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Subrata Roy spews philosophy from jail as Sahara milks small investors for luxury township

Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Thoughts from Tihar.
  • Harish Pullanoor
By Harish Pullanoor

Co-editor, Quartz India

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

This post has been corrected.

On Feb. 01, major English language newspapers of India carried half-page advertisements announcing the publication of the first in a trilogy of books by Subrata Roy, the jailed founder-chairman of the Rs68,200 crore Sahara group.

“I, like any other human in confinement, could not contain my thoughts and at times felt an emotional outrage, ‘why me?’, ‘what have I done wrong to deserve this?'” a Press Trust of India (PTI) news report quoted from Life Mantras, the first book in the series. “Thoughts such as these often raced through my mind.”

“Saharasri” Subrata Roy Sahara—as the author likes to be addressed—has been cooling his heels in Delhi’s Tihar jail since March 2014. Aptly, his trilogy is called Thoughts From Tihar

Roy was jailed in connection with a case where his group firms were accused of having illegally collected around Rs24,000 crore ($3.5 billion) from millions of small-town investors through “chit funds.”

India’s supreme court issued an arrest warrant against Roy after he failed to appear for multiple hearings in the case filed by the market regulator. While Roy himself claimed to have done no wrong and promised to repay investors, the court was not moved.   

It set a steep Rs10,000-crore bail bond for his release, forcing the company to try and sell prime assets to raise money.

“Noting that greed always keeps a human being in state of tension, discontent and dissatisfaction, Roy said (in the book) that a greedy character can never feel, say, accept or agree that life is beautiful,” the PTI report added. It further quoted from Roy’s book: “I feel a sense of pity for such human beings who are singularly greedy in character.” 

On the day Roy’s new book was announced, Reuters reported that the “embattled Sahara conglomerate has been funnelling cash from small savers to fund one of its biggest projects.”

So, while Roy of the crystal conscience has been living it up inside Tihar, his company has transferred almost Rs1,500 crore from small-time investors and channelled it towards one of his pet projects, Aamby Valley.

The 10,600-acre ultra-luxury township is located around 120 kilometres from Mumbai.

“Sahara has ploughed at least Rs1,500 crore ($221 million) from two of its credit cooperatives into the Aamby Valley resort project through investments in preference shares, according to documents filed with the companies regulator,” the Reuters report said.

This, even as Sahara was fighting shy of repaying amounts as small as Rs30,000 to investors who had deposited money in these credit cooperatives.

In Monday’s advertisement for Thoughts From Tihar, Roy said: “After having gone through the book, you will definitely and convincingly realise that to achieve peace, true happiness, contentment, satisfaction and also to attain continuous progress in life in terms of material gains, respect and love… It all depends on you.”

Correction: A previous version of this post mentioned news reports stating that an employee of the Sahara group had committed suicide because of non-payment of wages. However, the family of the deceased employee has clarified that it was not a case of suicide.

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