Following Wednesday's Cabinet decision to stop endlessly funding PSBs, SBI's Arundhati Bhattacharya spoke about this opportunity for wider reform
SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya said that the government's decision to stop funding public sector banks (PSBs) will lead to competition and reforms in the sector which has been dogged by long-standing NPAs.
She proposed that banks could look to raise funds by issuing shares with differential voting rights, so that banks could raise capital enough to meet Basel-III capital adequacy norms.
“The writing on the wall is very clear...they (PSBs) have to think of differential voting rights. It is time to lay out some kind of roadmap on how much the banks need to do and how much support it would get,” she said.
“The big daddy back there is not going to be around to give them capital as and when they need. If they need to be competitive and want to grow, then they definitely need to look at other places for more capital,” she added.
With the government deciding that it will start diluting its stake to bring it down to 52%, the PSBs will be able to raise around Rs1.60 lakh crore. "The news that the government has allowed PSBs to bring down government stake to 52% kicks off the next round of reforms... because for the first time clear signal has been given (to PSBs) to source capital from the market.”
The SBI chairman also stressed that the Indian banking space needs consolidation and that this should ideally result in 3 to 4 major banks. "It is extremely important for India to have 3-4 major banks. ... We should allow the banks to come together and talk among themselves. In the past also we have seen government has forced some mergers...it is very important for the banks to determine who should be their correct partners," she said.
The Basel-III norms are slated to come into effect on 31 March 2019. Indian banks would need to meet capital adequacy norms to improve risk management and governance by the deadline.
After select committees recommendations and support from the Congress, the bill is expected to be passed in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in a minority
FDI in insurance is set to go up to 49% from the current 26%, after the Cabinet approved amendments to the Insurance Bill. The Bill is expected to be tabled in Rajya Sabha today.
This reform has long been in the works and with the Congress expressing support for the Bill, it is expected to be passed in the Rajya Sabha.
The Cabinet nod came after the Rajya Sabha Select Committee made recommendations regarding the amendments in the Insurance FDI law. The Committee recommended that the cap on total foreign holding in equity be raised from 26% to 49%, this cap would include all forms of foreign investment in the company.
These new norms will also help companies conform to promoter holding norms on stock exchanges by diluting stake to foreign investors. This would enable them to list on exchanges and raise capital. Additionally, the report of the Committee addressed the concerns that the higher FDI would result in the insurance companies giving over control to foreign entities.
“The term ‘control’ shall include the right to appoint majority of the directors or to control the management or policy decisions, including by virtue of their shareholding or management rights or shareholders agreements or voting agreements,” the report said.
RTI reveals that violating environmental norms in Pune has gone through the roof and is likely to land buyers in trouble.
As per the Section 4 of the RTI Act, the environment clearance department and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board are duty bound to put up information on environmental violations in construction of townships and any other housing projects.
However, although they have technically uploaded them, they are not in a “searchable mode” and hence, it is an onerous task for any citizen to access the information easily.
Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, has made the task easier for people. Minutes of the Meetings of the State Level Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) are uploaded on the www.ec.maharashtra.gov.in website. SEAC & SEIAA in Maharashtra are constituted by Central Government to regulate projects in various categories – in this case, Kumbhar considered only those construction projects, which are of 2 lakh square feet to 15 lakh sq ft, which largely and directly affect common citizens and for which state environmental clearance is mandatory. Kumbhar downloaded more than 2,000 pages of innumerable minutes of meetings held by SEAC and SEIAA and have exposed some startling statistics and names of guilty builders and companies.
It may be noted that after SEAC zeroes in on any construction project that has violated environmental norms, it sends the name to SEIAA to recommend further action as needed. MPCB is responsible for directing the relevant municipal authority to demolish buildings that have violated environmental norms.
152 real estate projects in and around Pune have violated environmental norms. More shockingly, criminal cases have been files against them and in some cases, environment clearances for their projects rejected, yet construction and sale is in full swing. Kumbhar said, “there are eight real estate projects in and around Pune for which the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) has recommended rejection of environment clearance and yet the projects continue in their construction and sale to innocent buyers.”
In Maharashtra, barring Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, a shocking 152 out of 172 environment norm violations are in Pune and its surrounding areas. It may be noted that Pune is the leading urban agglomeration, with maximum construction activity, compared to any other city in India. Kumbhar says that, “it may be recalled that notice for demolition of `Adarsh’ was for violation of the Environment Protection Act. While influential residents of that controversial high-rise have ensured it has not been demolished, the same may not be the case with all these 172 building schemes and may ultimately land the flat purchaser in trouble.”
Since many years now, Pune has become a hub of illegal real estate activities. Be it proposed non-agricultural plots (so called N.A Plots), proposed townships, bungalow plots or plantation schemes with so called ownerships. Now it has come to light that many residential and commercial projects are under construction without obtaining necessary environment clearances. Kumbhar alleges that, “Since big politicians and babus are indirectly involved in this racket, no proponent of such projects is scared of any law in India. Interestingly, you will find the spouse of almost every corrupt politician or babu in real estate business.”
As per the Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act, stringent punishment under the law includes imprisonment, which may be extended to five years but a paltry penalty of a few lakh rupees, which is measly compared to the cost of the project. Hence, it is the buyers who end up at the receiving end. “In eight such residential projects, people have already started living in their newly bought house. Until now no real estate developer has been punished for having flouted environmental norms,” Kumbhar said.