Reliance in the news for all the wrong reasons

Vol 5, PW 5 (25 Apr 01) People & Policy

Not often does India's press zero in on (alleged) wrongdoing by Reliance.

Most journalists here openly admit they are too scared to publish anything critical and it shows in the sanitised candyfloss that regularly passes for 'News' about the company in Indian newspapers. Surprising therefore that the press here - particularly the Asian Age - this month came down on Reliance like a proverbial ton of bricks! It began on 17th April with a press conference in Delhi by Rashid Alvi, a parliamentary MP.

Alvi produced a mountain of documents, which allegedly prove that in the early 1990s Reliance set up 251 bogus investment companies to 'ramp' (manipulate) its share price and siphon off money for the personal use of the Ambani family that controls the company. Reliance has rubbished Alvi's claims and accuses "failed and unsuccessful corporate rivals" of spreading a "continuous campaign of disinformation, falsehood and untruth." Did Alvi hit a raw nerve Clearly yes, but one can't deny Reliance's claim that his campaign is politically motivated.

He belongs to the Bahujan Samaj Party, a fierce opponent of the Reliance-friendly Samajwadi Party. How will Reliance contest the black and white detail of Alvi's allegations Well soon find out.

On 19th April the Asian Age published the full list of Reliance's 251 companies, with some serious allegations to boot. India's finance ministry - prompted by the Securities & Exchange Board of India - now promises to investigate.