The Indian National Congress on Friday demanded a probe into reports suggesting that notes worth Rs 745.58 crore were deposited in Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, where BJP chief Amit Shah is a director, within five days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing demonetisation on November 8, 2016.
However, just before the Congress made the demand, NABARD issued a statement, saying that the average deposit amount in the Ahmedabad DCCB was Rs 46,795 per account holder, which is lower than the average per depositor in 18 DCCBs of the western state of Gujarat. NABARD, or National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, is the country’s apex financing agency for institutions that promote rural development.
“We expect the prime minister will himself come forward and give answers on the charges against Amit Shah, whom he has appointed. There should be an independent time-bound probe into this entire scam,” Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
The NABARD statement also said that during the period 1.60 lakh customers of the bank deposited/exchanged demonetised notes worth Rs 746 crore which were only 15 per cent of the total deposits of the bank.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cited the NABARD statement to say that the Ahmedabad DCCB was one of the biggest in the country and that it was not out of the ordinary for it to collect such an amount.
The Congress accused Modi of having “choreographed” demonetisation to benefit scamsters to convert their black money and dubbed the decision as independent India’s “biggest scam” that allowed scamsters convert their black money into white.
In a tongue-in-cheek tweet, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi congratulated Shah for being the director of a bank that won the 1st prize in the conversion of old notes to new.
“Congratulations Amit Shah Ji, Director, Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, on your bank winning 1st prize in the conversion of old notes to new race. Rs 750 crore in 5 days!
“Millions of Indians whose lives were destroyed by demonetisation, salute your achievement,” he said on Twitter.
He also used the hashtag “ShahZyadaKhaGaya” along with a picture of Shah, which was also used by the Congress on its social media handles to hit out at him.
Addressing a press conference, Surjewala, the Congress spokesman, said while people suffered in queues, scamsters converted black money to white.
“PM choreographed the DeMonetisation, leaving out window for black money hoarders to benefit. Nineteen months post-Modi Made Disaster’ of Demonetisation, it is now officially clear that this entire exercise was the biggest scam in Independent India, indulged to convert its ill-gotten Black Money’ into White’!,” he said.
He also alleged that in 11 district cooperative banks in Gujarat headed by BJP leaders, as much as Rs 3,118 crore worth of old notes were deposited within the five days after demonetisation.
“It is time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to answer. Will Prime minister Modi hold a probe against Amit Shah, his party MPs and ministers , he said.
The NABARD statement said that of the total 17 lakh accounts with district cooperative banks, deposits and exchanges were made only by 1.60 lakh customers, which is 9.37 pc of the total deposit accounts.
Of these less then Rs 2.5 lakh were deposited in 98.94 pc of accounts in which deposits/exchanges were made and out of the total accounts with the bank, it was only in 0.09 pc accounts where above Rs. 2.5 lakh were deposited.
The NABARD also said that demonetised notes presented in the DCCBs of Maharashtra were higher than those deposited in Gujarat, followed by DCCBs in Kerala.
The rural bank also said that the Ahmedabad DCCB, with total business levels of over Rs 9,000 crore, is one of the top ten DCCBs of the country and was recently awarded for the best performance by the Federation of the Cooperative Banks.
It also said that the bank has a total of 194 branches, the highest among all the DCCBs of Gujarat and its deposit base of Rs 5,330 crore is also the highest among all the banks of Gujarat.
Jet Airways has set target of flying 40 additional aircraft by April-end: Government
New Delhi | Jet Airways has informed the government that it has 35 aircraft in operation currently and it has set an “ambitious” target of flying additional 40 aircraft by the end of April, Civil Aviation Secretary P S Kharola said on Tuesday.
For last few weeks, the full-budget carrier has been grounding its aircraft in tranches due to non-payment of dues to lessors, bringing down its operational fleet from 103 to just 35.
Giving up chairmanship after more than 26 years, embattled Jet Airways’ founder Naresh Goyal on Monday quit as a board member, with the lenders taking control of the cockpit and deciding to infuse Rs 1,500 crore immediately into the ailing airline.
Addressing a press conference, Kharola said, “They (Jet Airways) were hopeful that by Monday or Tuesday, they will be able to come to some settlement with the lessors. As per the plan given by Jet, they are hopeful that by the end of next month, they will be able to fly about 40 more planes.”
“We had discussions with Jet and we asked them what is the plan now to bring the (grounded) planes back in the system. So the first thing they have assured us is that 35 planes are flying and no more additional planes will be grounded,” he added.
He said the airline would be approaching aviation watchdog DGCA to get next month’s schedule approved for these 35 planes.
“More importantly we asked them how more planes will be restored with this funding coming in now. They (Jet Airways) said the matter will have to be discussed with lessors since the planes have been grounded by lessors. So they will have to negotiate with lessors to get authorisation to use the planes,” Kharola said.
Struggling to stay afloat amid a debt burden of over Rs 8,000 crore, the board of the country’s first private full-service carrier on Monday approved conversion of banks’ debt into equity and induction of nominee directors of the lenders, who would become majority stakeholders.
Kharola said lead lender State Bank of India (SBI) will infuse funds into the airline “as early as possible” and the government is keeping a close watch on the developments.
When asked what the government plans to do with the flight slots that remain unused because of grounded aircraft of Jet Airways, the aviation secretary said that the Centre is mulling interim arrangements to allot such idle flight slots to other airlines.
In response to a question on how fast the dues of airline’s pilots and aircraft engineers would be paid, the secretary said that the airline management will take the “best possible decision”.
Jet Airways’ domestic pilots’ body, the National Aviators Guild (NAG), Tuesday sought a meeting with SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar over pending salaries.
The guild had last week announced that its over 1,100 members would stop flying from April 1 if their salaries were not cleared and clarity on the revival roadmap was not provided by March 31.
Bombay HC concludes hearing on petitions on Maratha quota
Mumbai | The Bombay High Court on Tuesday concluded the hearing on a bunch of petitions filed both in opposition and support of the Maharashtra government’s decision to grant 16 per cent reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and education in the state.
A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre, which heard the petitions, reserved its verdict on the issue. The bench had been conducting daily hearings on the petitions since February 6.
On November 30, 2018, the Maharashtra legislature passed a bill giving 16 per cent quota to the Marathas in government jobs and educational institutes following an intense agitation by the community.
The reservation was granted by placing the Marathas under a newly carved ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class.’
With the Maratha quota, the total reservation in jobs and education in Maharashtra under various heads stands at 68 per cent, way above the Supreme Court-fixed limit.
The government maintained before the HC that the Maratha quota and creation of the new category was legal and valid.
The state was represented during the hearings by former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, former Advocate General V A Thorat and senior counsel Anil Sakhare.
All the lawyers for the state maintained the Maratha quota was necessary, and the measure was based on the recommendations of the Justice M B Gaikwad Backward Class Commission.
The commission, they said, had recommended reservations for the Marathas who comprise a third of the state’s population, for education and public employment.
Therefore, even if the new category took reservations in the state beyond 50 per cent, the same was permitted under the powers vested to the state by the Constitution for betterment of the downtrodden, they argued.
While these arguments were supported by a bunch of petitions, others, represented by former Advocate General Shrihari Aney and advocate Pradeep Sancheti, among others, opposed the quota.
These petitioners argued that the commission report was based on “unsound” findings. They also argued the Marathas were not socially backward.
They argued that the Marathas historically belonged to the warrior class and most of them presently held government jobs or were employed in the Army.
They also argued the Maratha quota was in breach of a previous apex court judgement that prescribed an upper limit of 50 per cent for caste and community-based quota.
Govt refuses to disclose details on RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das appointment
New Delhi | The Centre has refused to share details related to the appointment of RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das citing a clause in the transparency law which bars disclosure of information, including “records of deliberations of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers”.
Replying to an RTI query, it declined to share the details, including names of short-listed candidates and file notings related to the appointment.
Das was on December 11, 2018 named as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for three years.
The appointment came after Urjit Patel abruptly resigned amid a face-off with the government over issues related to governance and autonomy of the central bank.
The RTI application was filed by this correspondent with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) seeking details like copy of any advertisement or vacancy circular issued by the government on the appointment of RBI Governor, names of all applicants who had applied for the post and those short-listed for the top post.
The DFS was also asked to provide details on the composition of the search committee to short-list candidates and a copy of minutes of meetings held on deciding the RBI Governor.
In its reply, the DFS said the selection of Governor, RBI is done by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on basis of the recommendation made by the Financial Sector Regulatory Appointments Search Committee (FSRASC).
The committee is headed by cabinet secretary as its chairperson and has additional principal secretary to Prime Minister and secretary of the department concerned besides three outside experts as its members, the DFS said, without giving the names of the experts.
It had then forwarded the application to the cabinet secretariat.
“In this regard, it is informed that the requisite information about appointment of Shaktikanta Das as Governor, Reserve Bank of India, being Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) related file notings/documents/records, is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (i) of the Right to Information Act 205,” the cabinet secretariat said in its reply to the RTI application.
The section bars disclosure of “cabinet papers, including records of deliberations of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers”.
The section, however, says that the decisions of council of ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over.
Das, a 1980-batch IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre, retired as Economic Affairs Secretary in May 2017 and was since appointed India’s Sherpa to the G-20 and a member of the Finance Commission.
Urjit Patel, who initially appeared to have toed the government line on issues like demonetisation, clashed with the Finance Ministry last year over issues of liquidity, reserves of the central bank and lending norms.
The face-off had led to the government invoking a never-used-before provision of the RBI Act to bring the Governor to the negotiating table on these issues.
After Das’ appointment was announced, Indian-American economist Abhijit Banerjee flayed the government for appointing the retired bureaucrat as the RBI Governor. He also warned that the decision leaves a lot of “frightening” questions about governance issues at key public institutions.
Banerjee, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), had made a strong pitch for strengthening the credibility of all key institutions like the RBI.
On Patel’s sudden resignation, he had said, “We should all worry if this is a sign of institutional stress.”
Addressing a function a day after Das’ appointment, former chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian said the central bank’s autonomy was “sacred” which should not be compromised.
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