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THOSE WHO ANNOUNCE BOUNTY MUST BE AWARDED STRICTEST PUNISHMENT

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Raise retirement age of SC, HC judges: BCI

It is hitting the headlines all over that the Delhi Police Special Cell has arrested Bhim Sena chief Nawab Satpal Tanwar for allegedly announcing a bounty of Rs 1 crore on Nupur Sharma in a Facebook video and also made threatening remarks. The Delhi Police said that Tanwar had allegedly issued death threats and announced bounties earlier too. Within no time he gets bail as we see in similar other such cases!

It must be asked: How can Centre take all this just lying down so quietly? Why is it becoming so common to issue death threats and announcement of bounty on the head or throat of some one? Why is bail given so quickly and so easily to those who issue such dastardly threats?

Needless to say, our penal laws merit prompt correction in this regard and law makers who are reviewing penal laws must immediately deliberate, discuss and debate on this also so that the growing reprehensible tendency of issuing death threats or threats to maim some person is promptly reigned in!

Of course, we are not living in a Talibani India! We are a secular country and no one has the unfettered right to issue such death threats or threat to cut tongue or hands or legs! Why can’t Centre make such strict laws which mandates at least 14 years imprisonment to all those who dare to issue such death threats or threats to maim someone?

Who is Nupur Sharma? She is just about 37 years old who is a graduate in economics from Delhi University’s Hindu College and LLB from the Delhi University’s Faculty of Law. She also has a Master’s degree in law from the London School of Economics. She started her stint in politics as a student leader and, in 2008, went on to win the post of Delhi University Students’ Union president. It was a time when the Congress’s student wing, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), had a strong presence on campuses. So while Nupur managed to get the president’s post, all other posts were won by the NSUI. The most high-profile of her electoral contests, however, remains the 2015 Delhi Assembly election, when she decided to pick up the gauntlet and take on none other than the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi seat. She however lost by 31,583 votes but gave tense moments to Kejriwal.

Many of us know very well that Nupur Sharma who has been a very familiar and prominent face of the party’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, has also held several positions in the party such as national executive committee member of the youth wing and member of the Delhi state executive committee. In 2017, she was appointed Delhi BJP’s spokesperson when the then Delhi state unit chief Manoj Tiwari formed his team. In September 2020, when JP Nadda set up his team, Nupur Sharma was then picked as a national spokesperson.

It is said that Nupur Sharma made some controversial comments about Prophet Mohammad who is the founder of Islam. It merits no reiteration that no sane person can ever endorse anything wrong said about such a prominent personality whom Muslims hold in the highest esteem. She spoke about Prophet Mohammad marrying with a very small girl.

We don’t even get to read as to what exactly she said. She later apologized also humbly for the remarks which she made while speaking in a discussion in a news channel. Then why so much of brouhaha is made not just in India but all across the globe! We see so many times even Hindu Gods and Goddesses are not spared! But everything normally ends with an apology! This is what in this case I find most reprehensible and I am glad to see that many Muslim prominent faces too are condemning the issuing of death threats to Nupur Sharma and have voiced the controversy to be laid to rest as she has apologized.

It cannot be glossed over that a very eminent Muslim scholar named Maulana Salafi Engineer Mohammad Ali Mirza of Pakistan has fully, firmly and finally supported Nupur Sharma. He said that the Muslim panelist had first provoked Nupur Sharma by commenting and it was in response to this that she commented about the Prophet. Maulana Mirza said forthrightly that, “We have to see the whole atmosphere in this entire controversy. The real culprit is the Muslim guy who first mocked Hindu religion in the live TV show. BJP leader [Nupur Sharma] made remarks about the Prophet in rebuttal. Islam does not allow us to mock other religions.” He said that from the style and tone of Nupur Sharma’s statement, it will be known that she is retaliating. He said that the first criminal is a Muslim who talked about one’s religion in a live TV program but about whom none is speaking in India. This is what even I find really atrocious!

Maulana Ali further said that in the Nupur Sharma controversy, people of the Arab countries are provoking the atmosphere by sitting in ACs while in India people are protesting in the scorching heat and the policemen are answering them. He further puts across his point saying that, “This is basically an international politics. Arab countries are the slaves of those nations who are not the allies of Russia. These countries instigated Arab countries against India. Before this, there have been many big cases on which Arab countries did not react. Now Arab countries were instigated to put pressure on India regarding Russia.” No doubt, the reference is to countries like Canada, US, UK and other European countries!

We are a democratic country where every person has a right to put across his/her viewpoint. If Nupur Sharma has said something wrong the law is there to take her to task but what about the person named Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani who provoked first Nupur Sharma? Why no one is talking about him? Why he commented adversely about Lord Shiv and the Shivalinga found in the Gyanvapi Masjid well which is just not being discussed anywhere but which even a Maulana based in Pakistan is pointing out as I have just mentioned above! Nupur Sharma who herself is a lawyer has a legitimate point when she claims that her comments were a reaction to continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev (Lord Shiva) by the other panelist named Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani who was also speaking on the TV debate and who happens to be a Muslim. Why no one is talking about him also? Why only Nupur Sharma is alone being selectively made a scapegoat? Why we don’t see anyone mentioning about that person also? This makes it indubitably clear that we practice discrimination in such a terrible manner which cannot be ever justified under any circumstances!

The million dollar question is: Why are we seeing growing intolerance in India? Why those who give death threats are very rarely punished and why at least for 14 years they are not thrown behind bars who issue death threats for any reason whatsoever? Why is Centre not making law on this at the earliest? Centre must act on this also so that no one ever dares to ever issue such bounty awards and death threats. If Centre fails to act on this at the earliest then that day is not far when we will openly see beheading and what not which will only signal the end of democracy in India!

It really pleases me to the hilt to see for myself that none other than the Jamaat Ulama-e-Hind president Suhaib Qasmi on Sunday himself is on record saying that the former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma, who allegedly made controversial remarks on Prophet Muhammad, should be forgiven as per Islam. He added that the organisation of Muslim scholars disagreed with the nationwide protests in wake of her remarks. He also pointed out that the matter should have been laid to rest after she publicly apologized for the remarks which she made. Qasmi said, “Islam says Nupur Sharma should be forgiven. We disagree with the protest that started across the country after Friday prayers against Nupur Sharma and her derogatory remarks.”

Apart from this, Jamaat Ulama-e-Hind also welcomed the decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to suspend Sharma. Qasmi said at the press conference that, “We are welcoming the decision of the law because India is the law of the land and we are not going to take the law into our hands. The law does not allow to come on the road and break the rule.” Jamaat Ulama-e-Hind has decided to issue a ‘fatwa’ through which it will urge people not to support any kind of violence in connection with Nupur Sharma and her remarks. “The fatwa will come against Asaduddin Owaisi and Mohammad Madani,” the Jamaat said. It is good to see that we have such Muslims who have downright condemned the use of physical force and violence against a woman named Nupur Sharma and no civilized country can ever support such death threats or any other kind of threat of causing any kind of harm and that too to a woman!

As if this was not enough, we see Mamata Banerjee passing resolution in West Bengal State Assembly condemning Nupur Sharma but not saying a word on Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani who first provoked Nupur by what he said! Not just this when we see Hindu Sadhus being burnt and beaten to death then no one condemns so strongly! This dubious double standard smacks of sheer hypocrisy which cannot be justified under any circumstances!

This alone explains why even Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders said on Twitter that, “Don’t listen to the hypocrites. Islamic nations have no democracy, no rule of law, no freedom. They persecute minorities and disrespect human rights like no one else. They should be criticized whose ideology is offensive and abusive, not the heroic Nupur Sharma! Democracies like India and Netherlands have a rule of law. Courts will decide if one oversteps the mark and not mobs who threatens to kill anybody.”

Why these very Islamic countries who are reacting now so angrily on Nupur Sharma and protesting to Indian embassies maintain a shocking and deafening silence to Chinese ghastly assault on Islam by confiscating Qurans, not allowing Muslims to pray even in mosques unlike India where they pray even on roads and mercilessly persecute Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province? Why these Islamic countries don’t utter a word when ancient Hindu temples are burnt down in Pakistan and Bangladesh and idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are also similarly mercilessly broken to pieces? Similarly, why when terrorists trained in Pakistan mercilessly kill Indians which includes even Muslims like a Sub-Inspector Farooq Ahmad Mir in Pulwama do we see no such protest by anyone?

This alone explains why my best friend Sageer Khan said way back in 1993 that, “Muslims enjoy maximum liberty in India all over the world. Muslims must accept that Hindus quietly accepted monogamy in 1955 even though earlier both Hindu men and women could marry as many as they wanted but no one dare abolish polygamy among Muslims because Muslims don’t accept quietly unlike Hindus who accept everything so quietly. If Ram temple and Shiv temple will not be built in Ayodhya or Kashi will it be built in Mecca or Medina? Not a single mosque should ever be built in Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura! Hindus are so tolerant that inspite of nation getting partitioned on basis of religion still Hindus didn’t favour a theocratic state unlike Pakistan which became a theocratic and yet itself got partitioned in 1971 whereas India is still united and will always stay united because Hindus are so tolerant that they never prefer to fight! So all credit definitely goes to Hindus that India is still a secular country!”

It must be underscored that those who resort to stone pelting or burning of trains or burning of buses or any other kind of violence in a democratic country like India must be punished with the strictest punishment and should never be allowed to go scot free. We saw how in Kanpur among other cities, many protesters who were protesting against the statement of Nupur Sharma pelted stones and damaged vehicles and ransacked shops etc! Violence by anyone whether he/she is a Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or anyone else cannot be justified under any circumstances! If anyone tries to justify this then it will definitely become a most dangerous trend which will be justified on one pretext or the other which can never be in the long term national interest and cannot be ever justified under any circumstances!

It is really most shocking to see that in a democratic country like India which believes in pluralism and tolerance and harmony, we see just one argument in a TV channel assuming such gargantuan proportions which cannot be justified. It is so shocking to see that some leaders and fundamentalists organizations are openly calling for action to be taken against Nupur Sharma and hanging her publicly which I find most reprehensible because we are a democratic country and not some hard core Islamic country like Afghanistan! This has only compelled many Hindu organizations like VHP, Bajrang Dal among others to come out openly in full support of Nupur Sharma and they have a legitimate point too that so much of brouhaha is being made over a debate discussion in a news channel in which the other panelist Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani also was seen making some sarcastic remarks about Lord Shiv which provoked Nupur Sharma also to reply in anger as was pointed out even by a very eminent Maulana of Pakistan as stated above.

All said and done, it is high time and now Centre must definitely step forward and take the much needed bold initiative in this regard of stipulating the strict punishment of at least 14 years if not 20 years in jail to all those who dare to ever announce bounty rewards to kill someone or maim someone or cut the throat of someone which is nowadays becoming a fashion in India and yet such rogues are rarely punished. Why should their property also not be seized? Why should they be let off so gently after just 2 or 3 years only as we see under our present laws?

Why should such criminals who announce bounty on head of someone get bail so easily? Why should such offence not be non-bailable and cognizable? Why should such criminals not be promptly arrested and put behind bars which is their right place also? It certainly merits no reiteration that this burning issue must be addressed by Centre now itself without any more further delay by promptly amending the law in this regard as it brooks no more delay now! It certainly merits no reiteration that this burning issue must be addressed by Centre now without any more further delay as it brooks no more delay now!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate.

The million dollar question is: Why are we seeing growing intolerance in India? Why those who give death threats are very rarely punished and why at least for 14 years they are not thrown behind bars who issue death threats for any reason whatsoever? Why is the Centre not making law on this at the earliest? The Centre must act on this also so that no one ever dares to ever issue such bounty awards and death threats. If the Centre fails to act on this at the earliest, then that day is not far when we will openly see beheading and what not which will only signal the end of democracy in India!

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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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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Policy&Politics

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

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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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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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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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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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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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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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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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Economic

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

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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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