March , 2022
A Himalayan Blunder
16:44 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

Nobody can underestimate the contribution of the NationalStock Exchange (NSE) to the Indian financial market. Ata time when stock trading was turning online, and many ofthe traditional stock markets - including the Bombay StockExchange (BSE) - were reluctant to give up the traditionalways of trading, it was the newly formed NSE which pushedin the change. NSE was instrumental in bringing in the modernmethods of trading in India. Over the years NSE became oneof the best stock exchanges of the world and is still believedto be the biggest trading house in derivatives in the world.Now comes the shock: its lady chairman & managingdirector is supposed to have been running the stock exchangethrough the ‘advice’ of a spiritual person living in theHimalayas! However ludicrous it might seem, the wholestory – now being investigated by the CBI, ED, and otherregulatory authorities - seem to hide disturbing realities.Records show that the process was on for several years andthe lady MD had resigned in 2015. Nothing seems to havecome to the notice of the regulating authorities, particularlySEBI, on all these years till a ‘whistle-blower’ brought thewhole affair to the notice of the government.The Board of NSE seemingly had seasoned professionals – atleast two retired IAS officers, several chartered accountantswith experiences in companies like PWC, Infosys and otherleading corporate houses. And yet an ‘advisor’ was appointedby the MD at an astronomical salary to run the show. What ismore alarming is the regular flow of ‘insider’ information fromthe stock market by the MD to her Himalayan guru througha particular e-mail. When finally, SEBI did make an enquiryshe supposedly told the SEBI team that the guru did not existphysically and that she never met him because he lived in thecaves of the Himalayas. The ‘spiritual’ communion with herwas only through the email.We know how ‘insider trading’ is considered a crime and howgreat stock market operators have been put behind bars forbeing involved in it. In the famous insider trading case, the UShedge trader Raja Ratnam, of Sri Lankan origin, was sentencedto 11 years of imprisonment in 2011. Along with him, RajatGupta, a highly respected corporate personality had to resignfrom his post in McKinsey group once his links with RajaRatnam was established. And yet In India, we seem to witnesssuch activities in the board rooms of the frontrunning stockmarket like NSE itself – and that for years – and the regulatoryauthorities like SEBI not having an inkling about it.Finally, when SEBI made an enquiry based on the complaint ofa whistle blower, the lady MD was given a royal farewell witha compensation of a few crores. Not just insider trading. NSEwas also accused of ‘collocation’ charges – a system by whichmany stock markets, including those in Singapore, Seychellesetc., had the advantage of getting information faster by virtueof their closeness of location or position. This itself was unfair.Someone getting stock market information – even by a fewseconds earlier – comes as an immense benefit for the personconcerned, for making big money.The Indian stock markets have been going through a bull runfor some time now, despite the economic crisises following thepandemic. Now the Russian invasion of Ukraine is pulling thestock prices down. But the revelations at NSE is a bigger threatto the Indian stock market. The bubble is about to burst.

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