On 20 June, 2016, Sahara India head Subrata Roy will wrap up his nationwide tour with a meeting in Jaipur, highlighting his immediate priority: pushing employees to seek investments from people in cooperative society.
In these meetings, held across India to install confidence in his beleaguered staff, Roy has driven a single line diktat: I am back, you too get back to work.
The cooperative society plan of Sahara India is now the only one Roy has on plate. Though there have been teething issues as to whether a cooperative can offer deals in more than one state. But that issues still remains unresolved. As a result, cooperative companies offer their products across multiple states.
There were demands from within Sahara to push the insurance business - the company has a few products on offer - but Roy, claim company insiders, has shown larger interest towards his cooperative plans. "The company has not driven its insurance products vigorously, many policies stand withdrawn. There has been some teething issues with the regulator, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDA) over some of the Sahara products," claim Sahara insiders.
Roy was to look afresh with new hopes. He wants to start earning.
The Sahara top man, for a little over two weeks, has been travelling in his renovated private jet across India to share his “vision statement (read we need to earn to remain in business)”, portions of which were earlier conveyed from Tihar Jail through his signature notes and a tome. He was lodged in Delhi’s maximum security prison for a little over two years.
Once out, Roy is back in the political circuit but considerably lowered his once flashy profile of meeting politicians and ministers from all parties. He reportedly backed the Rajya Sabha candidature of former Congress minister Kapil Sibal - also his Man Friday in the Supreme Court - and has spent considerable time with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Also backing him was Amar Singh, the once discarded politician who managed to bounce back in mainline politics with a SP Rajya Sabha ticket.
Like his political meetings, Roy is playing well below the radar. His friends have told him not to be flashy like before. Roy himself has told visitors who met his at his palatial Sahara City that he is leading a spartan lifestyle ever since he came out of the prison. Very few visitors greeted him on his birthday on 10 June, 2016, unlike previous occasions when the day was celebrated across India and the world (wherever Sahara had offices) with tremendous fanfare.
On his itinerary were cities like Delhi, Patna, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, where Sahara India employees put up huge hoardings near airport and railway stations to herald the return of Roy, fondly called Saharashri by his colleagues.
Sahara employees called for the meetings were granted entry through specially coded cards, their handsets locked by jammers during the three hour plus two way conversations.
Roy told his staffers not to hope for miracles and that the road ahead is tough and full of challenges. “Your company, which took care of you for so many years, is going through trouble. Work hard to regain lost glory,” said Roy.
Many responded with Greek-style across-the-chest Sahara pranam, a specialised way of greeting fashioned by Roy. Those who did not believed the Big Boss’s new mission, stayed away from the meeting. Among them were a number of employees of Sahara’s media business in Noida city close to Delhi. They resented against meeting Roy, arguing they first need their salaries to believe in Roy’s new dream.
Many were asked to leave and argue their case in the courts. Sahara insiders claim there has been a significant drop in the number of employees and agents associated with the company because of unpaid salaries and commissions. Some also left after obtaining VRS.
But there were occasions where local authorities informed Roy that his presence could cause trouble. In an indoor stadium in Cuttack, where Roy was to meet his employees and agents, authorities imposed restrictions of Section 144 of the CrPC and pushed everyone out of the venue. Cuttack Police Commissioner YB Khurana was quoted by local newspapers as saying the move followed intelligence inputs that people affected by chit fund scams could have created trouble, leading to law and order problem. Roy eventually addressed staffers in Bhubaneswar to avoid any untoward incident.
Roy was sent to Tihar Jail in March 2014 for failing to refund money collected from depositors in schemes deemed illegal by Sebi.
The market regulator, meanwhile, will e-auction five properties each on 4 and 7 July at a reserve price of nearly Rs 1,200 crore. Thereafter, Sebi will sell another 16 land parcels of Sahara through e-auction on 13 and 15 July at a reserve price of about Rs 1,900 crore. The auctions will take the total fund raising to a little over Rs 3,000 crore. Thereafter, HDFC Realty has been asked to auction a total of 31 land parcels at Rs 2,400 crore, while SBI Cap has been tasked to auction another 30 land properties with an estimated market value of about Rs 4,100 crore.
These residential, agricultural and non-agricultural properties are located in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
In the din of Sebi's mad rush to raise cash, a crucial point is lost. Sebi’s Sahara Refund Account has swelled to Rs 11,727 crore with interest, but it has been able to refund just about Rs 55 crore so far to the investors.
Will someone ask the market regulator why it failed to locate the investors?