Friday, June 12, 2015

Of the Intelligence Bureau, HDFC and Bond Trading

The last month has broken my resolve to spend the rest of my life in India.

With my 70th birthday due in November, I must face the fact that it is futile to hope for an end to the incomprehensible oppressions some element of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has directed at me over the last five years. In fact, it is getting worse and more blatant.

In the new apartment I moved to after the asthma episode, my usually robust health feels under constant insidious assault. Watching television with my feet up on the tea table, I see an unexpected drama, the bone of my left toe rising as if in response to blunt trauma. It hurts badly for a week, dully still; all my joints have unfamiliar aches; strange bells ring in m y ears. (Anyone considering reforms of the IB should ensure multi-key/off-site authorization for the use of aggressive technologies like weaponized ultrasound and directed radiation.)

The bulging toe removes any remaining doubts. Those who mean me ill are beyond reason, law and conscience. I must move.

As if to reinforce my determination, a small news item in The Indian Express tells of a new book by one of the men arrested and held for some seven years because the IB said they were terrorists. The trial resulted in all charges being dropped. The book tells of torture, as bad as anything you read about in Iraq under Anglo-American occupation. The torturers named in the book are all walking around free; they claim to know nothing of the allegations.

None of the half dozen other newspapers I read regularly has even a small story on the book.

In that scale of atrocity it is futile to hope that my pitiful blog posts about my small miseries will draw redress or bring any change.

Time to go, I tell myself and set about getting my finances together for the move. There’s not much to do, just sell three blocks of tax free government bonds and unfreeze another two of fixed deposits.

The bonds are in “demat” form, sold to me by HDFC Securities with the strong assurance that they can be readily sold online. The online trading platform informs me the bonds are selling at a nice premium but when I press the “Sell” button nothing happens.

So I head over to the HDFC Securities office behind Caculo Mall, a short bicycle ride away. There an official checks my account and says the bonds can be sold and puts me in touch by phone with a trader; he tells me it will take two days to sell them.


The bonds have to be “moved” to the branch.

It turns out later he said they had to be “mapped” to the branch, as meaningless a term to me as “moved,” for “demat” bonds exist only in cyberspace.

“I will call you,” he says. Two days later, not hearing from him I initiate the call.

It turns out that in the two days he spent “mapping” my bonds, their value has slid dramatically. Why? The equity markets have dropped over 600 points. That, he says, has affected the bond prices.

Some odd things happen along the way to getting my money.

It is the trader himself who calls to confirm the trades.

I get a text message: “As per SEBI norms NSE will start sending SMS/Email alert to you about transactions in your account. If SMS is wrongly sent to you reply by typing Y to 561614.”

The message is ostensibly from NSE, the National Stock Exchange.

I get not a single communication from NSE or any other authority. The HDFC trader/self confirmer is the only one I hear from.

As my phone informs me regularly that “active call divert” is in effect, it is possible any NSE message was blocked or went to the people manipulating my bond trades. Any NSE email alerts probably suffered the same fate.

I put down most of this in a letter to the HDFC branch manager and fill her in on the IB's dislike of contrarian journalists. She promises to reply in writing and forwards my letter to HDFC Securities to get their input.

The man from HDFC Securities calls me and says the two day delay to “map” the bonds is normal because I had bought them from the branch.

I tell him they were bought from his own agent. “Ah, it is normal to have the delay because it was your first trade,” he says. He does not mention the odd trader/confirmer arrangement or the peculiar SMS from the NSE.

Yesterday, at the branch manager’s office I ask about the promised written response to my complaint. “Oh I but I thought it was resolved,” she says, referring to my conversation with the HDFC Securities man. I say nothing was resolved; we merely stated our different positions.

While all this is happening, I am engaged in a parallel effort to register my change of address with the bank. The relationship manager asks for a recent electricity bill, a copy of the lease, and my ID proof. She asks specifically about my PAN card.

“I’ve lost my PAN card,” I say.

She says the lease and utility bill of the landlord should do. I take them in and everything seems to be in order, but then it turns out it is not. The flat is new, and the electricity bill is still in the name of the builder. She asks again for my ID proof and this time I have my passport with me.

“I also found a copy of my PAN card,” I say, giving her a printout from a scan I had on my computer. For some reason, she takes that and not my passport.

By way of further excitement I get a call in the evening from the clerk at the foreign exchange counter who was supposed to have sent my money to the UN Federal Credit Union in NY.

She cannot put it through because the UNFCU does not have a SWIFT code, only an ABA routing number.

Seems odd, for I have sent funds into my account from different countries and that has never been a problem. I am to go to the bank again this morning to try and resolve the matter.

Will keep posting as matters develop, for I think there is going to be many a slip between now and when I board the plane for New York.

In fact as I write this, my Samsung laptop has begun to exhibit the keyboasrd problems that have made my Sony Viao all but unusable. Perhaps I will have to do the rest of my writing about this process from an IB monitored Cyber Café.

How like Eastern Europe in the Cold War India has become!

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