Gates mania and E-governance
'Corrupt as the Indian political system is, every once in a while someone come along, who breaks through the hypocrisy, exposes corruption or cuts through the red tape and shows that it can be done.'

A minister who dares to take on business cabals
'Corrupt as the Indian political system is, every once in a while someone come along, who breaks through the hypocrisy, exposes corruption or cuts through the red tape and shows that it can be done.'

Delhi scores over the country, but that is only half the story
'A study commissioned by the CII has thrown up an unusual pecking order of states that attract business the most, in the post-reform era.'

The medicine business is in for some attention
'Hopefully, the publicity attached to the probe into whether Apollo Hospital at Delhi had misdiagnosed Ranga Kumarmangalam's ailment will focus attention on the medical fraternity as a whole and on the common man's experience in getting accurate diagnosis and treatment.'

Minority shareholder representation: Empower investor associations first
'Indian industry won a significant victory last week when it scuttled a proposed amendment to the Companies Bill, 1999 which would have empowered minority shareholders.'

Nabbing insider traders: Easier said than done
'Clearly, preventing insider trading is not about a set of rules or alleged loopholes. It is about a determination to go after illicit trades and the power to punish offenders. Until SEBI shows it is serious about checking insider trading, the activity will continue to thrive unchecked.'

Hindustan Lever - revving up to go global
'After over 40 years of socialism and nearly two decades of anti-MNC regulatory bias, Unilever's Indian business could end up being the centre of the conglomerate's global business.'

Let us check who is not above the law
'How many of the nation's mighty and powerful are ever troubled by the law? The rules are meant for the ordinary man. In the circumstance, should a government not be forced to demonstrate their ability to control the law and order situation before they indulge in empty political vendetta?'

Dhirubhai Ambani and the stories that need telling
'Why aren't there more accurate biographies about Indian leaders? Or rather, why are Indian biographies usually worshipful eulogies of their subjects?'

Even MNC service standards turn desi
'In an environment where individuals cannot enforce service efficiency and consumer rights, even the most efficient multinationals begin to adopt desi standards. The exaggeration in that statement is only to the extent that MNCs did initially provide so much better service that they raised our expectations to international levels. But once at home in the Indian market, they too settle down to a very Indian callousness towards the consumer.'

How to overcome labour pains
'It is among the best bits of business news in recent times. The 12,000-member strong Air-India Employees Guild has decided to support the privatisation of Air-India subject to certain conditions.'

Women directors as quota candidates
'What the corporate sector really needs is to be more "natural" and understanding, rather than force women into boardrooms through artificial reservations.'

Temples in ruins
'June 23 was to be a red-letter day in India's efforts to sell public sector undertakings but it was yet another damp squib like other efforts to deal with the subject.'

Character flaw or systems failure?
'The lesson to all past and future scamsters and cheats is simple. If you confess, you would probably be cooling your heels in jail. If you do not, the system will ensure that nothing happens in your lifetime, so long as you have the spare cash to grease the right palms.'

Draining the exchequer through the public sector
'The drain on national resources due to public sector undertakings have now reached a stage where one is no longer worried about selling the family silver.'

A bullet train for the minister, free telephones for others
'Indian politicians regularly make news for their ill-considered policies that disregard the needs of the people and the state of the national exchequer. Last week, their apathy plumbed abysmal depths.'

Two dot com scoops in a week
'If dot coms do grab the opportunity, it will only help cleanse corruption in the country.'

Media too out of touch with people
'Increasingly, the press has failed people as much as the neta and the babu.'

Getting used to a good thing is difficult too
'Along with the right to spit continuously in public, we will resist all attempt to discipline our driving; we will cross any road at will as pedestrians and view a traffic offence as a business opportunity as police.'

Coalition politics and damage to probity
'For Indian politicians, there has been no better time than the last six years to be in public life. Plenty of privileges, no accountability and to hell with their parties too.'

The Mall, the Flyover and other issues
'Unless the mute, fragmented and cowardly middle class wakes up to its rights, it will continue to be buffeted by every powerful minority group which is vocal and organised.'

Mutual funds on thin ICE
'Net asset values of mutual funds have been crashing and the regulators need to ask tough questions.'

How banks are always the willing suckers
'It is the honest taxpayer who pays the price, since bankers responsible for the bad loans simply retire and go away, the industrialists don't pay and hide behind weak recovery laws and the government dips into the exchequer to repeatedly bail out banks.'

Fighting the neta, babu, lala, jhola and dada nexus
'Mr Vittal has a statutory post and cannot be removed as easily. He can deliver results, but only if he builds and retains public support. Unfortunately, the initial momentum created by Vittal is already flagging, and unless he changes his gameplan it could disappear altogether. That would indeed be a tragedy for the country and a great opportunity lost.'

Begging - Bombay's best-organised business
'Begging has become big business in the metropolis and is controlled by the underworld. The ingenuity, effort and understanding of human psychology that go into it, keeps the trade thriving.'

Bank supervision and accountability
'The unionised bank staff has the power to make itself more accountable and ensure that corporates are more scrupulous when it comes to repayment of loans.'

Trademark disputes in cyberspace
'The biggest and best companies are suing each other, and precedents created by them will hopefully put an end to a lot of hanky-panky in the business.'

Pie in the sky
'In hindsight, it would seem that only hype and hard sell by IL&FS led Indian money down the drain. In future, it would be far better for banks and financial institutions to wait and watch.'

What should we expect from Clinton?
'India should use this opportunity to initiate a dialogue with the US on key policy issues. These could be the setting up of a free trade zone between India and the US, bilateral discussions on trade issues, environmental regulations, and alternative safety nets for workers.'

The scourge of dud cheques
'The number of victims of cheque bouncing cases run into tens of thousands. In fact, there are almost 40,000 cases in courts around the country which have blocked up several hundreds of crores of rupees. The delay in punishing defaulters allows people to dishonour cheques with impunity.'

Games punters play
'I'd like to say I know as much as the next guy, but I am supposed to be managing several hundreds of crores of rupees, so I have to pretend that I know the answer. The truth is I am clueless. I am extremely nervous at the reckless manipulation of the market, the political involvement, the manner in which shady promoters are dumping stock on mutual funds in private placement deals,' a fund manager tells Sucheta Dalal.

Tomorrow's surprise
'In the strange farrago that is Indian coalition politics, the Prime Minister's assertion that there will be some tough decisions to put the economy back on track clearly does not apply to his coalition partners. So when finance minister Yashwant Sinha promises to bite the bullet and announce a tough Budget, what can one really expect?'

Booking the new economy criminals
'There is as yet no attempt to set up a detection machinery in SEBI. In fact, the SEBI site does not even have a separate section on enforcement and actions taken. All these are simply bundled under sketchy press releases which listed date-wise are far too difficult to access for specific information.'

Desi regulations for local conditions
'Comparisons with the US are a ridiculous way of permitting malpractice to proliferate. Indian regulations have to be tailored to Indian conditions -- until we learn to punish wrong does swiftly and adequately we need to go slow on introducing foreign practices and systems. This one-sided globalisation will just have to be stop.'

Wisdom from the Sycamore tree
'Corporate Indian continues to be promoter/owner driven, where decision making is concentrated in the hands of the "promoter" families. They neither understand the IT business nor are willing to empower employees. In fact the bada sahab culture is so deeply embedded in the psyche of the Indian corporate sector that even the box-wallah multinationals have been large dens of intense politicking and have thrived on subservience to the top management.'

Converting dreams to reality
'Entrepreneurial freedom and funding of potentially good businesses will certainly increase the number of wealthy Indians, create employment and have some cascading effect in the economy, but it will not be enough. Computerisation of government departments has to be at the core of the IT dream.'

Consumers, arise!
'Consumers have to become an appropriately strong and vocal lobby capable of embarrassing the political establishment. This can only happen through collective intervention and action and educating the less knowledgeable about economic implications of government decisions. It will be a long struggle, but it has to start gathering momentum today.'

Misplaced priorities
'Government involvement and investment are both required in order to exploit IT opportunites but not in the form of venture funding. With a little imagination and innovation, the opportunity created by IT enabled employment can be used to reduce the work force.'

Consumers, arise!
'Consumers have to become an appropriately strong and vocal lobby capable of embarrassing the political establishment. This can only happen through collective intervention and action and educating the less knowledgeable about economic implications of government decisions. It will be a long struggle, but it has to start gathering momentum today.'

Corruption and the chalta hai attitude
'Fighting corruption needs a network of committed and dedicated people with diverse skills who are willing to pool in their efforts for the cause. They also need to find adequate funding. The Internet is capable of creating such networks...'

Corruption and the hijacking drama
'As a complacent nation, completely tolerant about corruption in public life, what right do we have to expect different standards from some petty security officials? Every one of us encounters, tolerates and often participate in the most blatant corruption in every aspect of our everyday existence -- licenses, permissions, gas connections, until recently the black market in buying telephones and scooters, traffic violations...'

Is the sun setting over the Tata empire?
'Ratan Tata has all our sympathy, but his saga of lost projects and blotched opportunities is starting to tell a rather dismal tale about the group's future. The Tatas are still the most respected industry group in the country. But increasingly their inability to get the big projects or the sort of entrepreneurial professionals that J R D Tata managed to gather around him is worrying investors and well-wishers.'

Power deals and perfect timing
'If Cogentrix wants to leave Karnataka, S M Krishna can find several other takers. All the more so, if he continues to send out positive signals to industry about his seriousness in welcoming industry and implementing infrastructure projects without the usual pay-off. The Tatas, for instance, who have already bid for several projects in the state would not even seek a guarantee; nor will NTPC or other government-owned companies.'

Doing business with hands tied
'An insurance company chairman cites the example of a claim, which has been referred to several committees who all agree that it can and ought to be paid, but nobody wants to take a decision. Reason? A similar claim had been wrongly turned down in the past and has created a wrong precedent. Everyone is afraid of being questioned by the CBI or the CVC. Is there any doubt that business will flee into the arms of new insurers?'

Three bills and a burial
'What an eventful week! On Thursday, the National Democratic Alliance government got three long pending bills cleared by the Lok Sabha and signaled that economic reforms are back on course. Yet on Monday, in a display of amazing arrogance and callousness, the same government allowed the Disinvestment Commission to die without so much as the courtesy of meeting the Commission members or thanking them for the excellent recommendations produced over the last three years.'

Neigbhour's envy
'Until Naidu actually won, skeptics in the media as well as the opposition parties were convinced that development and technology did not win elections. Even today they seek to justify their predictions by splitting and analysing to death the voting pattern to claim that the result was merely a lucky outcome of the numbers game.'

The book building controversy spills on to HCL
'The saga of creaming off money from investors, which began with the Hughes Software issue, continues with the HCL Technologies one. Hughes Software was the first issue to experiment with book building. For the company, its investment bankers and those investors who received shares, it was a big success.'

Why do our babus goof-up?
'Year after year we see the same bumbling. Whether it is the Congress, the United Front or the BJP in the saddle, the finance ministry wakes up to the urgency of completing divestment of PSUs only when it is time to prepare the budget and the fiscal deficit gap has to be bridged in a hurry. Invariably, share prices in November are far lower than investment bankers' estimates in March-April of any given year. This has often led to chaos and international embarrassment.'

The Real Y2K Bug
'Earlier in the week, Indian insurance institutions, the Unit Trust of India and some foreign funds are credited with shoring up prices by making huge purchases. I wonder how many were motivated by the need to keep their Net Asset Value up; after all, their bonuses are still to be worked out.'

The market has a mind of its own
'The truth is that market pundits are as clueless about why prices have tumbled so dramatically and continuously over the last 10 days. The market clearly has a mind of its own and savvy brokers, smart operators and big fund managers may control its direction sometimes but not always.'

Why the market is nervous
'A huge overbought position in the market -- net outstanding positions of about Rs 3,000 cr, illegal badla position of another Rs 3,000 crore, and about Rs 4,000 crore of trades rolled between the BSE and NSE is making the market go jittery.'

Turbulent days ahead
'In a year when the defense budget is expected to shoot up, particularly with the military regime in Pakistan and when hard and unpalatable economic decision are called for, it would be sensible for investors to be cautious until they see real action.'

The Bull in the media ring
'The Times of India group, clearly unfazed, defended its decision with the astounding stand that Harshad Mehta was a "man of eminence in his profession" who was writing "in public interest". Its lawyers said that he had fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and that his column was the same as those by lawyers, artists, academicians and others with "proficiency, expertise and knowledge" in their professions, communicating their views through the media.'

Lies, damned lies and market manipulation
'Caution is really the key to investment in this market. The savvy investor is one who does not believe every rumor on the street and learns to read between the lines of newspaper reports. Once you get the hang of it, the slants and the plants fairly leap out of the news columns; but here are a few tips on how the system works.'