What lies be­neath

Shan­tanu Guha Ray’s new book walks the ra­zor’s edge as it digs up dirt on a ‘cor­po­rate chakravyuh’

Mid Day - - FEATURE - KUSUMITA DAS kusumita.das@mid-day.com

EVEN as the name Jig­nesh Shah con­tin­ues to re­main tainted with the NSEL (Na­tional Spot Ex­change Ltd) scam of 2013, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist-turned-au­thor Shan­tanu Guha Ray’s new book, The Tar­get, takes on the task of telling the un­told side of it all. The premise of the book, as the au­thor can­didly states, is “the fact that Jig­nesh Shah was griev­ously wronged”. Shah, the then chair­man of Fi­nan­cial Tech­nolo­gies In­dia Ltd (FTIL), NSEL’s par­ent com­pany, was jailed for hav­ing de­faulted nearly 13,000 so-called in­vestors of a to­tal sum of R5,600 crore. While the charges against him are yet to be proven in court, Ray, in his book has at­tempted to probe the mo­tives of those who, ac­cord­ing to him, drove Shah out of the ex­change busi­ness.

The tagline un­der the ti­tle of the book reads, “The dec­i­ma­tion of Jig­nesh Shah’s global em­pire. How he broke the mar­ket mo­nop­oly and the price he paid”. It ap­pears, though, that Shah wasn’t the only one to have paid the price. Ray had to face a num­ber of road­blocks, in get­ting the book pub­lished. “The pub­lisher I was in talks with had ini­tially agreed to, but de­vel­oped cold feet at the last minute. Mine was also a lead­ing pub­lish­ing house, whose lawyers ad­vised them against pub­lish­ing the book, as they found it ac­cusatory. I told them I have ev­i­dence to back my claims, but they were not con­vinced. They did not want to be in a sit­u­a­tion where they would have to fight a very ex­pen­sive le­gal bat­tle.” So, Ray went ahead and self-pub­lished the book. He, how­ever, landed on Shah’s story “by fluke”. The jour­nal­ist had worked on a cover story for a pub­li­ca­tion ti­tled In­dia Le­gal, whose ed­i­tor asked him to probe Shah’s case. “He said that a sig­nif­i­cant sec­tion of the me­dia was paint­ing him as vil­lain. As jour­nal­ists, our job is to peel the onion.”

When Ray came to Mumbai, he had no luck meet­ing Shah. But, dur­ing his re­search, he spoke to peo­ple from Shah’s of­fice and the jail of­fi­cials where he was im­pris­oned. Ray minces no words in his book as he goes on to con­nect the dots and point fin­gers at the then fi­nance min­istry of the UPA gov­ern­ment that, he al­leges, con­spired Shah’s down­fall. “That’s why I have called the book The Tar­get. I be­lieve he was made the tar­get of a cor­po­rate chakravyuh, just like Ayn Rand’s John Galt — the pro­tag­o­nist of At­las Shrugged — who dared to chal­lenge the es­tab­lish­ment,” says Ray. The au­thor is aware of the niche ap­peal of the book, con­sid­er­ing the story is set against the back­drop of the mar­kets. “It is a heavy-duty sub­ject, but I have tried to hu­man­ise the story as much as I could.”

Ray, who has pre­vi­ously au­thored two books set in the crick­et­ing world — Mahi: The Story of In­dia’s Most Suc­cess­ful Cap­tain, and Fixed! Cash And Cor­rup­tion in Cricket — says that he has a knack for scratch­ing un­der the sur­face. “I see no point in pen­ning an­tholo­gies. My next is about In­dia’s nine un­solved mur­der cases and is ti­tled Found Dead. As an au­thor, I use the same tech­nique and meth­ods as that of a jour­nal­ist. In the end, it’s all about telling a good story.”

‘I be­lieve he [Jig­nesh Shah] was made the tar­get of a cor­po­rate chakravyuh, just like Ayn Rand’s John Galt of At­las Shrugged’

Shan­tanu Guha Ray has ac­cused the fi­nance min­istry of the UPA gov­ern­ment for con­spir­ing Jig­nesh Shah’s down­fall

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