Right to disconnect at workplace: An Indian perspective - Business Guardian
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Right to disconnect at workplace: An Indian perspective



Technology has revolutionized the way corporations do business and conduct themselves. The use of technology has become the new normal which has manifested dramatic changes in the way employees work now. While many employees have begun to work from home as a result of the Covid-19, however the distinction between the hours when they are working and when they are not, have predominantly blurred.

Pandemic has accelerated a dynamic shift in the employee’sefficiency – in the sense that now in select companies, they have an option to select their mode of working viz. either entirely work from home or from the office itself or to adopt ahybrid of the two. An employee’s spare time, which was once used to converse with their loved ones has now become a shackle that ties them to their work. As a result, many aspects of professional lives have infiltrated personal lives. The always-on work culture and poorly regulated flexible working arrangements, generated by extensive use of electronic communication can have significant negative consequences on employee’s and their families’ health and well-being.


In order to create a corporate feel inside the employee’s home, corporations are creating a virtual office environment.Companies are taking an active step in implementing several tools for easy communication or task handing by either utilizing the available applications like ‘Slack’ or ‘Proofhub’or developing their own unique custom-made applications. Regardless of the existing benefits, remote working has significantly contributed to an increase in an employee’s to-do list. Improving the work culture is essential for companiessince research suggests that when an organization’s culture is favourable, employees are less stressed about their jobs. With positive approach from the employers’ side, employees tend to enjoy the working atmosphere and handle their job responsibilities efficiently.

The World Happiness Report (“WHR”) 2022, that ranks 156 countries, has placed India at the 136th place on the index of global happiness. This is lower than India’s rank in 2018 that was at 133rd place. While India’s underperformance may be linked to a variety of variables, there is no hesitation that anemployee’s happiness while they are working is an important factor. All this boils down to one question, how employeescan be, or should be compensated for undertakingassignments outside of their work hours even if it is as basic as answering business-related phone calls or e-mails?

In 2020, the Global Survey conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence brought out the difficulties that employees had to face globally with respect to their work as well as career. According to the Survey, 70% of employees feel trapped in their careers and it also had a bad influence on their personal lives. Whereas 40% of employees claim that working from home has contributed to extra stress and worry in their personal lives. The Report quotes “while our professional and personal lives have always been intertwined, it’s clear that the lines between work and life have blurred even further as more people shift to remote or hybrid working models.”

When we have mountain of problems, we address them one-by-one. So, let’s take an insight into the Right to Disconnect policy as being supported by many employers worldwide. What is it? How does it aim to balance the employee interests while securing no major business loss to the companies? Let’s answer.


All of us require a minimal break from our work for some time in our day. To refresh oneself, there is a need to disconnect yourself from your work so that you may address other personal engagements. However, it won’t be possible to relax when your employer is always reminding you of the upcoming agenda. To relax, one must have a clear mind, which is not always attainable owing to job pressure in vivid industries.

For any individual, home is a place to rest and replenish energy by taking some time away from the day-to-day stress of work life and if they receive work calls or have to respond to emails when at home, the person is certain to be disturbed. The long-standing equilibrium has not been altered despite being a significant cause of depression. Aside from the Global Survey mentioned above, many other studies have equally found that people who have a high imbalance in their work and personal lives are more likely to suffer from anxiety-related disorders than those who have a better life balance. This is in addition to other health issues such as obesity, gastric and heart issues, constant headaches, and eye problems from sitting in one place for long periods of time.

In 2016, the first national survey on mental wellness, conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare presents a more accurate representation of the prevalence of anxiety disorders in India. According to the survey, the total prevalence of anxiety disorders in India is 3.1 percent of the population. The UBS (a Swiss Investment Banking firm) research highlights Mumbai to be one of the busiest cities in the world, with people working an average of 3,314 hours each year, thus being the reason why this city never sleeps. All this is not just related to the right to disconnect, but is a depiction of the inadequate labour laws in India.

Another significant issue of which we hear about on a daily basis, is about the consequences of excessive screen time: people regularly suffer eye dryness and irritation as a result of excessive screen time. It is vital to take a break from technology after continuous staring at a screen, nevertheless, this cannot be done at job that requires entire concentrationespecially while working from home. A timely update is necessary, as is frequent telephonic and electronic connection. This interrupts the personal timetable which might have been assigned to our hobbies or to anything else after office hours.

People can only function at their best when there is a healthy mix between professional and personal life. They are unable of operating to their full potential unless they are given the due hours of personal life daily. It has been discovered that persons who disconnect from work after office hours and spend quality time with friends and family or participating in a sport of their choosing, are better than those who put in extra hours. If a government wants a stronger workforce, it must provide workers with the much-needed distinction by either encouraging strict overworking policies or monthly extra work activities.


The beginning of the right to disconnect can be attributed to a decision in the case Labor Chamber of the Cour de Cassation, October 2, 2001, n°99-42.727, before the Labour Chamber of the French Supreme Court on October 2, 2001. The English Court, through this judgement, emphasised that the employees are under no duty to either accept working at home or to bring his papers or instrument there after the working hours. The same ruling was reiterated by the French Supreme Court in the case of Labor Chamber of the Cour de Cassation, February 17, 2004, n°01-45.889, where the Court held, if an employee is not available on his cell phone outside of business hours, then the conduct of the employee shall not be deemed as a misbehaviour. France was the first country to implement this right by enacting the El Khouri law, later amending Article L.2242-8 of the French labour code to provide for the right to disconnect. In 2017, France passed a new employment law for organisations with more than 50 employees to negotiate the right to disconnect. Several other nations, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Spain, havealso enacted similar municipal laws recognising this right, by following France’s lead. The latest in the series, the province of Ontario, approved Bill 27 i.e. Working for Workers Act, 2021, which requires employers with more than 25 employees to have a policy governing the freedom and discretion to disconnect after work hours. Instead of a law establishing the policy, the employer is needed to create an in-house policy stating these privileges.

In 2014, Germany has taken a step ahead by calling for a ‘anti-stress’ law comparable to the ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy in other countries. Further, Mr. Andrea Nahel, Germany’s Employment Minister, published a study in 2017 that revealed some troubling data about how workers tend to retire early due to persistent stress. Germany has been grappling with the subject of how one can decrease work-related stress and aim for a positive working balance for some years.

The Indian Parliament’s winter session of 2018 witnessed the introduction of a Bill that had never been seen before, at least in the Indian workplace. Ms. Supriya Sule, a member of Parliament for the Nationalist Congress Party, submitted a Private Member’s Bill to allow employees to refuse answer any call or emails after work hours and no disciplinary action shall be taken for the same. The Bill moots for no calls or emails after work hours or on weekends, as well as no work-related calls or emails during the holidays. However, passing a law in India, particularly in this digital age where some organizations have permanently transitioned to a work-from-home structure, may not be the most effective answer. Indiandemographics, resources and culture is different from west and hence it won’t be desirable to use legislation to regulate the relationship between employers and employees. The Bill applies to enterprises with 10+ workers, and mandatesformation of an Employee Welfare Committee (“the Authority”) to oversee compliance of the Bill provisions. The Authority shall comprise the Ministers of Information Technology, Communication and Labour.

The Authority, so to be created as per the Bill, is required to publish research on the influence of digital technologies outside of work hours, including yearly reports, and create a format charter for employee-employer agreements.Furthermore, the Government would be required to fund employee counselling, digital detox centres, and other such tools ‘to liberate an employee from digital distractions and allow them to properly interact with the people around.’ In addition to these, non-compliance of the conditions of the Bill would result in a penalty of 1% of total employee salary on the employer.


While the right to disconnect is rational in theory, there are inherent complexities in executing it in a workplace. There may be concerns with employment that need emergency assistance or involve human lives such as those of a medical practitioner. Any right to disconnect must take into account the fact that, in the case of MNCs, workers operate across many temporal and physical zones. It can be argued that turning off oneself completely from work in certain industries isn’t possible. Moreover, if an entity is disconnected, especially in India, it may cause a disruption in the seamless supply chain. This may result in customer or client drop-outs if customer expectations are not met.

One great thing about humankind is – the power to adapt. Individuals have the ability to change work schedules in any circumstances, thus eliminating the need to total disconnect. One argument is that because no one is normally penalised for failing to respond to phone calls or emails after work hours, it is fine to blur the lines a bit. Considering Indian labour law is continually evolving in response to the changing working setup in India, other pressing issues must be addressed before addressing the right to disconnect. On the contrary India can apply a soft approach to envelope the right to disconnect in Indian companies.

Corporate’ priorities in India have evolved from just focusing on earnings to optimising the workplace with the goal of enhancing employee satisfaction. Reduced work hours and increased leisure time have resulted in lower absenteeism as well as enhanced health and productivity. Work time and leave are arranged in such a way that the workflow is maintained. Even in work-obsessed Japan, corporations are going against the grain and challenging the ‘Always-ON’mentality by allowing employees to disengage. Implementing the right to disconnect will involve a realistic evaluation of staff workloads and re-scheduling. There is a need to establish clear operational guidelines. Some firms, such as those in Japan, have established a staggered ‘disconnect structure,’ in which one person takes over the responsibilities of another who has disconnected.

Companies will have to figure out how to control the system if the freedom to disconnect becomes a legal right. Will people be penalised if they call during the disconnect period? Will the legal system intervene? To put the right to disconnect into action, the basics must first be addressed. Even after three years of adoption of right to disconnect, there are still loopholes in the said policy enforcement in France. This subject requires more examination in an era where laws are increasingly reactive, regulatory, and punishing.

Furthermore, the issue remains, can a ‘one size fits all’strategy will work for the diverse industries in which employees work? Some businesses require that they must have their personnel available outside of usual business hours. Furthermore, others worry that mandating employees not to respond to emails after work may merely push them to stay at work longer. Alternatively, it may create pressure on staff to complete work by the end of the day. Also, the question of successful implementation has to be dealt.

It’s time to shift the paradigm — to refocus policymaking language toward the broader satisfaction of both employer and employee. As a result, it is critical to minimize the involvement of strict Government policies and instead opt for a flexible policy regarding the expectations of employees outside of working hours that is unique, adequate and wholesome.

The Indian Parliament’s winter session of 2018 witnessed the introduction of a Bill that had never been seen before, at least in the Indian workplace. Ms. Supriya Sule, a member of Parliament for the Nationalist Congress Party, submitted a Private Member’s Bill to allow employees to refuse answer any call or emails after work hours and no disciplinary action shall be taken for the same.

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Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals



The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability



The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border



India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns



Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital



India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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