On 24th June, the Union government issued an ordinance to bring 1,482 urban cooperative banks and 58 multi-state cooperative banks under the direct supervision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This big step takes forward its failed attempt to do this through an amendment to the Banking Regulation Act just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
The ordinance will give RBI the same powers of supervision over cooperative banks as it does over scheduled cooperative banks and also a say in key appointments. This means that RBI will now be fully responsible if cooperative banks continue to fail with the same chilling regularity as they have, under shared regulation with the registrar of cooperatives, in the past few decades.
Most cooperative banks are controlled by powerful politicians, which explains their poor supervision and the lack of political will to change things, despite the regular losses suffered by innocent depositors. The argument to retain status quo has been that these banks cater to under-banked rural India and, hence, need more leeway and indulgence. This excuse is still trotted out, decades after a combination of microfinance, the spread of non-banking and fintech companies have established a better reach to the target customers claimed by undercapitalised and poorly-supervised cooperative banks.
Moneylife has repeatedly warned savers to be wary of cooperative banks which fail at an average of at least one every month. In case after case, RBI imposes restrictions on lending and withdrawals, years after warning signs and weaknesses are evident. The banks then remain in a zombie state for years before they are wound up and their licence is cancelled. Depositors are often denied even the pitiful deposit insurance of Rs1 lakh for several years, until the bank is finally liquidated. Since no previous regime has wanted to change this, one can only welcome the government’s action, whatever the motivation behind it.
Remember, this government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) itself started its innings with the most brazen support for these badly supervised banks. In November 2014, it was the first government ever to legitimise even unlicensed cooperative banks (yes, RBI had discovered that there were at least 23 banks operating without a licence) with a massive Rs2,375.42 crore bailout. So powerful is the political protection for these banks that, in 2011, it was discovered that as many as 28 of them had continued to operate despite a negative net worth.
Political pressure wasn’t the only reason for this state of affairs. RBI itself is notoriously reluctant to do anything that increases its work and supervisory responsibility. Despite hundreds of cooperative banks having failed in the past few years, as a category, they are still the biggest chunk at over 1,400, compared to just over 100 scheduled commercial banks.
Bringing cooperative banks under RBI’s exclusive supervision increases its accountability and it would be no surprise if there was a lot of internal resistance to the move. In fact, RBI has a notorious record of refusing to act even when whistleblowers at cooperative banks—like Bombay Mercantile Cooperative Banks—have exposed corruption and loot, with documentation.
In September 2018, the government allowed cooperative banks to convert to small finance banks. But with only one bank receiving ‘in principle’ approval to become a small finance bank in January 2020, that is clearly a damp squib.
Is the failure of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC Bank), a turning point for supervision of cooperative banks? Probably. Although the finance ministry has steadfastly ignored the plight of depositors, their sustained campaign is certainly a political embarrassment for the NDA government, especially BJP leaders from Maharashtra who have cold-shouldered PMC Bank victims. There is a lot of anger within RBI itself, since its own officials have lost nearly Rs200 crore invested by two separate cooperatives of RBI officers and clerical staff.
Meanwhile, after a three-party coalition government was formed in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is playing to the gallery on PMC Bank. In February this year, it proposed a merger with Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB), controlled by NCP big guns.
MSCB has been extremely controversial. RBI had ordered an investigation and clean-up in 2010-11. An investigation by the National Bank of Agriculture and Development (NABARD) had revealed that MSCB’s former management was guilty of exactly the same kind of fraudulent activities that felled PMC Bank. Can RBI possibly consider MSCB ‘fit and proper’ to acquire PMC Bank? Does MSCB really have the financial strength to take on the massive losses of PMC Bank, which are reportedly in excess of Rs6,000 crore, even though it seems to have turned around, recording a Rs251 crore profit for year ended 31 March 2019?
Following a directive of the Bombay High Court (HC), the economic offences wing of the Mumbai police had to initiate action in August 2019 against the present deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and 70 others in what was billed as a Rs25,000 crore scam. Unsurprisingly, the investigation has lost momentum after the NCP became a key member of the ruling triumvirate. But the political jostling over banks continues and the ruling coalition went after Axis Bank and forced many government and police accounts to shift away from the Bank, alleging that it was favoured by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, since his wife worked with the Bank.
RBI could have avoided this embarrassing and politically sensitive situation if it had acted quickly and appointed a strong administrator with a mandate to find buyers for PMC Bank. Indeed, this was among the suggestions made to the government by Moneylife soon after the PMC Bank collapse. The COVID pandemic has made the job of finding a suitor for PMC Bank more difficult and, at the same time, exacerbated the difficulties of depositors who have lost their jobs as well as their savings in the lock-down.
NCP’s political gimmick, of proposing a merger with the MSCB, puts Maharashtra BJP’s leaders in a spot. PMC Bank depositors don't care about the antecedents of MSCB or the motivation of the NCP, so long as they get access to their own hard-earned money. They also feel badly let down by BJP leaders who, probably taking a cue from the central leadership, have done nothing to help or even facilitate a dialogue with the authorities.
The ordinance to bring all cooperative banks puts a new spin on events. It brings all the politically controlled cooperative banks in Maharashtra under RBI supervision and scrutiny. But will we really see a clean-up? Maharashtra, along with Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh has the largest concentration of politically controlled, badly regulated cooperative banks. In Maharashtra, it is the NCP and the Congress which had a strong hold over these banks as well as cooperative institutions.
As part of the MSCB scandal, the Maharashtra government has even had to cough up over Rs1,000 crore, following a Supreme Court order, on account of loans guaranteed on behalf of politically controlled sugar factories, spinning mills and agricultural units. But, lest we forget, some powerful politicians in this sector defected to the BJP before the Maharashtra state elections.
The ordinance is, indeed, a very positive move; but is it only a part of political gamesmanship or will lead to a clean-up and reduce political control over cooperative banks? How will the conflicting interests of the NDA’s newly acquired state leaders affect the process? Nobody seems to have a clue.
We can only hope that it also helps end the misery of PMC Bank depositors and it finds a better suitor for the Bank. RBI governor, Shaktikanta Das, has always maintained that he is working at a resolution. With the lock-down ending and stock markets rising, maybe RBI hasn’t missed that opportunity altogether.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge-sheet against Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor, his family, Dewan Housing Finance promoters and others in the Rs 3,700 crore fraud case, said an official, here on Thursday.
The charge-sheet, filed before the Special CBI Judge, has named Kapoor, his daughter Roshni Kapoor -- promoter of DoIt Urban Ventures (India), DHFL's Kapil R. Wadhawan, Dheeraj R. Wadhawan, and other companies like Belief Realtors and RKW Developers.
It follows a case registered in March by the CBI under various laws, including the Prevention of Corruption Act, against the accused and other unknown entities pertaining to fraud charges against Yes Bank.
On March 9, the CBI searched the premises of the accused.
In early May, two months after Kapoor's arrest on March 8, even the Enforcement Directorate (ED) filed separate charge-sheet before a Mumbai Special Court with charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The ED is separately probing allegations of Rs 600 crore paid to a company controlled by Kapoor and his family members by a company linked with the scam-tainted DHFL.
The Kapoors, including his wife and three daughters, allegedly got huge amounts in kickbacks through the companies owned by them for sanctioning huge loans to some corporate entities that later turned into non-performing assets.
DHFL founders, Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan, were arrested in April by the CBI in the same case from Mahabaleshwar, a hill station. They were absconding since the start of the probe.
The CBI has charged that Yes Bank invested Rs 3,700 crore in short-term debentures in DHFL for which the Wadhawans paid Rs 600 crore kickback to Kapoor in the form of a loan to DoIT Urban Ventures, owned by his daughters.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
After serious outrage on social media about the attack on a lady banker Canara Bank's Saroli branch in Surat on 22nd June, action was finally initiated with the registration of an FIR (first information report) on 23rd June evening followed by a flurry of action after the finance finister responded.
Based on the information and closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, the branch officials have filed a complaint with police, which has been tweeted by the police commissioner’s twitter handle. It is learnt that the person involved has been suspended, but angry bankers are demanding an arrest.
Banks unions have condemned the attack and demanded strict action against the police constable. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman responded to the outrage this morning and tweeted about having spoken to the Surat collector and the police commissioner. The National Commisison for Women (NCW) also took cognisance of the outrage and assured action against the guilty official. We learn that Ms Rekha Sharma, chairman of NCW also spoke to the victim.
My office spoke to the Commissioner of Police, Shri. Bhrambhatt (IPS). He has assured us that he himself will visit the branch & assure the staff of their safety. Also he assured that the accused constable shall be suspended immediately. @CP_SuratCity@PIB_India@canarabank
According to information shared bankers on the incident that took place on Monday in Canara Bank (e-Syndicate bank) Saroli branch in Surat, two people, one of them a police constable entered the branch and asked for passbook updation.
However, after the Finance Minister’s intervention, the police commissioner of Surat visited the branch and assured the staff of protection. The regional manager of Canara Bank also visited the branch. The bank management also engaged with the victim and is understood to have paid her Rs one lakh for medical expenses. It remains to be seen whether a branch manager will be appointed at the branch.
The Saroli branch of Canara Bank is allegedly operating without adequate staff and no branch manager since the incumbent manager has been on a six-month sabbatical since 23 March 2020, say bankers on twitter. Consequently, only Santoshi Kumari, the clerk and Harshad Tiwari, an assistant manager were left to manage all customers.
While the complaint filed by Canara Bank does not mention name of the attacker, according so social media messages posted by some bankers, his name is Subhashbhai Paragbhai from Surat Police.
In a tweet, Canara Bank says, "This is with reference to a certain incident at one of our Branches in Gujarat, wherein our staff had been abused by a certain individual. We wish to inform that the Branch has filed a complaint before the police and investigation has commenced. The culprits shall be brought before the law and justice shall be ensured to the victim."
Condemning the attack on a lady employee, both All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC) demanded stern action on the customer for physically attacking and using abusive language on the lady staff.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) said it has taken cognizance of the matter and would ensure that the guilty official is brought to justice.
Yes, @NCWIndia has come across this disturbing incident. We'll be taking cognizance of the matter. Rest assured, the guilty official will be brought to justice.
In a tweet, the Surat City Police said that an “Offence has been registered and action has been initiated” in this incident where the lady banker was attacked in Canara Bank’s Saroli branch by a police constable.
The larger issue of bankers having to operate without adequate security and facing assault and abuse remains open. In this case, the constable who attacked the bankers, wasn’t even wearing a mask, thus exposing them to health risks as well.