Power games: Govt’s Mongolian outreach baffles MEA mandarins

The long-standing SEBI-Sahara tussle over payment of dues to depositors/bondholders of Sahara companies has come full circle.

Published: 11th July 2022 08:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2022 08:36 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Diplomatic Strokes
Govt’s Mongolian outreach baffles MEA mandarins

India’s decision to send four Buddha relics, which are bones of Lord Buddha, to Mongolia for twelve days has become a controversial issue within the government. Union minister Kiren Rijiju had accompanied the relics to Mongolia with a delegation of culture ministry officials. The relic was displayed in the Gandan Monastery, which was visited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Mongolia visit. The government had made an exception by sending the relic abroad. The relic is classified as an AA category antiquity and is kept in controlled climate conditions. The ministry of culture guidelines prohibit transport of AA category relics. They are not even allowed to be shifted within country. The guidelines relating to these rarest antiquities were drafted by the NDA government in 2014. The Union government had earlier turned down requests from Sri Lanka, South Korea and Thailand for the display of this relic in these countries. The question being asked in South Block is how will the country refuse future requests after the relic’s Mongolian outing. The ministry of culture too is wondering what was the point in rating the relic as ‘AA’ when it is being allowed to tour the world. Sources said that the request to send the relic to Mongolia was made by the Prime Minister’s Office. Instead of informing the PMO about the restrictions in AA category, the babus of the ministry of culture readily agreed. The culture ministry’s decision will either cause damage to the relic in the long run or create diplomatic trouble for the country.

Battle royale
A queer twist in the SEBI-Sahara refund tale

The long-standing SEBI-Sahara tussle over payment of dues to depositors/bondholders of Sahara companies has come full circle. Stock market regulator SEBI had asked the Supreme Court to direct Sahara to deposit Rs 62,600 crore in a joint SEBI-Sahara refund account for repayment of dues. The Sahara India group claims to have deposited nearly Rs 24,000 crore between 2012-15 in the escrow account following the Supreme Court order in 2012. SEBI was asked to refund this money to Sahara’s investors whose dues were pending. It is now reported that in the last nine years, SEBI has been able to refund only Rs 138 crore out of the Rs 24,000 crore received in its account. The regulator has reportedly spent as much money on advertisement asking investors/depositors to come forth to claim
their dues as it has spent on actual refunds so far. The money spent by SEBI on advertisement inviting Sahara investors to claim their dues has reportedly been upwards of `100 crore. Sahara claims that the reason why no one is coming forth to claim dues is because it has already paid off most of its investors. It also says that its original liability was nowhere near the figure mentioned by SEBI. The group is now seeking return of its money lying unused in the regulator’s account. It says that since there are no more claims pending with the SEBI, there is no reason for the regulator to withhold its money. The battle that started with SEBI seeking money from Sahara has turned into one where Sahara is claiming money from SEBI.

Trading Blues
Russia mounts pressure for a payment mechanism

The delay in setting up rupee-rouble payment mechanism has resulted in a big pile-up of dues on account of imports from Russia. Russia is the fourth largest supplier of crude oil to India and is our sixth largest trade partner. India buys from Russia large amounts of fertilisers, coal, edible oil, besides crude oil and spares for the defence forces. The western sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine had disrupted the existing payment mechanisms. The two sides have since been exploring alternative ways to make payments. The rupee-rouble exchange mechanism was the one preferred by both sides. But in spite of several meetings between the two sides, there has not been much progress on this front. Russia reportedly offered to send its foreign and finance ministers to thrash out the issues preventing the setting up of the mechanism. It had even suggested using the Chinese yuan-based platform for payments until the rupee-rouble deal is worked out. India has outrightly rejected the idea of using the Chinese platform. It has, however, failed to make a concrete proposal
on how it plans to make the payments for the Russian imports. Sources said India has to pay billions of dollars for the goods already imported. Meanwhile, private India company UltraTeck Cement has paid in yuan for its import of coal from Russia. There are reports that many other private Indian companies are planning to use yuan to pay for their imports from Russia. Some other Indian companies have started setting up shops abroad with the aim of dealing with the payment issues. The absence of the government-mandated payment mechanism is forcing Indian companies to find their own solutions. Russia, meanwhile, awaits the government’s decision on its preferred mode of payment.


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