Repeated Multi-Crore Loan Defaults Have Brought The Indian Banking System To Its Knees

I have often wondered, isn’t the word ‘brazenness’ anathema to the dishonest?  But this is exactly the word that was used by Siri Vinod Rai, the then CAG, during a lecture at the Harvard Kennedy School on the 2G spectrum scam. Why would any political party, before the elections, be brazenly involved in multiple scams and heap opprobrium on itself? The most plausible answer would be to lose the elections, isn’t it?  But doesn’t that sound a bit ridiculous? Why contest an election only to lose? The answer to this probably lay in the activities of the past years which were likely to bear its bitter fruit in the near future – and the best way out of this mess is to stay out of power.

But how to stay out of power? Contest the elections, but field weak candidates everywhere to lose, play the charade, make a lot of noise, and happily lose and sit back.

What is the bitter fruit that was being avoided? It is the multiple loans given by banks to unscrupulous elements at the behest of the political class, which nearly brought the Indian banking system to its knees. I had often thought if it was possible for a powerful minister to call up a bank chairman and request him to grant loans to so and so, tweak the rules if possible, and oblige! But that is exactly what seems to have happened. The British judge hearing Vijay Mallya’s extradition case had made the observation that ‘it was blindingly obvious that rules were being broken by Indian banks which sanctioned some of the loans to the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines’.

It is also blindingly obvious that someone quite powerful had either coerced or cajoled bank officers to grant loans – and this is all the more certain when a report by Narayanan Vaghul, a former State Bank of India officer, opined on why RK Talwar, the former iconic Chairman of the SBI was sacked through an amendment known as the ‘Talwar amendment’.

From the two anecdotes above, it is amply clear that political interference is behind the multi-crore loan defaults. For a loan to become a non performing asset (NPA) takes time – and when the time was getting nearer, and the bitter fruits were beginning to grow buds, the Congress quietly decided to lose the elections and let the BJP carry the can. After the initial euphoria of winning the elections, it must have come as a rude shock to the BJP that the banks were on the verge of collapsing and that something must be done to re-capitalise them.

It soon dawned on the BJP that Raghuram Rajan for all his qualifications, experience and no-nonsense approach was the wrong man for the job. There should be a lid on the whole banking mess – but instead, the RBI governor was going around asking the banks to set the balance sheets right. However, the balance sheets were too wrong to be set right.

All the bright minds in the BJP must have burnt their proverbial midnight oil and come up with the idea of “Jan Dhan” accounts, to get the people of India to deposit money in the banks, with the added incentive that anyone could open zero balance accounts. But the recent financial gain from these accounts was a paltry ₹6,000 crores, whereas the likes of Vijay Mallya to Mehul Choksi had swindled multiple times that. Jan Dhan was bound to fail because huge sums of money will always beg the question – where did it come from? Nobody in their right mind would bring a truckload of cash to deposit in the bank.

Let us assume that Mr X has made money from bribes, extortion, racketeering, drugs, etc. and has ₹200 crores stashed away at home. There is no way Mr X is going to deposit that money in any bank. Hundred bundles of ₹1,000 notes make ₹1 crore – and for ₹200 crores, it would be 200 multiplied by 100 times which would be 20,000 bundles of ₹1,000 notes.

No bank in its right mind is going to accept that amount of cash without asking questions. No matter, the government soon realised that this money will never see the light of day. The failure of banks is too hot a potato, and no political party will be able to get away from this mess.

So what was the next best thing to bank failures?  It was demonetisation, and it happened, not because of corruption, terrorism or anything else, but because banks needed to be recapitalised – and the only way was to get the man on the street give up all that they had, and that is what happened.

This was a classic case of “who will bell the cat?” The Congress did not want to do it and it conveniently forced BJP into it. Isn’t it strange that the Vijay Mallya episode is repeating all over again? Only the names and the amount defrauded change but the script remains the same – borrow money, go abroad, disappear. How is it that these fraud cases have people sitting outside India? Obviously, someone has tipped them off – get out before things get too hot.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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