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Mini Europe by the Hooghly

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Kolkata, Sep 12 (IANSlife) Across the River Hooghly – a tributary of the River Ganges – one can still see signs of various European countries that had created their own unique areas, to facilitate trade through Calcuttas Port. For those not too familiar with Bengals early history, a visit to the area is a real treat as one can see signs of the settlements of various European countries, along the banks of the Hooghly River.

The countries that settled here, creating their own spaces were Denmark, France, Holland and Portugal. As one drives along the riverside road, it is fascinating to see the structures that have survived over the years. The area occupied by the European settlement is the present Hooghly District. Fortunately these countries have begun to appreciate the historical value of these old ruins. Denmark has recently restored a Tavern at Serampore and tourists now have a splendid place for a meal.

It was almost a century after the Portuguese adventurer Vasco da Gama landed on the western coast of India in 1498, that other European countries realized that they were losing out on trade with India. Soon the European settlements began inroads into Bengal, with the Hooghly being their main source of navigation. The first to create a settlement were the Portuguese who settled down at Bandel, long before the British made Calcutta their stronghold. They were soon followed by the Dutch in Chinsurah, the Danish in Serampore and the French in Chandannagar.

The Portuguese also built the first Christian church in Bengal in 1599. In 1632, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan attacked the Portuguese settlement and demolished their small fort and their church. The head of the Church Father Joan De Cruz was taken prisoner to Agra, where he was thrown in front of a ferocious elephant, who instead of trampling the priest, lifted him up and seated him on his back. Shah Jahan was so impressed that he freed the priest and provided free land for a new church.

Interestingly the miracles continued. During another siege, Taigo, a local Christian in a desperate bid to save the statue of Mary dived into the Hooghly with it and was never seen again. However on the day of the inauguration of the church, it was found on the river bank. Re-established, the statue came to be known as “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage”.

There is also a splendid Imambara worth seeing in Bandel. Designed by architect Keramtulla Khan, the two storied building is centred round a rectangular courtyard, decorated with fountains and pools and has a sundial that is a great attraction. The structure has two 85-feet high towers with 152 stairs in each – one for men and the other for women. Built in the memory of the philanthropist Hazi Muhammad Mohsin, the structure took 20 years to build. The three storied structure connecting the towers contains a clock at the top story. The lower rooms are said to contain splendid chandeliers, but are unfortunately out of bounds to the public.

The Dutch settlement ended in 1825, the Dutch fort of Gustava was demolished by the British and very little remains of the Dutch rule in Chinsura. The Dutch church was demolished in the 1980s, but the Dutch cemetery still stands containing an assortment of graves under the shade of ancient trees, with the oldest dating back to 1743.

It was after receiving Mughal Subedar Ibrahim Khan’s permission in 1673, that the French colony Chandannagar was established as a trading post on the right bank of the Hooghly River. Bengal was then a province of the Mughal Empire. The colony became a permanent French settlement in 1688 and in 1730, when Joseph Francis Dupleix was appointed governor of the city, its development included 2,000 new houses and a considerable amount of trade and commerce. For a short while, Chandannagar also became the main centre for European trade in Bengal.

Today, Chandannagar still boasts considerable French heritage. The Strand is considered the most beautiful stretch of the Hooghly River. The tree-shaded promenade along the river is about 1 km in length and 7 meters in width, and the area houses a number of French mansions. The Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat on the Strand is also an interesting mix of Indo- French architecture.

Also on the Strand is the Dupleix Palace Museum – one of the oldest museums of the region housing French antiques and period furniture. Just off the Strand is the Sacred Heart Church, dating back to 1884. It was designed by French architect Jacques Duchatz and has beautiful stained glass windows. A French colony till 1950, French is still taught as a third language in many of Chandannagore’s schools.

To make you aware that you are in French surroundings, there is the Chandannagar Gate constructed in 1937 to mark the Fall of the Bastille. Etched on stone is the slogan �Liberte, egalite, fraternite’ (Liberty Equality and Fraternity).

Serampore , the Danish Settlement, remained under Danish rule till 1845, after which the Danish Governor decided to sell it to the British East India Company. The Serampore college, remains well maintained with its grand facade. Danish missionary Carey along with Ward and Marshman, began the Serampore Mission Press and published the first Bengali translation of the Bible. They also launched the “Friends of India” newspaper. Another outstanding contribution was the installation of India’s first paper mill at Battala, set up by Marshman, which was powered by a steam engine.

The Baptist Mission Cemetery in Serampore contains the family graves of Carey, Ward and Marshman – three personalities whose immense contribution to literacy, cannot be disregarded. Between 1801 and 1832, the Serampore Mission Press printed 212,000 copies of books in 40 different languages.

(Shona Adhikari is a lifestyle and travel columnist)

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Singh Bros were alter egos acting with impunity

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Shivinder Mohan Singh, Malvinder Mohan Singh,

New Delhi, Oct 20 : How were the Singh Bros — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — the centrifugal forces behind the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud?

Working in conjunction with CEO Sunil Godhwani (SG), the troika stripped Religare Finvest (RFL) and other group companies bare through a craftily structured construct which allowed them to fly under the radar and even operate with impunity to avoid detailed regulatory supervision of the RBI.

It is pertinent to mention that at the time the loan was extended, SMS, MMS and SG were fully controlling RFL and were acting as its alter egos. Therefore, it is impossible that the aforesaid transaction was carried out without their knowledge and support. In addition to cheating, SMS, MMS and SG are also liable for the offence of criminal breach of trust since RFL and its shareholders had reposed their trust in the said erstwhile promoters and senior management of the parent entity REL and of RFL.

Since the Board of Directors of RFL was accustomed to the act as per their advice and instructions, they thus exercised deep and pervasive control over it.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that RFL separately also extended loans cumulatively amounting to Rs 120 crore to Vitobha, Best and Devera and even those loans have not yet been repaid, which is indicative of yet another set of fraudulent transactions intended to siphon off monies and cause wrongful loss to RFL, and its shareholders.

Tara Alloys Ltd admits that a loan amount of Rs 85 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 by RFL to it taken as a Short Term Loan (for short “the STL”) which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Tara alleged that the amount was transferred back to RFL on May 24, 2017 through intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL to enable to repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears that upon obtaining the loan money from RFL, Tara transferred the same to some other entities and never intended to repay this loan to RFL.

Gurudev Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 taken as STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Gurudev submitted that 5th loan amount of Rs 100 crore obtained from RFL was further transferred to intermediary companies, alleged at the behest of RFL to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day.

It appears from the documents annexed that Gurudev transferred the funds received from RFL to some other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFKL.

Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd also admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as a STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. The said loan was to be repayable by Annies to RFL on March 31, 2017. Annnies submits that the loan amount was further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at RFL’s behest to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed that the amout has been transferred further by Annnies to other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFL.

Shri Dham Distributors Pvt Ltd. (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd) admits that the loan amount of Rs 92.40 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as STL which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. and the loan amount further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL, to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed to the reply that the amount has been transferred further by Shri Dham to other entities and it never intended to repay this loan back to RFL.

One needs to add that the all these aforesaid entities are clearly connected and were acting as one economic unit while internal inquiries point to the fact that they are controlled by the brothers’ stockbroker N.K. Ghoshal and the registered office address of the aforesaid entities is also the same – 2764/17, 2nd floor, Hamilton Road, Mori Gate, North Delhi, Delhi 110006.

The plea adopted by the entities is also identical i.e. funds disbursed by RFL were transferred to intermediary companies to enable a repayment of loans obtained from RFL by other third parties. It is evident from the above that while these entities admit receipt of money and admit that since inception of the transaction(s), they never intended to repay the money back to the complainant company. Instead as intended, they transferred the money to certain intermediary companies. The loan(s) advanced to the aforesaid entities were never repaid, and it appears from their replies that they colluded with other entities and amongst themselves (since they are acting as a single economic unit, controlled by one person) to conspire and abet in the siphoning away of money from RFL, thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL and its shareholders.

In the present case it appears from their admission that RFL was cheated by the directors/persons controlling these entities, which in addition to its directors as the relevant time is believed to be Ghoshal) and the directors and persons controlling the so-called intermediary companies to which the money was transferred, and allegedly in collusion and conspiracy with the erstwhile promoters and senior management of REL/RFL. While the replies do not clearly mention the name of the intermediary companies, the documents annexed to the reply show transactions with many entities who have taken other loans from RFL under the Corporate Loan Book portfolio.

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India-Turkey relations under Erdogan: Back to square one?

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Turkey Pres Erdogan and PM Modi

New Delhi, Oct 20 : Turkey and India, though not the best of friends, have been trying for the past three decades to overcome their differences, and strike a balance in ties, with a little give and take from both sides. But the relation appears to have nosedived of late under the Presidentship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has taken on the mantle of becoming a “global Islamic leader”.

Bilateral relations have soured to an extent that India has decided to call off an upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ankara later this month, which would have been his first stand-alone official visit to the nation since taking over in 2014.

Erdogan has been openly cosying up with Pakistan, especially its Prime Minister Imran Khan. His sharp statement on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly last month, where he raked up the UN resolutions, and accused the world of ignoring the plight of “eight million people stuck” in Kashmir, have not gone down well with India.

Turkey has also markedly increased its defence cooperation with Pakistan. Ankara is building four MILGEM medium-sized warships for the Pakistan Navy, in a deal estimated to be worth over $1 billion. According to the deal, two ships would be built in Turkey and the other two in Pakistan under technology transfer. The two countries last year also inked a $1.5 billion deal for the supply of 30 Turkish attack helicopters – in the largest defence deal between the two sides.

Other reasons for the drifting apart of India and Turkey are New Delhi declining to accede to Ankara’s request for backing of its nuclear ambitions, and also Erdogan’s ire at India for allegedly not cracking down on the institutes of his close rival – Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey blames the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) for a failed coup to topple Erdogan in 2016. Ankara has alleged that FETO has “infiltrated” India, and Erdogan feels India is not doing enough to curb its activities.

Explaining the Turkey-India relations, Professor A.K. Pasha, Associate Dean, School of International Studies at the JNU, says that Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir at the UNGA came as a “surprise”.

“Over the last 30 years, during almost all presidential visits and other visits from both the countries, we had agreed that Kashmir will be bilaterally resolved through the Simla agreement. But now he has raised the international issue of UN resolutions, which has come as a real surprise,” Pasha told IANS.

“In the last three-four years, we thought they have de-hyphenated their ties between India and Pakistan. But now it appears that they are slowly reviving the military relationship with Pakistan too, which is a matter of concern.”

According to the expert, in the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, Turkey “supplied substantial military equipment of American origin” to Pakistan. “The Pakistani weapons were largely of American origin, and they needed spare parts, ammunition and other equipment, for which America had given the green signal to pass on to Pakistan,” he said, adding that “the Saudis then had also financed a major part of it”.

However, India has been able to strike a good relationship with Riyadh, especially under Modi.

“The Saudis we have been able to disentangle from other relationships,” he said.

According to Pasha, India had kept the Turks on “short leash” by supporting the Greek Cypriots at the UN. “So it was a quid pro quo, give and take — that we will not raise the invasion and occupation by Turkey of northern Cyprus, and Turkey would not raise the Kashmir issue at the international forums.”

Even when Turkey became a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) contact group on Kashmir along with Saudi Arabia, and other countries, Ankara explained to India that “since there is no voting taking place and resolutions are passed by consensus, so we have explained our position – that bilaterally Kashmir should be resolved between the two countries”.

But the OIC resolution passed by the Kashmir contact group on the sidelines of the UNGA last month was very harsh.

“The contact group not only passed resolutions which were very critical of India during the UN General Assembly, but also they went many steps ahead by voicing concerns about human rights and the need to resolve Kashmir through UN resolutions,” he added.

“So now we are back to square one, despite 30 years of diplomacy, and all the high-level visits there, and several rounds of talks have been held – at the NSA level, the foreign ministers level etc. Both sides had wide consensus on a wide variety of issues, on Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Greece and Cyprus.

“But now suddenly Erdogan has become a sort of global Islamic leader, which has come as a real surprise,” Pasha said, adding that the strain in ties would be diplomatically resolved.

In October last year, Erdogan had declared that “Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim world”.

Turkey has a fairly advanced defence industry, which manufactures small arms and ammunition. India was planning to buy two naval ships from Turkey, but the deal has been cancelled over Erdogan’s raking up Kashmir at the UN and other fora.

In terms of bilateral trade too, it lies in India’s favour. “There is nothing much we can import from Turkey. For the last 30 years, we have been buying pulses, cotton, machinery, and other things; but there is very little else we can buy from them. So the balance of trade is in our favour. Turkey has been maintaining that both sides should bring the balance to more acceptable levels.”

“The Turks were a little upset. They felt that the advantages were only accruing to India, and that they were at the receiving end,” which led to building up of animosity.

According to him, Turkey was also keen that both countries should cooperate in the construction industry in the West Asia and North Africa region. “But that did not work out.”

Turkey had two requests of India. It wanted India’s help in the nuclear field. “Turkey has nuclear ambitions, and India has huge thorium reserves in Kerala, and we have a fast breeder reactor which we have developed using thorium. Turkey wanted our technical skills, but the India government declined.”

“And the last straw that broke the camel’s back” was India’s refusal to close down the Gulen-controlled schools and other institutes in India, said Pasha.

The Gulen-controlled schools and institutes are spread across many parts of India, from Delhi, to Bengaluru, to Mumbai. “Some are disguised as schools, some as research centres,” he said.

“The Erdogan government was really upset that we have done nothing. He feels that America is using Gulen, and will bring him back to Turkey and organise a coup against him.”

“These are some of the issues that have led to cancellation of the visit of Modi,” says Pasha.

Gulen, a leading figure in the politics and religious affairs of Turkey, is exiled in Pennsylvania. Erdogen alleges that Gulen played a pivotal role in the attempted coup against his regime in 2016. His government has demanded Gulen’s extradition, but the US State Department has asked for “credible evidence of his terrorist” activity.

Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, since he was forced to flee Turkey in 1998 to escape trial for treason against the state, is known to be linked to the CIA.

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Singh bros deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest to siphon off money

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Ranbaxy Shivinder Singh

New Delhi, Oct 19 : Singh Brothers — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — were the lynchpins in the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud.

The FIR in possession of IANS describes the modus operandi of how the money was siphoned off.

The construct was as follows: The same company was funded with equal or higher amount on the day payment was received from it towards previous dues. In some cases, it appears that ledger entries were done on the earlier dates, but repayments were received on the same day or in a time span of 1-2 days when the same or some other companies were funded.

So, the whole thing assumed a rolling sort of plan, where money came from dues and then repaid elsewhere. It was a calibrated plan which though cut to cut worked like clockwork. Such was the level of chicanery that the two brothers, along with CEO Sunil Godhwani, practised that they deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest so that the money siphoning operation ran without interference.

Here is the architecture: For instance, on June 17, 2009, Rs 34 crore was received in total from Blue Line Finance, GYS Real Estate, Ligare Aviation, Ligare Voyage, Linear Commercial and Sharan Hospitality and on the very same day, Rs 54 crore was funded to Dion Global, Religare Technova Business Intellect and Religare Technova IT Services.

On August 17, 2009, Rs 200 crore was funded and repayment of Rs 100 crore was received from Religare Financial Consultancy. On March 30, 2010, Rs 36 crore was extended to nine companies and on the same day, repayment of Rs 32 crore was received from six other companies except Ligare Aviation from which repayment of Rs 13 crore was received and to which Rs 14 crore was extended on the same day.

On January 31, 2011, repayment of Rs 175 crore was received from Adept Creation, Leon Realtors, SVIIT Softwares and Vectra Pharmaceuticals and on the very next day, i.e. on February 1, 2011, Rs 174 crore was extended to Ligare Aviation, Oscar Investments, Religare Comtrade, RHDFC and RWL Health World.

A copy of the internal report based on inquiries by Religare Finvest, the complainant company, shows the firm’s exposure on account of the Corporate Loan Book (CLB) to the above mentioned related/friendly borrower entities is to the tune of Rs 2,397 crores.

While the aforesaid transactions had been taking place for sometime by way of round-tripping of funds, the loans were purportedly serviced. However, it appears that when the promoters realised that they would lose control over REL and its subsidiaries (including the complainant company), they caused the complainant company to extend loans, but then willfully defaulted on these loans.

Due to the various defaults on account of the CLB, RFL initiated legal proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, against these entities in the NCLT. Before the NCLT, seven of the said borrower companies, which had been extended loans under the CLB, filed replies on solemn affirmation which shockingly is an admission of financial fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust, money laundering, conspiracy and abetment in respect of the subject unpaid unsecured loans/CLB transactions.

While these entities have intentionally tried to give vague replies, it is clear from all their replies that they knowingly were part of a criminal conspiracy to siphon away funds to the tune of hundreds of crores from the complainant company.

It is believed by the complainant company (on the basis of internal inquiries) that five of these entities — A&A Capital Services Limited (A&A), Shri Dham Distributor Pvt Ltd (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd), Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd (Annies), Gurudev Financial Services Pvt Ltd (Gurudev), and Tara Alloys Limited (Tara) — are related to and controlled by N.K. Ghoshal, the stockbroker of MMS and SMS.

The following submissions have been made by the aforesaid N.K. Ghoshal controlled entities before the NCLT: A&A Capital Services Pvt Ltd. A&A was used as a medium to transfer monies and was promised a fee for facilitating the transaction. It was an agreed understanding that the transaction money will not be demanded back. It is for the same reason that loans worth several crores were advanced to entities with authorised capital of Rs 5,50,00,000 and paid up capital of Rs 5,49,95,000 without any diligence, security, documentation or security and merely on the basis of a one pager document purportedly called as Memorandum of Understanding. S

Substantial sums were transferred to three entities, i.e., Vitobha Realtors Private Limited (Votobha), Devera Developers Private Limited (Devera) and Best Health Management Pvt Limited (Best), which are entities eventually controlled by SMS and MMS and they act as the alter egos of these companies.

It is evident from the above that A&A admits receipt of money; it admits that since the inception of the transaction, the intention was not to repay the loan to RFL, and conspiracy to divert the loan to third parties which allegedly used the monies to repay their loans to RFL.

As planned in the conspiracy, the loan advanced to A&A was never repaid, and it appears from A&A’s reply that it colluded with entities like Artfice, Best, Vitobha and Devera to siphon away money from RFL, with the intention of never to repay the said unsecured loan and thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL, which has been deceived and cheated by the directors/persons controlling A&A (which in addition to its directors at the relevant time is believed to be N.K. Ghoshal) and allegedly by and in collusion with persons controlling Artifice, Best, Vitobha and Devera (which in addition to their directors are believed to be SMS and MMS) and persons in control of the management and affairs of RFL, including the erstwhile promoters.

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