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Scam 1992: Story of the Big Bull of Share Market

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Big Bull of Share Market

ABRAR UL MUSTAFA

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Young Kashmiri banker wins‘Scam 1992’ is the story of the infamous Harshad Mehta stock market gamble. It is based on a book written by Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu. Apart from its strong production, the web series has been able to explain what exactly happened back then. It has been able to pass on the complicated messages in a discernible expression. On one hand, it explains what a Stock Market is and on the other hand, it demonstrates how it works. Some sophisticated financial jargons have been simplified. Any common man can understand the basics of Stock Market by watching the series. Towards the end, as the story progresses, Scam 1992 gives us some money as well as some moral lessons. It shows how being over-ambitious lures one towards short-cuts. It illustrates how making money by hook or crook eventually lands one in trouble. At the same time, the series shows how each element of our system is inter-connected for the worse.

The show starts with an overture to the Stock Market. Here, the director has demonstrated the basics of share marketing. It has been explained how the sale and purchase of a share of a particular company are traded. And, in turn, how the company’s image and performance determine the price and demand of its shares.

The series has been successful in the thoughtful articulation of the ‘market sentiment’.

As the main character Harshad Mehta explains how the recipe of share market is prepared: First of all, it is the news of various companies and from different reliable references that matter. Technically, we call it Insider Trading—leakage of the secrets of companies. An upswing of risk makes the stew spicy. The higher the risk, the higher the returns. Then comes the fundamental ingredient—the sentiment. How people feel about a certain stock or the prevailing business habitat. What people feel, they do and that determines the performance. The last ingredient is luck. All these building blocks make up Share Market. The players play with these components to twirl the tang as per their taste.

As the tale progresses, Harshad Shantilal Mehta is shown concentrating on a single stock or company. He holds the shares to gain maximum probable profit out of it when sold. This is an important lesson. As Warren Buffet, the notable investor, says, “Do not keep all eggs in one basket.” It follows the indistinguishable logic that one follows while securing money in a crowded bus where pickpockets roam about. A man keeps his money distributed in multiple pockets. Even if a pickpocket robs him of one pocket, he still has money in other pockets. This is called the diversification of the risk. Mehta focussed on a single company at one time. This costed him dearly. He was ‘bullish’.

In Stock Market, a bull is the aggressive one. A bull is a speculator who purchases a holding in a stock with a view that it would bounce in near future. The bull intends to hold, wait, sell and make a profit when the value has bounced. On the other hand, there are ‘Bears’. A bear believes in the sentiment there is a downfall in the offing. While a bull believes to gain from the rise of the market, a bear expects to gain from the fall of the market. Mehta was called the ’Big Bull’. Some called him the ’Bachan’ of the market. He believed in taking risks, though not gauged and grasped.

Mehta, being a bull, went on to hold some stocks hoping to see them bouncing around. Initially, they did. But, as they say, that ‘a Share Market is a Shock Market’, soon the stocks tumbled. Mehta faced enormous losings. He was not left with the capability to settle his dues. To save himself from bankruptcy and failure to pay the dues, he went from pillar to post to arrange accounts. During the course, he adopted many unethical means. The heftiest of them was diverting cash from the Money market to Share market. The money market is the buying and selling of government securities. Here, big players like banks are involved. Government securities are instruments backed by security from the government. Mehta managed to bend around the rules of the Money Market. He worked hand in glove with some officers. Harshad was able to make money from the sale of government securities without actually transferring them to the buyer. He even did not possess these securities. The deletion of Bank Receipt (BR) from the stream of Money Market business, introduced by him, and the subsequent absence of the same in Subsidiary General Ledger (SGL), gave way to a majuscule bunco that we know today. Without proper vouchers and record, Mehta was able to manipulate the money at other places like the Share Market. He diverted the money amassed from illegitimate and unethical means for his ends in the Share Market. And this was the basis of the scam as gigantic as Rs 5,000 crores. The series goes on to show the role of the Fourth Estate, i.e, the press. Suchita Dalal of The Times of India exposes this unethical practice of diverting public money by the rich investors. Eventually, Harshad Mehta saga is exposed. He faces the music. Mehta died a sad death in custody.

Apart from its successful explanation of the complex Share Market, the web series gives a message. It headlines how in our system, even the top chair revolves on the instructions of the corrupt. Mehta would not have been able to seal the deals without the support of the various officers and politicians. This has been one of the biggest obstacles in the way forward towards a corruption-free business environment and consequently a hurdle in the economic prosperity of the developing nations. Our economies are crippled by the corrupt.

Postscript

Scam 1992, a Sony Liv series, is set in the early 90s. Remember that these were the times when the Indian economy underwent a milestone change. Indian economy went from a closed one to an open economy. India opened its doors to global business. This was the time when India unveiled the New Economic Policy on July 24, 1991. It adopted the LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation) model. The then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, along with the then Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, initiated the process. Share Market galloped during those times. But, it took more than three decades for the Indian Stock Exchanges to reach those figures that were believed to be only a decade away since 1991. Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensitivity Index (Sensex), for example, is still struggling to cross 50,000 mark. Delhi’s National Stock Exchange is just surviving. Its index, the NIFTY, is below 15000 mark. This presents a dismal picture. To prosper, the first and the foremost need is to set the system right. Unless and until we do not get rid of those jackals at the helm of the affairs, we would continue to witness scams like this.

The author is an MBA, NET, IBPS. He works in the Middle Management of a reputed PSU Bank. The views are personal

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