SEBI writes to States on broking staff safety

Missive comes amid clamour for closure markets and cases of staff manhandling

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has written to all State governments to ensure the safety of individuals working with capital market intermediaries to enable the smooth functioning of the markets.

This comes on the back of a huge clamour for closure of capital markets with both, equity and commodity market participants, knocking at the regulator’s doors to seek a review of its decision to keep the markets open even as the whole country has gone into lockdown mode.

“[The] stock market operations are to be in line with the orders of Government of India and State governments and SEBI notifications. Today, SEBI has written to chief secretaries/administrators of all states/UTs, requesting them to facilitate the functioning and movement of personnel of entities notified by SEBI for the smooth operation of the capital markets,” said SEBI in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Incidentally, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, on March 23, wrote a similar letter to all States to ensure that essential staffers of capital market intermediaries were allowed to commute amid the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Association of National Exchanges Members of India (ANMI), the umbrella body representing around 900 brokers, has said that local authorities on the ground have made it difficult for the staff to reach office with some staffers even complaining about manhandling by the police.

Yet to be sensitised

“We would like to point out that the law enforcement agencies at grassroots level are still not sensitised about the SEBI directive. This has led to several instances of manhandling the staff of broking firms while travelling to offices,” said Vijay Bhushan, president, ANMI.

“We have received several requests to suspend broking services on humanitarian grounds considering the growing instances of spreading COVID-19,” said Mr. Bhushan.

Commodity market participants also feel that if market closure is not an option then, at least, trading hours should be curtailed as the commodity derivatives segment has much longer trading hours compared with equity.

“These are exceptional and unprecedented circumstances when the regulators need to take into consideration the safety of the people engaged in these services and their families and take bold and unprecedented steps to at least curtail time of market,” said Narinder Wadhwa, president, Commodity Participants Association of India (CPAI).

“In view of the apprehensions expressed by members at large on account of health and safety concerns, ANMI appeals to your good offices to allow a systematic closure till the nation-wide lockdown remains in force,” stated ANMI in a letter sent to SEBI, stock exchanges and depositories on Wednesday.

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