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Absconding Truth

By   /  October 31, 2018  /  Comments Off on Absconding Truth

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Amid the flutter over Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Viral Acharya’s indictment of the Government for shackling the institution, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has strongly criticised the central bank for failing to check indiscriminate lending during 2008 and 2014 that has led to the present bad loan or NPA crisis in the banking industry. Though what Mr. Jaitley said at India Leadership Summit had no reference to Mr. Acharya’s comment, the timing of his outpouring is significant-barely 48 hours after the top RBI official made public his chagrin and amid a clamour over the poor financial health of the nationalised banks and a steady fall of the rupee defying the readily available prescriptions. The sombre scenario has been accentuated by the Government’s undoing in many fronts and the growing criticism against it over a plethora of issues, including corruption in high places. All this comes at a time when crucial Assembly elections in four states are round the corner and brainstorming has begun for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which till now does not offer a cakewalk prospect for the BJP. Noting that the bad loan accusation the Finance Minister made against the RBI was for the 2008-2014 period, a cynical observation would thus hold his statement as an attempt to kill two birds with one stone – to drown the dissenting voice of the RBI and fix the Congress, “romping much on Rafale.” Though inheritance of bad loans is a reality, Mr. Jaitley did not utter a word about the bad loans or NPA generated during the NDA regime which should have been mentioned if at all he wanted to make a comparison. The question obviously arises, as former Union Minister P Chidambaram once raised : how many of those loans were called off, forcing the borrower to repay forthwith and why were they renewed ? Mr.Jaitley’s comment was preceded by a similar accusation against the UPA by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi points to a systematic effort to build up an issue with political purpose. A parliamentary standing committee report, which has recently estimated the NPA amount under the NDA to be by Rs 6.2 lakh crore, between March 2015 to March 2018, has also questioned the reason for evergreening of bad loans, making the borrower free from having to pay the principal amount. On the other hand, there are loans given out before 2014 that have turned bad in the last four years. For instance, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications missed loan payments in 2017 and defaulted on dollar bonds. As the recently released Economic Survey pointed out, the share of NPAs of telecom sector in total NPAs of infrastructure sector increased to 8.7 per cent in 2016-17 from 5 per cent in 2015-16. The whole truth is missing!

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