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GSFC's Rs 250 crore 'scam': Investment in Canadian firm with no returns. Who cares?

By Rajiv Shah/ A top Gujarat government insider phoned me up the other day, reminding me of a story we carried in Counterview early this year regarding how a Gujarat government public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Fertilisers and Chemicals (GSFC), “transferred” Rs 250 crore to a Canadian firm Karnalyte for a potash mining project in Canada, but the project never took off, hence whole money has “gone waste.”
Written by by AK Luke, a retired IAS bureaucrat and a former MD of GSFC, referring to my article, this insider phoned me up to inform me that the Counterview story was copy-pasted in a little-known site called Kractivism. On looking up, I found, indeed, Luke’s story had been copy-pasted, but the site, run by a rights activist, did not have the courtesy to acknowledge the original source.
Be that as it may, the state insider wondered why such a big news, involving Rs 250 crore “scam” had skipped top newspapers in Gujarat, forget about India. He said, normally, when such “exposures” happen, opposition would pounce on them and make a big issue against those in power – in the present case it is the ruling BJP.
I told him about the state of affairs with Congress in Gujarat, recalling a story that I did in 2007 for the Times of India. I had quoted from a book called “Karmayog”, authored by Modi – it was actually a collection of his speeches before the state bureaucrats attending Chintan Shibirs (Study Circles, loosely). In this book Modi had said that manual scavengers as true karmayogis “experienced” spirituality while doing the dirty work in gutters.
Soon after the story was published, I was told, its translation appeared and there was a demonstration in Tamil Nadu, where Modi’s effigy was burned. Taking the cue, about 5,000 printed copies of the book – which had not been released yet – were withdrawn. Since polls were around, I asked Congress leaders whether they would like to make this an issue against BJP.
However, they didn’t care, hence I forgot about it. A couple of years later, Pravin Rashtrapal, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat and a Dalit leader, raised the issue in Parliament, citing my story. It was at this point that the Congress leaders, ranging from Ahmed Patel and Ranjit Surjewala, woke up and approached me to have the book – only to be told that I had returned it back to the person in the chief minster’s office who had given it to me.
I told all this to this to the state insider only to apprise him of how very indifferent the opposition Congress in Gujarat has been issues. I added, surely, Rs 250 crore “scam” would also not interest Congress, but this insider wasn't convinced: “Well, as for manual scavengers, such is the mindset, these leaders would think this is their job, hence it does not become a political issue. But they would surely be interested in any scam.”
Meanwhile, I wondered how was it that Rs 250 was “invested” in the Canadian firm, but there was no return. The insider offered to me this reply: “GSFC, like some other PSUs, is a listed company, so politicians play such tricks that the share prices of the PSU go up, and they are able to earn huge amount.”
This is what he suspected what would have happened: “Before the Rs 250 crore investment was made, I am sure, they would have bought handsome amount of shares. Once the investment was made, the share prices of GSFC zoomed. This made them sell off their shares at a very good price. This is what I call ‘pump and bump’ method adopted by investors.”

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