Are the days numbered for SEBI chairman D.R. Mehta? It seems so, if one goes by the indications stemming from the corridors of the Finance Ministry. Mehta, who airdashed to the Indian Capital last Sunday, had a series of meetings with Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and senior officials of the ministry. What transpired? Well, Mehta was told that his recommendations for two-year extensions for two SEBI executive directors -- which were forwarded by the Central Bureau for Direct Taxes (CBDT) -- could not be accepted and that the duo would have to leave the moment their stipulated time is over! Ministry insiders see this as a direct missive from the FM to Mehta and an indication of the next move to come. The two, who have always been considered close to Mehta, are L. K. Singhvi (incharge of investigation, enforcement & surveillance (IES), venture capital funds and derivatives) and Ashok Kacker (in charge of mutual funds department, collective investment schemes, investor grievances and guidance). Tough decisions from the soft-spoken Sinha?
The race, it seems, is over for the CBI chief. Home Ministry insiders admit that despite a recent Supreme Court stricture, the government has cleared the name of Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police H. J. Dora for the post. Interestingly, Dora was issued a notice by the court on charges that he granted sanction for prosecution of a large number of persons in TADA cases in a very casual manner. Dora, who had the backing of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, pipped two prime candidates in the race -- CBI Special Director P.C. Sharma and CRPF chief Trinath Mishra -- both being vociferously backed by the Home Ministry and the PMO. Another interesting twist to the entire saga is that Dora -- insiders claim -- had complete information of the tainted Global Trust Bank (GTB) and its recently-sacked managing director Ramesh Gelli who was known for his proximity to Naidu. But now that Dora will assume the top mantle, does that mean soft-peddaling the GTB issue and turning the heat on UTI?
Do all power projects in India come with their tinge of controversies? It seems so. Well, this one revolves around the Sawalkote hydro project which the Indian Prime Minister and his Norwegian counterpart signed last Sunday. Highly placed sources say the PMO has shown undue interest in clearing this project, which has been hanging fire for more than two years. Surprisingly, the offers were made in December 2000 and the Norwegian construction company's (NCC) bid was selected, despite the fact that it was made for $9.98 billion and Rs 800 crores more than the one offered by the Jaiprakash Industries. Now the entire process has been mired in controversies. For example, the first offer from NCC was made in dollars. Then it was changed to Euros! Then again the loans were offered in dollars and Euros. The Power Ministry told the PMO that the deal, if pushed through, would mean an additional offshore loan of Rs 3,000 crores. But then, the ministry was told to ignore the same. And this could have been avoided if the second offer, lower by Rs 800 crore, was accepted. Now what is interesting is that human rights activist and author Arundhati Roy has raised this issue with Vajpayee and also with the visiting Norwegian PM. During her conversation with the visiting Prime Minister, she asked him as to why Norway -- which has put a ban on all hydro power projects at home -- would fund such a project in India. Roy also asked Vajpayee as to why this project was pushed through, especially when the Uri project (run by Skanska AB of Sweden) in the state was commissioned only a year ago. Some more troubled times for the PMO?
When you talk of media, how can you keep DD out of the picture. Especially when the state-owned broadcaster functions almost like a sandbag. You poke it and it will leak. Close on the heels of the news that the much-talked about DD Metro honeymoon with Channel9 India was coming to an end, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj has asked for the papers which show expensive equipment acquired by DD from Channel9 of Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer was discarded as junk by Doordarshan authorities.
Remember ClickCricket.com? Disgraced cricketer Ajay Jadeja had a share in the portal which also had exclusive Net rights for Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly and paid a whopping amount to former opener Navjot Singh Sidhu for an exclusive column But the news is that the portal is downing shutters and has told employees that June 1, 2001, will be the last day of operations.
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