History thrust on haunted market
Grateful Ghani in minor mahajot
Delhi scans stock suspects
PM breathes Balco fire
Eden Test ton awaits destiny
Calcutta Weather

Mumbai, March 8: 
History was made today at Asia’s oldest stock exchange when Deena Mehta became the first woman to head a premier bourse in the world — significantly on Women’s Day.

The significance of the appointment was, however, lost on the exchange authorities as its governing board went into a five-hour huddle to discuss the resignation of Anand Rathi, president of the 126-year-old Bombay Stock Exchange, amid a firestorm of allegations that he had passed on privileged information to a bear cartel that precipitated the meltdown in stocks over the past week.

Mehta, who is the vice-president of the bourse, has been asked to officiate till the next president is elected at a meeting on April 1.

Shell-shocked governing board members accepted Rathi’s resignation without realising that they were creating history by pitchforking Mehta into the hot seat.

Rathi has requested D.R. Mehta, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), to institute an enquiry into the charges against him. The BSE governing board also offered its full cooperation to the probe.

Rathi is the second BSE president to depart under a cloud. In 1997, J.C. Parekh was forced to go after he became embroiled in an investigation into a share ramping operation relating to BPL and Videocon shares.

Rathi, whose term was supposed to end on March 31, said he had to go in order to uphold the dignity of the office.

Mehta told The Telegraph that the general body meeting of BSE stock brokers held after the board meeting unanimously reposed confidence in Rathi.

However, they reluctantly accepted his resignation after Rathi pointed that he would be open to the accusation of trying to scupper a proper investigation if he stayed on.

Regretting the resignation of the BSE president, over 450 members who attended the meeting “wanted him to continue and fight the forces that wish to destabilise the markets and create these rumours,” the BSE said in a press release.

Mehta said none of the BSE board members had taken advantage of any information that they were privy to nor had they passed on price-sensitive data to anyone else.

Rathi’s resignation capped a tumultuous week that saw the BSE sensitive index shed almost all its gains that were made when a euphoric market welcomed finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s budget proposals.

On Thursday, Sebi’s clampdown on rampaging sellers had the desired effect when the Sensex opened at 4090 points, a 43 point jump over the previous day’s closing level of 4046.89.

The 30-scrip barometer of the market’s mood continued to yo-yo through the day, hitting a high of 4108.03 and then plunging to a low of 4016.71 before closing at 4056.94, a modest rise of 10.05 points.


New Delhi & Calcutta, March 8: 
Defying the command from Delhi, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury today sealed a deal with Mamata Banerjee for a minor mahajot in Malda.

Scoffing at the state Congress’ decision to tie up with the CPM breakaway group, Ghani Khan said he would attend Mamata’s election rallies, if invited. “Let me make it absolutely clear that we have entered into an alliance with Mamata in Malda, no matter what is happening elsewhere in the state. I have held detailed discussions with her on the elections but cannot divulge everything to you,” the former Bengal Congress president said in Malda.

Thanking Mamata for deciding not to field candidates against his sister and brother at Sujapur and Kaliachak, Ghani Khan said: “This is a good gesture. I will try to help Mamata in the polls in every possible manner.”

Mamata returned the compliment. “I’m really thankful to Barkatda,” she said in Calcutta. The Trinamul leader is likely to hold another round of talks with Ghani Khan in Delhi next week.

Sources said Ghani Khan may support the Trinamul nominee in Englishbazar, Krishnendu Chowdhury, against sitting Congress MLA Gautam Chakraborty, who is most likely to be renominated by PCC chief Pranab Mukherjee.

Ghani Khan said it would not be difficult for him to help Mamata so long as she did not make any unreasonable demand. “We need a leader like Mamata to oust the CPM. Only she can accomplish this difficult task,” he said.

The Congress veteran, who had unsuccessfully tried to force the high command to agree to a grand alliance with Mamata, opposed the state unit’s decision to clinch a pact with the Party for Democratic Socialism led by CPM rebels Saifuddin Chowdhury and Samir Putatunda. “If anyone can drive the CPM out of West Bengal, it is Mamata,” he said. “Who is this Saifuddin? I don’t know him and cannot concede any seat to his party.”

Lashing out at Mukherjee for allying with the breakaway party, Ghani Khan said: “Let Pranabbabu carry out talks with the PDS. We are not bothered. I will not concede a single seat to the PDS in Malda.”

Asked what if Mukherjee insisted on seat adjustment with the PDS in Malda, pat came the reply: “That is Pranabbabu’s headache, not ours. We have not sought any alliance with Saifuddin.”

A day after three Trinamul candidates refused to contest as they were unhappy with the constituencies, the rumblings today intensified with angry grassroots workers thronging Congress offices in Hooghly and North 24-Parganas with the request that they be taken back.


New Delhi, March 8: 
After two days of hectic meetings in North Block, the finance ministry has asked the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Enforcement Directorate to probe the turbulence on the stock market.

The role of leading foreign institutional investors would come under the scanner of revenue intelligence officers.

Key players in the Prime Minister’s Office and the home ministry had been kept abreast of the deliberations in North Block.

Besides senior officials of the finance ministry, representatives of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Enforcement Directorate were present at the meetings.

The revenue wing specialises in cases related to illegal financial transactions.

The Enforcement Directorate, which deals with illegal flow of foreign exchange, comes into the picture because it will keep under surveillance several leading brokers and their sources of foreign funds, if any.

It has also been asked to find out whether a film star in Mumbai and his politician friend have been sucked into the turmoil.

It is learnt that another former Union minister, too, will come under scrutiny.

Sebi, the stock markets watchdog, has prepared a list of 34 people, mainly brokers, whose role would be probed. Both the Central directorates will initially focus on these 34.

The CBI is likely to step in tomorrow — its economic offences wing is expected to play a role in the investigations. The help of the Intelligence Bureau will also be sought if the government feels that more inputs are needed.

Other senior officials of the Vajpayee administration are also keeping close tabs on the events unfolding in Mumbai.

The government is eager to avoid a re-run of 1992 when the securities scam erupted and the then P.V. Narasimha Rao government ran into allegations that it dragged its feet investigation.


New Delhi, March 8: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today justified the Centre’s decision to move the Supreme Court on the Balco issue, saying if the Opposition can “take the battle to the streets”, the government can carry it to the court.

The Supreme Court had directed the Chhattisgarh government last evening not to disrupt the flow of essential services to the plant and township at Korba.

“If we had not done it, it would have been too late. The deal has already been signed and ratified by Parliament,” Vajpayee told reporters during a get-together at his residence on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Responding to CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee’s tirade against the Centre for approaching the apex court to restrain chief minister Ajit Jogi instead of exhausting other options, Vajpayee said: “If those people (the Congress) take the battle to the streets, we, too, are ready to take it to court.”

He described the Congress’ opposition to the Balco deal as “unreasonable” and came down heavily on Jogi. “This is no way to express your differences and dissent. Look at the way they were going to cut water and power connections. They could have raised the issue in other fora.”

Asked to react to Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati’s fears that the disinvestment of public sector units was a covert way of ending job reservation for Dalits and tribals, Vajpayee said: “It is an issue all right, but it should be discussed in another forum.”

In the Lok Sabha, Chatterjee clashed with disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, asking: “Are we going to decide issues by going to court?” He accused the Vajpayee government of upsetting the federal equilibrium by dragging the Supreme Court into matters between the Centre and the state.

Shourie said the Centre had no other way to deal with the situation that was threatening to get out of hand in Chhattisgarh.


Calcutta, March 8: 
Twenty-four Test hundreds, but not one at the Eden. This peculiar piece of statistics doesn’t worry Sachin Tendulkar, but the present era Don is aware of it all the same.

“If I’m destined to get one, I will. I won’t be stopped. Equally, if I’m not to get one, even my best efforts won’t bear fruit,” a philosophical Sachin told The Telegraph this evening.

[Thirteen of Sachin’s hundreds have been authored overseas. Of the 11 at home, three have been recorded in Chennai and two in Nagpur. The other venues are: Lucknow, Mumbai, Bangalore, Mohali, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.]

Sachin, who arrived from Mumbai this morning ahead of the second Test versus Australia beginning Sunday, added: “However, I haven’t landed in Calcutta with my mind clogged with statistics.

“In fact, I won’t take guard (for the eighth time in five Tests) thinking about not having scored a hundred here. That’s not the way I approach my game; that ought not to be the approach of any batsman.”

Though Sachin does have a one-day hundred (100 not out), against Kenya in the summer of 1998, his highest Test score at the Eden remains 79 in the only Indian innings during the last Test versus Australia, three years ago.

“I have always given it my best shot, but... I’m also aware I have numerous well-wishers who are even more passionate about Indian cricket... Like I’ve said, it’s all destiny,” Sachin pointed out.

Understandably, Sachin didn’t wish to reflect on his last appearance here. A Shoaib Akhtar yorker felled him for duck in innings No.1 of the Asian Test Championship (February 1999) and, then, a freak run out ended his second innings at nine.

Though the run out didn’t trigger a riot, there actually were moments when it appeared the Eden would see real big trouble.

Today, Sachin only (reluctantly) said: “That’s history... I should be allowed to look ahead...”

Sachin, however, did talk about his second innings dismissal (for 65) in Mumbai last week, one which sealed India’s fate. Australia won by ten wickets, inside three days.


“I was devastated, yes... Till I got out, there was always the chance we could force a lead of around 180-200 and, then, have a go on the fourth-day... It’s possible Ricky Ponting wouldn’t have made the catch had I not pulled so forcefully. Because I did, the ball went skywards after hitting (Justin) Langer, giving the fielder enough time.

“Still, let me add Ponting timed his dive superbly. I would have escaped had he been a fraction of a second late. In any case, Ponting is among the best fielders.”

Though the three-Test series is ‘alive’, most have already written off Sourav Ganguly’s team. While Sachin didn’t say as much, his body-language indicated he is hurt at this fairly common sentiment.

It’s not an unexpected response from somebody so committed.

“Surely, everybody is going to give off his best... Besides that, there’s no point in my saying anything... It’s the on-field performance alone which counts,” Sachin reminded.

Initially reluctant to comment on the Steve Waugh-led Australians, Sachin did say a few words: “I’m not joining the debate on whether or not they are invincible but, yes, the present team is very well balanced... There is definitely something special, or else it couldn’t have won 16 Tests in succession.”

‘Prawns welcome’

A call from former India manager Chitrak Mitra interrupted our conversation. And, for a moment or two, the champion bat was back to being like the excited kid he was not many years ago. “Prawns are welcome... Why not, you could send them across tonight itself...” The 27-year-old Sachin’s fondness for sea food is legendary. Only his appetite for runs is bigger.

Incidentally, Sachin’s condolence-card for the Bradman family will be mailed from Calcutta. The card was bought this evening.




Maximum:32.4°C (-1)
Minimum: 18°C (-2)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 92%,
Minimum: 35%


Mainly clear sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 33°C.
Sunrise: 5.55 am
Sunset: 5.38 pm

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