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Readers' Mail
“It’s Raghuram Rajan’s duty to set right the financial position of banks. Evidently he didn’t,” says lawyer C Ramakrishna.

Senior advocate of the Madras High Court,C Ramakrishna (CR), has varied interests. These range from taking up intricate legal issues before the Court, to experiments in horticulture, to poverty eradication and to economic and judicial issues. In recent mails, he has referred to the huge loss suffered by the Punjab National Bank and wonders whether the regulator RBI had not discharged its function effectively: “what was the position of the banks when Raghuram Rajan took charge as Governor of RBI? I think it is his duty to set right the financial position of banks. Evidently, he didn’t. Otherwise it should not have seen this level of loss.”

From Dr. Subramanian Swamy to several others, there are complaints about Rajan’s stewardship of RBI. I notice a facile attempt to blame the RBI for the sluggish economic growth and inadequate job creation too! These are in the domain of the fiscal administrators in Delhi and also caused by systemic deficiencies that have not been attended for long.

Bad loans of banks are largely the result of government’s profligacy, especially of finance ministers P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee, who opted to go for massive borrowings, hoping to prime the economy. The UPA II government announced massive projects for the infrastructure sector - mining, ports, power, roads, transport… without proper linkages of raw materials, tight construction schedules through timely clearances and adequate funding.  Dozens of companies plunged into projects without detailed preparation and plans. Government, keen to show development through spending and with its control over the PS banks, breezily advised the banks to lend large. These landed the public sector banks in serious crisis. N Vaghul provides a lucid explanation of this (IE March 2016).

IE has also pointed to the banks going for settlement of hundreds of loans taken by corporate borrowers at heavy discounts, often on pressure from higher ups to the bank boards.

To be fair to Rajan, through the last three years he has brought about a dramatic, welcome drop in inflation. He took a bold and extremely tough decision to clean the balance sheets of banks by directing them to report honestly the extent of non-performing assets and for making adequate provisions. It was thus that the public sector banks and the SBI, have been showing depressing balance sheets. Thanks to Rajan there is a hope on more scrupulous administration.

There is also a welcome reform related to appointment of chairmen and CEOs of PSBs: the induction of reputed professional bankers as CEOs and renowned professionals of proven merit as non-executive chairmen is also a help in  banks sprucing up their functioning.

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