Anyone with an iota of common sense would see that Mumbai’s decay, manifest in crumbling infrastructure, is not because its people don’t have the enterprise or drive to better their lot, but due to an inept and corrupt administration. If we don’t have better public transport or well developed bus-stations (that are used for the passengers and not converted to shopping centres) it is because the government will not disband the BEST monopoly and allow modern technology or facilities. The continued harassment of the Goldcab project, flagged off by none other than the Chief Minister, shows that the vested interest of a few union leaders and several hundred taxi owners, comes above that of the vast public and migrant drivers forced to operate rundown black-and-yellow contraptions to eke out a meagre living. People sleeping on the streets is another reflection of administrative failure that favours fancy developers rather than genuine re-development and rehabilitation. As for those who are lured to visit by the “Incredible India” campaign, their first experience is indeed the beggars harassing them for a dole or roadsides that turn into open lavatories every morning.
Last week a leading economic daily carried an advertisement claiming: “Had you adopted Sri Aishwaryalakshmi Unique Win Win Model you could have survived the market volatility of 11th and 12th Dec ‘06”. The advertisement, depicting the goddess of wealth, touts “stock market - day trading” in multiple counters, covering 1,800 to 2,000 shares. Intrigued, we checked out what turns out to be the most bizarre website (www.uniquewinwinmodel.com ) making fanciful claims, dropping names of every regulator, industrialist and even the President and Prime Minister of the country. Instead of a regulatory clearance, the website carries a “notice” addressed to M. Damodaran, Sebi chairman and “Dr.Ganguly, vice-chairman” ; it also refers to some dialogue with the Ministry of Company Affairs. There is also an angry rant about each one of them, including the media, failing to understand the “unique model” that promises gains without losses. The promoter duo actually claims that “Sebi’s statutory disclaimer that ‘stock markets are risky’ should not be applied to this model. This bucket shop, offering ‘day-trading models’ is unique in the sense that its six schemes are named after different gods and goddesses and promise returns (ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 1 lakh daily) on an initial investment (ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh) and the signing of a non-disclosure clause. There is no mention of routing trades through an exchange or a registered brokerage firm. That this scheme is advertised in a high-circulation national daily suggests that the regulator needs to work on its bark as well as its bite.
India’s big accounting firms apparently like to go out of their way to court controversy. Barely had the turmoil at A.F. Ferguson over the Tata Finance issue cooled down, when we saw multiple exits and realignments at another big one — Ernst & Young — that dragged on for a long time. Things have now settled down at E&Y, but trouble has erupted elsewhere. Another of the Big Four accounting firms is not setting an example that anyone would wish to follow. Office politics and factionalism have reached the point where partners have been fired with two hours notice. The firm apparently wanted to ensure that these officials don’t walk away to a rival but have their careers destroyed. The Heads of Audit and Corporate Finance got the axe, as did a couple of directors who were originally poached from a rival. A few lawsuits and the public washing of dirty laundry seems to be in the offing.