Bill seeking interest rate cap on MFI lending introduced in Parliament

The Bill confers power upon the RBI to fix the maximum interest rates that MFIs can charge and also decide on the fair and reasonable method of loan recovery

New Delhi: The Indian government on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to empower the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to regulate the micro finance  institutions (MFIs) and fix interest rates ceiling on loans to be provided by lenders, reports PTI.

The Micro Finance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2012, which was introduced in the House by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, confers power upon the RBI to fix the maximum interest rates that MFIs can charge and also decide on the fair and reasonable method of loan recovery.

It provides for regulation of activities like micro credit, thrift, pension or insurance services and remittance of funds by micro finance institutions.

The Bill, which was drafted in the backdrop of problems faced by borrowers of MFIs in Andhra Pradesh and other states, seeks for compulsory registration of MFIs with the RBI. They should have a minimum net-owned funds of Rs5 lakh.

"Since these institutions lack a formal statutory framework for providing such micro finance services, it is expedient to provide a statutory framework for the promotion, development, regulation and orderly growth for such MFIs and thereby facilitate financial inclusion," said the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill.

As per the provisions of the Bill, the RBI can inspect the accounts of the micro lenders and impose monetary penalty for non-compliance of the provisions of the proposed legislation. Besides, MFIs would need prior approval of the RBI to close or restructure their activities.

Violation of the provisions of the Bill will attract penalty, which will include two years imprisonment and a fine up to Rs5 lakh.

The Bill would confer power upon the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to "specify the maximum limit of the margin and annual percentage rate which can be charged by any MFI and performance standards pertaining to methods of operation, fair and reasonable methods of recovery of loan advanced by the MFIs," it said.

Besides, RBI would make provision for constitution of the Micro Finance Development Fund which would be utilised for the purpose of providing loans and seed capital to MFIs and set up of grievance redressal mechanism.

The Bill further provides for constitution of Micro Finance Development Council to advise the Central government on formulation of policies, schemes. Its members would include representatives from the government, RBI, SIDBI and National Housing Bank.

It also makes a case for establishment of 'State Micro Finance Council' for considering the extent of MFI activities in the states. Also it called for creation of 'District Micro Finance Committee', headed by District Collector, to review the growth and development of MFI activities.

Micro finance -- the business of doling out small loans at high interest rates to poor people who are unable to access conventional lending instruments -- has come under intense regulatory scrutiny in the wake of an Act passed by the Andhra Pradesh government.

The Act seeks to tighten the screws on the industry, which has been blamed for a spate of suicides in the state due to high interest rates charged by MFIs. Allegations that the use of strong-arm tactics by lenders caused the suicides also dented the MFIs' image.

Andhra Pradesh accounts for nearly half of the total micro finance business in the country with major players like SKS Microfinance, Spandana Sphoorty Financial, Basix and Share Microfin present in the state.

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Left demands JPC probe into alleged scam in coal block allocation

CPI (M) claimed that the private companies were taking over large chunks of land from farmers without paying any compensation to them and of the 155 coal blocks given to the private sector, no work has begun in 124

New Delhi: The Left parties sought to spoil the celebratory mood of the united progressive alliance's (UPA) third anniversary on Tuesday, with a CPI-M member demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into an alleged coal scam which has reportedly caused a loss of over Rs1.8 lakh crore to the exchequer, reports PTI.

"Three years of the UPA government have seen scam after scam. Now we have yet another scam. CAG report (on coal scam) has not been placed in Parliament but estimates show that this scam is more than the 2G spectrum scam," CPI-M member Bansa Gopal Chowdhury said during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha.

Noting that coal mines were nationalised by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the benefit of the country and its workers, he said, "Since 2004, coal blocks are being leased to private sector.....Public sector Coal India Ltd (CIL) is now being hijacked by private companies."

He said the CIL, a Maharatna company, has the financial strength to exploit the entire coal reserves in the country and there was no reason to allow private sector entry.

Chowdhury claimed that the private companies were taking over large chunks of land from farmers without paying any compensation to them. Of the 155 coal blocks given to the private sector, no work has begun in 124 of them, he claimed.

Alleging that national resources were being looted, the CPI(M) member demanded a thorough probe into the "scam" by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. .
The issue earlier led to adjournment of both Houses of Parliament during Question Hour as Opposition created uproar over delay in tabling a CAG report on allocation of coal blocks.

Chowdhury had led a group of Left members to the Well vociferously demanding that the government table the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on allocation of coal blocks.

The members, waving copies of a newspaper on the CAG report, raised slogans like '3 years of UPA, more than 30 scams', 'Down with the UPA government', 'Is this the way a democracy functions'.

The CAG report is reported to have blamed the government for extending "undue benefits" to private entities in connection with coal block allocation.

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Parliament approves Copyright Act amendments

The Bill witnessed unusual unanimity on the matter with members from all parties supporting the measure for creative artistes whose benefits are cornered by producers

New Delhi: Song writers, artistes and performers, deprived of their dues so far, can now claim royalty for their creations with Parliament on Tuesday approving a law to provide much-delayed justice to them, reports PTI.

The Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Lok Sabha, which witnessed unusual unanimity on the matter with members from all parties supporting the measure for creative artistes whose benefits are cornered by producers.

The bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha on 17th May declares authors as owners of the copyright, which cannot be assigned to producers as was the practice till now.

Noting that poor artistes had been left in the lurch as producers cornered all royalties, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said the new law will help them live a good life even in old age as they would continue to get their dues for their work during their heyday.

Moving the bill for passage, he gave examples of shehnai exponent Bismillah Khan and music composer Ravi to press home the point that the condition of such excellent artistes was pitiable as they were not able to pay even house rent and hospital charges.

The bill makes it mandatory for broadcasters - both radio and television - to pay royalty to the owners of the copyright each time a work of art is broadcast.

It bans persons from bringing out cover versions of any literary, dramatic or musical work for five years from the first recording of the original creation.

The bill received overwhelming support including from the Opposition which appreciated the government for such a step, though belatedly.

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