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Centre starts investor awareness campaign against fraud schemes

Amid rising instances of common man being duped by illegal money-pooling activities, Ministry of Corporate Affairs has started tapping various platforms, including visual media, to sensitise investors from falling prey to fraudulent investment schemes.

To reach out to larger number of people, the awareness messages would be propagated through various regional languages besides Hindi and English, a ministry official said.

Apart from the visual platform, awareness campaigns would be done through radio, Internet and mobile phone mediums. Soon, SMSes would also be sent out to the public at large advising them to take informed decisions before investing their money, he noted.

These initiatives mark a shift from the ministry's practice of having only investor awareness programmes in different parts of the country.  According to the official, the campaigns would also focus on people in rural areas, who are mostly prone to fall prey to dubious money-collecting schemes. In this regard, the government would soon have messages, advising people against fraudulent schemes, on the back of Post Office passbooks, he added.

'From this month, we have started having tickers with messages in Hindi and English for investors on Doordarshan channel. Soon, the regional Doordarshan Kendras will be translating them into regional languages for wider reach,' the official noted. The latest initiative assumes importance against the backdrop of the government cracking down on activities that defraud investors of their money in the wake of scam perpetrated by Saradha group in West Bengal.

The ministry would partner with state-run BSNL to send out SMS alerts to the subscribers apart from having 'audio alerts' on All India Radio. Discussions are progressing with Google for having pop ups of investor awareness messages on the Internet search engine. Depending on the scale and requirement for using these mediums, the ministry might also seek additional funds from the Finance Ministry.


SEBI TO RAISE HEAD COUNT, FOCUS ON STAFF TRAINING


Capital markets regulator Sebi is planning to strengthen its manpower in a big way this year, with sharper focus on imparting the technical and behavioural training to staff at all levels.

Sebi employs 660 people including officers as well as the support-level staff. It feels however that there is an urgent need for hiring more professionals for discharging its duties of regulation and supervision of the markets so as to safeguard investors' interests.

'It is crucial that staff possess the knowledge, skills and competencies required for optimum performance,' Sebi said in a recent memorandum to its board on its budget proposals for the current fiscal 2013-14.

Sebi said it had given 'a fresh impetus to the area of training and development by imparting technical as well as behavioural training to the staff members at all levels' during the previous fiscal.

'This is a continuous process and will be pursued in the year 2013-14 also. It is also proposed to strengthen manpower through recruitment.'

Sources said the regulator is also of the view that a significant increase in its headcount and armouring the staff with latest technical skills have become necessary in view of an increasingly proactive approach being undertaken by it in ring-fencing the markets against manipulative activities. Besides, an imminent grant of greater powers to Sebi to check money-pooling frauds and other manipulative attempts also underscores the need for a larger workforce.

The government is considering some critical amendments to the securities laws of the country. That would involve Sebi being given direct powers for attachment of properties, search and seizure of assets and powers to seek information from any entity in relation to its probes against erring entities.

Sebi itself has proposed that powers should be given to it for overall regulation and oversight of all kinds of money- pooling activities and the definition of Collective Investment Schemes be expanded to include all kinds of public money collection of Rs 100 crore or more.

The recent developments involving an alleged defrauding of lakhs of investors by West Bengal-based Saradha group and other entities in the state have further underscored the need to change the regulations to give greater powers to Sebi.
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