Congress opposes corporate-run-bank move
The Congress has strongly opposed the “pernicious idea” of allowing corporate houses to run banks, condemning it as another move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help crony capitalists capture the country’s resources.
Articulating the party’s concerns, former finance minister P. Chidambaram told a news conference: “This is another example of the Modi government pandering to the aggrandisement and acquisitive ambitions of the business houses of India. If the proposal goes through, it is no secret which politically connected business houses will get the first licences and increase their monopolistic power.”
Directly blaming the Prime Minister for the move, Chidambaram said: “This is not the idea of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This is not the idea of the IWG (internal working group) of the RBI. Like demonetisation, the RBI is being misused to implement a dangerous agenda. We are not sure whether the cabinet ministers knew of this proposal. This is entirely Modi’s idea.”
Rahul Gandhi, who had a few weeks ago warned of a sinister plan to enslave India, tweeted: “Chronology samajhiye: First, karz maafi (loan waiver) for a few big companies. Next, huge tax cuts for companies. Now, give people’s savings directly to banks set up by these same companies.”
The Congress leader had said while addressing a series of meetings in Punjab in October: “It is a misconception that the new farm laws will hurt the farmers and agriculture workers only because nobody will be spared by the sinister project to demolish the food security system of the country. Koi nahin bachne wala — farmers, labourers, small shopkeepers, traders, youth, women. The day the agriculture sector is taken over by these two — Adani and Ambani — the whole of India will be enslaved. It is not a farmer issue, it is about food security; it is linked to people’s freedom.”
While Rahul described Modi as a “puppet of Adani-Ambani”, Chidambaram on Tuesday said in the context of the banking sector: “The world knows who will get the first licences. We know. Political patronage will be the main criteria. There is a difference between professional bankers running banks and corporate houses running them. It is about people’s money. There will be monopolistic control over national resources.”
The Congress has been ramping up the criticism of the government, from non-performance and betrayal to facilitation of a complete corporate takeover of national resources. The Opposition party has also raised associated issues — change in labour laws, deliberate destruction of the informal sector and reckless sale of public sector units — to buttress its theory.
The Congress on Tuesday appealed to all political parties, trade unions and the general public to support its opposition of the government.
Chidambaram detailed the party’s objections to the banking initiative, saying: “The Congress supports the statement of (former RBI governor) Dr Raghuram Rajan and (ex-deputy governor) Dr Viral Acharya stoutly opposing the proposal to allow corporates and business houses to enter the banking sector and establish banks. The proposal, ostensibly based on a report of an IWG, has the fingerprints of the Modi government written all over it.
“This proposal, along with some other recommendations, is part of a deeper game plan to control the banking industry. The proposal, if implemented, will completely reverse the enormous gains made in the last 50 years of retrieving the banking sector from the clutches of business houses.”
Repeatedly calling the move “pernicious” and “retrograde”, Chidambaram explained: “All over the world, especially in developed economies, three principles govern banking: 1. Broad-based shareholding reflecting shareholder democracy; 2. Strict separation of ownership and management: ownership with shareholders and management in professional hands; and 3. Prohibition of connected lending; building a wall between lender and borrower. All three principles will be thrown out of the window if corporates and business houses are allowed to set up banks.”
He added: “Bank funds belong to the depositors who are the people of this country. As a proportion of total deposits, the equity of a bank is minuscule. The total deposits in the banking industry are of the order of Rs 140 lakh crore. If business houses are allowed to own banks, they will, with a small equity investment, control very large amounts of the nation’s financial resources.”