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How long will our system turn a blind eye to woes of people?

J Mulraj | Updated on October 11, 2019 Published on October 11, 2019

This country will not progress unless and until crooks, fraudsters and cheats are severely and swiftly punished. The lethargy of a slow moving judicial system, and the ability of the fraudsters to scuttle investigations by various means, has gone on for far too long. Add to that the willingness of a corrupt polity that turns its head, pretending, as Bob Dylan sang in ‘Blowing in the Wind’ that they just don’t see.

The promoters of HDIL gamed the co operative banking system, and took 73 per cent of the funds of PMC Bank, raising far too many questions to be easily swept under the carpet. How could the management of the bank, now arrested, lend so much to one borrower; what were internal auditors and statutory auditors doing, not flagging such inordinately high exposure to a single customer; how were thousands of dummy accounts opened to conceal the true NPA picture of HDIL, without being flagged by the internal/external auditors; what was RBI doing when it made periodic checks; and how could the moneys thus borrowed by HDIL be misused?

It is now revealed that the promoters enjoyed an undeservingly lavish lifestyle, including a large sea side residence, a luxury yacht, an airplane and dozens of luxury cars and expensive jewellery. Who pays for this? The poor depositors who trusted the PMC and kept their life savings in it. Will these depositors be the ones who’s life savings are used to ostensibly ‘bail in’ a failing bank, but truly, in effect, used to fund a lavish and undeserving lifestyle of crooks? How long will people stand for this? Will it not, should it not, lead to them distrusting all co op banks?

They were protected, apparently, by politicians who received houses as gifts!

And what about the depositors? The insurance limit for deposits has remained static at ₹1 lakh, the lowest in the world! Only 7.8 per cent of deposits are less than ₹1 lakh. So, 92 per cent of depositors aren’t fully covered.

Members of Parliament vote themselves to hikes in their salaries, allowances and perks so frequently. It will be interesting to chart the rise in their emoluments versus the static ₹1 lakh limit, to reveal their hypocrisy of wanting to serve the people.

Or look at the picture of illegal buildings. The Bombay High Court has given more time to residents of Gulistan, a building discovered to be illegally constructed, to vacate their homes before it is torn down. Okay, fair enough, illegal constructions ought not to be encouraged. However, what about the Municipal Ward Officers, supposed to be monitoring the area under their control, the Municipal Officers and the MLAs in charge of their area?

Global stock markets are yo-yoing on the on-again, off-again signals of a US-China trade deal. If a deal is struck, they would rally a bit. But the global financial situation is under strain. The September US ISM Manufacturing index came in at 47.8 per cent, the lowest level since June 2009 and a bad sign. Though the ISM Service sector index came up at over 50 per cent, and though the service sector provides more jobs, the manufacturing sector yields more profits.

The Fed overnight REPO rate has shot up above the high reached during the 2008 financial crisis, another bad sign. Banks are borrowing more, overnight, to meet their statutory requirements, and at higher rates.

All in all, a time for caution. One hopes to see a time when crooks get their punishments swiftly and severely, for people to retain faith in the system.

The writer is India Head — Finance Asia/Haymarket. The views are personal.

Published on October 11, 2019
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