Story of a ‘godman’ exercising remote control over NSE through its erstwhile CEO
Hari Hara Mishra | February 22, 2022
On February 11, 2022, a 190-page SEBI final order was issued in relation to governance issues at India’s largest stock exchange, National Stock Exchange (NSE), particularly during the tenure of and relating to the conduct of the former MD & CEO Chitra Ramkrishna, who held the topmost office in the NSE from April 2013 to December 2016. The findings of SEBI relate to the functioning of the erstwhile Board, Nomination and Remuneration Committee, failure of compliance functions in NSE etc. The media has reported in detail the lapses in governance standards and sharing of confidential sensitive information pertaining to NSE with unauthorized persons. Now the matter has been handed over to enforcement authorities for further investigations.
The story is not only about corporate governance or rather the lack of it. It is also about how gullible can individuals at the top be. How, even in this 21st century ‘godmen’ hold sway over rational thought processes of those at the helm of affairs in systemically important organizations like the NSE. How facts and fictions get intertwined. How real and surreal get merged and illusions are accepted as gospel truth.
Amidst all these corporate lapses runs the story of an unidentified Himalayan Yogi who remote controlled Chitra Ramkrishna. Many parts of the SEBI order which dwell upon this mysterious Siddha Purusha make a fascinating reading like straight from a film script in terms of ingenuity, thrills, and exotic locations and activities referred. The story revolves around a Siddha Purusha, a Yogi who may be dwelling in the Himalayan region. His email ID reportedly is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Siddha Purusha had a steadfast loyal devotee in Chitra Ramkrishna. The erstwhile MD & CEO shared all details of NSE business plan, agenda of board meetings, performance appraisals of the employees with this reclusive guru and sought his directions from time to time.
During investigations, even a psychology report was obtained from experts on the influence of the guru over the former MD & CEO. In her response to SEBI show-cause notice, she states that the reclusive person was a “Siddha Purusha who did not have physical persona and could materialize at will." What more bizarre claim you can expect?
However, the man who did not reportedly have physical persona writes email on February 17, 2015, to her: "...p.s, keep bags ready I am planning a travel to Seychelles next month, will try if you can come with me before Kanchan goes to London with Kaanchana and Barghava and you to New Zealand with two children. HK is a preferred transit or Singapore for onward journey. In case you need help pi let me know Seshu will do the needful. If you know swimming, then we could enjoy a sea bath in Seychelles and rest in the beach. I am asking my tour operator to connect with Kanchan for all of our tickets."
The next day there is another mail from the unidentified person: "Today you are looking Awesome. You must learn different ways to platt your hair which will make your looks interesting and appealing. Just a free advice, I know you will grab this. Keep March mid a little free."
The Himalayan Yogi had tremendous influence over the NSE as evidenced from the mails from the mystic to the then MD & CEO, on promotions in HR, reporting structure, placements etc. It seems the organisation was being controlled from some Himalayan location by some unidentified person. One glaring example is manifest in the appointment of one Mr. Anand Subramanian as “chief strategic advisor” in 2013, later re-designated “group operating officer and advisor to MD & CEO” in April 2015. Anand who reportedly was drawing Rs 15 lakh per annum, in a leasing and hiring service of a container manufacturing company and with no exposure to capital markets, gets recruited with over 10x salary, at Rs1.68 crore per annum, in a critical role in the NSE, and whose salary went on rising periodically to a whopping Rs 4.21 crore in next three years.
Now that the whole case has been handed over to enforcement agencies for detailed investigation, hopefully, they can find out who this mysterious Siddha Purusha is and how he could exercise supreme control over the erstwhile MD and CEO of NSE. Once all questions are answered, it will be having a script befitting a great blockbuster that we may have witnessed in the financial world in recent times.
Mishra is a policy analyst and columnist.
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