More on the asymmetry that rules India’s business insolvency process

Since October last year, Scroll has been (intermittently) reporting on how India’s insolvency proceedings are coming along. Cumulatively, these reports flag a couple of peculiar patterns. A lot of companies are up for sale — In a country with 7500 companies with a topline over Rs 250 crore, 2511 companies are slated for insolvency proceedings. […]

The curious case of Russian oil deals that benefited Essar, hurt ONGC

When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Delhi in December 2014, his camaraderie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely noted. What received less attention were the curiously asymmetric deals that an oil company controlled by the Russian government went on to sign with Indian companies over the next two years. First, between September 2015 and […]

India’s curious inflexibility in trying to fix its bad loan crisis is leading to unforeseen problems

India’s crackdown on companies that have defaulted on loan repayments is reshaping the country’s economy in fundamental ways. As the first three articles in this series detailed, competitive advantage is being tilted towards larger firms because only a handful of buyers is picking up most of the insolvent firms on sale. Between the resulting consolidation […]

India’s proceedings to recover bad debt are reshaping Chhattisgarh’s economy – and politics too

A baton is changing hands in Chhattisgarh. Big companies are entering the state’s steel and power sector, using India’s ongoing insolvency proceedings to buy distressed firms. At the same time, Chhattisgarh’s local steel makers, several of whom entered the power sector in the mid-2000s, are looking beyond these two sectors. Part Three of our series […]

As India tackles its bad loans problem, large local groups and global funds are gaining advantage

By March, seven companies had evinced interest in buying Lanco Infratech. The company began life in 1986 as a construction contractor, but grew into a power and infrastructure behemoth after liberalisation. Much of this growth was funded by bank loans. In June 2017, after missing its loan repayments, the company found itself on the Reserve […]

India’s bid to fix bad loan crisis is reshaping its corporate sector – and creating new challenges

After a long break, I finally — and rather sulkily — resumed work in the middle of August. Out today, the first of my trademark long-winded and tremendously depressing series: on how India’s business insolvency cases are coming along. The series — it is a four-parter — essentially argues that India needs to pay far […]

How palm oil from Malaysia fired the Patel agitation in Gujarat

Dhirubhai is in dire straits. He can no longer recover his investments on the groundnuts he grows on three acres of land along the Junagadh-Verawal road in Gujarat. In a good year, he grows 100 kilos of groundnuts – or peanuts – for every Rs 4,000 he invests. The minimum support price – or the […]

Why does the IAS Association defend HC Gupta but not Ashok Khemka?

Our second piece on this ghastly caterwauling over ex-coal secy HC Gupta. The fervent defence of former Coal Secretary HC Gupta seems to be taking India into dangerous waters. India’s Prevention Of Corruption Act, 1988 should be amended, wrote Partha Sen Sharma, a serving Indian Administrative Service officer in The Times Of India on Tuesday, […]

What the people defending former coal secretary HC Gupta are not telling you

Last week, former Coal Secretary HC Gupta surprised everyone in the Central Bureau of Investigation Court. He intended to “face trial from inside the jail” and withdraw the personal bond he had submitted in order to obtain bail, he told Special Judge Bharat Parashar. Gupta is an accused in several coal block allocation cases relating […]

Questions the CBI should answer before closing its probe in the Jindal coal block case

Even under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s inquiries into the captive coalblock allocation scam continue to be half-hearted. In the latest instance, as the Indian Express reported on April 2, India’s apex investigating agency has closed its probe into how former Congress Member of Parliament Naveen Jindal’s Jindal […]

Why hydel-power companies in Arunachal Pradesh want NHPC to take over their projects (and why it won’t)

In a delicious twist of fate, a cluster of private companies that rushed headlong into Arunachal in the late 2000s to build hydel power projects are now, in a turnaround, asking the public sector National Hydel Power Corporation to take over their projects. The fascinating afterlife of Arunachal Pradesh’s hydel scam.

Is a monopoly taking shape in India’s port sector?

The mood in the Odisha port town of Paradip is turning grey. Ever since the Adani group bought the neighbouring port of Dhamra last May, people and companies dependent on the port are worried Paradip is being weakened to favour Dhamra. “I handle 70% of the cargo at Paradip. I have 1,000 employees,” said a […]

why odisha’s empty engineering colleges hurt students and not their owners

As colleges go, Krutika Institute of Technical Education is certainly educative. Located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, this private engineering college works out of a half-built red and cream building with iron rebars bristling from its top. The lobby stands unfinished with its girders exposed. Similarly unfinished, the water fountain in front is no more […]

Will India’s recent coal block auctions actually burden banks and skew the fuel market?

The first part of Scroll’s analysis of the coal block auctions took a close look at the auctions for the steel, cement and aluminium sectors. It found an extremely wide divergence in the winning bids. Some blocks went for twice the notified price of coal, or the price at which the bulk of India’s coal is […]

Why the CBI cannot claim much glory for filing a chargesheet against Naveen Jindal

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday filed a chargesheet against industrialist Naveen Jindal and 14 others in the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block allocation matter. The matter will come up for hearing in the CBI court on Thursday. Apart from Jindal, among those named in the chargesheet are former Minister of State (Coal) Dasari Narayana […]

Coalgate. Part Two.

Last week, the NDA’s Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014, was greeted rapturously. Comforting a country facing coal shortages, it laid out a road map for ensuring coal supplies in the wake of the Supreme Court’s order last month cancelling captive coal-block allocations. But will the ordinance fix the mess left behind by the previous […]

what the affidavits submitted by the 40 operational coal block owners tell us…

Earlier this month, companies with operating captive coal blocks submitted affidavits in the Supreme Court. Attempting to ensure their blocks, 40 in all, are not deallocated along with those where mining has not started, these affidavits listed investments made, the quantum of coal produced and the production from the End Use Plant (EUP) paired with […]

and the supreme court comes in with an excellent verdict

yesterday, the SC ruled that all coal block allocations, from 1993 onwards, were illegal. and i, little rajshekhar, wrote this edit. The Supreme Court’s ‘Coalgate’ verdict needs to be welcomed. It gives India a rare second chance to fix terrible decisions made by our politicians. The coal allocations scandal is not an outrage merely because […]

on the CBI’s decision to start filing closure reports…

in the past few days, india’s central bureau of investigation (CBI), one of the country’s apex investigating bodies, has closed some of the FIRs it had registered while peering into the captive coalblock allocations. the reason it cited was ‘insufficient evidence’. more recently, unnamed CBI officials have been giving interviews saying that there is no […]

the expert non-appraisal committee

Monday’s order by the Gujarat High Court directing 12 units in the Mundra SEZ of the Adani Group to temporarily stop operations till the SEZ receives an environmental clearance is yet another indictment of the environment and forest ministry. The order, besides hauling up the Adani Group for allotting land to companies even before obtaining […]

on the investment in captive coal blocks

Last week, defending the Centre in its coal-block allocations, Goolam Vahanvati, the government’s top law officer, told the Supreme Court that companies had invested Rs 2,00,000 crore in their captive blocks. Some industry players have been citing this figure as the financial cost of a complete cancellation of licences. But ET calculations on the estimated […]

on how india’s attempts to fix the coalgate mess are faring

in the days after the cbi’s 14th FIR, delhi’s political circles crackled with ignorant speculation. the FIR was the congress’ way of warning industry against supporting narendra modi, the BJP’s prime minister aspirant; the FIR had been filed to discredit pc parakh, the former coal secretary; a rival business group was trying to scupper industrialist […]

why onion prices will singe you again and again

This January, the competition regulator sent an independent report to the ministry of agriculture on why onion prices spiked abruptly in 2010, a pattern that is playing out again today, with prices ruling at Rs 60-80 a kg for the last two months. This 86-page report, one of the clearest descriptions of how India’s agricultural […]

the strange ways of kandla port

Last week, when Mundra overtook Kandla in the first quarter of 2013-14 to become the country’s largest port by tonnage handled, it was as much the result of the Adani Group taking decisions with purpose and strategic intent as the Kandla management demonstrating an inexplicable streak of indecision and inaction. In Gandhidham, the town that […]

the strange case of hpdcapl

Arunachal Pradesh, the epicentre of hydel power in India, has decided to reverse its contentious decision in 2009 to give 49% equity in its hydro-power corporation to the Naveen Jindal Group. The decision, taken last month, came after a backlash from government departments and other companies having hydel projects in the state against the joint […]

on arunachal’s egregious hydel plans

between december and now, i worked on a set of stories about the hydel projects coming up in arunachal pradesh. between 2006-09, this state in north-eastern india signed 130 MoUs with about 55 companies allocating them places where they could build dams. several things about these MoUs were surprising. these MoUs translated into 130 dams […]

coal to liquid projects. #coalgate

In the report it submitted last week, the parliamentary standing committee on coal observed that the inter-ministerial group (IMG) whose recommendations formed the basis of allotment of two large coal blocks to private players for conversion to oil “has not performed its duty honestly”. While the report does not elaborate on the IMG’s alleged failings, […]

a seemingly innocuous transaction

A company owned by former and current directors of the Naveen Jindal Group, and then by Naveen Jindal himself, gave an unsecured loan of Rs 2.25 crore in 2008 to a nondescript trading company, which used it to buy new shares on extremely generous terms of a company owned by Dasari Narayana Rao, one of […]

the five habits of successful coal block allottees (that manage to pip more eligible companies to coal blocks)

today’s ET carried a story which tries to answer one of the many puzzling questions thrown up by the coal scam — how did small, obscure companies like Jas Infrastructure or Vini Steel & Power bag a coal block where larger, more established ones failed? a part of the answer lies in, yes, the screening […]

On why the institutional action being taken to clean up coal is necessary but not sufficient

On Tuesday, ET carried a small update on how the institutional response to coal-gate was shaping up. That article ended by concluding it will take more than these responses to clean up the suppurating mess in the indian coal sector. A story by my brilliant friend/colleague Avinash Celestine and me in today’s ET Magazine elaborates […]

Coal and Corruption. Part Two. Enter, Political Funding

following from the previous story, this one too says that corruption in coal goes far beyond the allocation of captive coal blocks. and that one of the larger forces driving corruption in this sector is the opaque manner in which our political parties are funded. It was a roundtable on ‘campaign finance reforms in India’, […]

Understanding India’s coal shortage: Captive blocks

something doesn’t add up here. over the last few months, the country has been awash in news reports about the sudden coal shortage being faced by power projects and others across india. these assertions are somewhat puzzling. for instance, india needs 731 million tons of coal every year. however, the total coal allocated to companies […]

is the environment ministry responsible for the shortfall in coal production?

a red letter day. i had two stories in the paper today. the first explored a rather curious contradiction. all this time, we have been hearing that the environment ministry has been diluting environment and forest clearance processes and clearing every project that hoves into sight. at the same time, there is this insistence by […]