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Sahara-SEBI spat turns comical

Mumbai, Sep 12 () : Securities and Exchange Board of India  (SEBI) is now clueless as to how to handle the Sahara investors numbering about 29.6 million depositors who are more than India’s equity holders.

The drama reached comical level as the Supreme Court deadline set for Monday to furnish all details of investors to SEBI neared. A Sahara employee phoned SEBI and said the trucks carrying documents are stuck in tollgate and would reach late. Late in the night the trucks reached SEBI who closed the gates at close of office hours. Sahara officials videographed the trucks outside the office as evidence. SEBI is now planning to ask Supreme Court to rescue it from this onerous task.

Sahara says more trucks will offload documents in SEBI office. If Sahara is creating trouble, then its investors are keeping the hotline ringing incessantly asking as to how to get the money back. Everyday, 500 calls arrive at the call centre.

Sahara group companies, Sahara India Real Estate Corp and Sahara Housing Investment Corp have to deposit Rs 24,000 crore with interest within 90 days.

Ex-Supreme Court judge, B N Agarwal will supervise the refund process while Prashant Saran,the full time member will head SEBI cell set up for this.

Never before has so many investors would get refunds and SEBI plans to start an exercise called ‘know your customer’ and staff are being given classes on the SC judgment to answer queries in 14 languages.

When banks wound up pygmy depositors scheme wherein savings were collected on a daily basis, the Sahara group stepped in for those who earn on a daily basis. Right from doctors to labourers had doorstep collections from Sahara companies.

There was not a single complaint of default and an army of several thousands worked on a commission basis. Supreme Court was not convinced that these deposits were genuine and said that it violated SEBI rules. Sahara argued that it was not a listed company but SEBI pointed out that OCD (debentures) come under its purview and not more than 50 deposits can be canvassed. Now, the government is looking at the Sahara credit society where it feels these refunds will be parked.