Even as poor get poorer due to the pandemic, business houses get their bad loans written off by banks

Banks have written off debt worth 1.53 lakh crore, the second biggest write off in a financial year after Rs 2.54 lakh crore in 2018-19

Representative Image (Photo  Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Krishna Jha

When the rivers in the country began swelling with corpses, they got buried in shallow sand graves. Soon, in the strong wind, the sand moved away and then came the thieves who took away the last sheet. They all lay exposed in the glaring sun. We all have lost our voices, and stare at the calamity that has befallen us. The count of the dead is lost; they remain unsighted, innumerable. They are among those for whom no report speaks.

Andhra Pradesh saw 27,100 deaths over and above the average deaths in May, 2018 and May 2019. In May 2021, the state saw around 130,000 excess deaths. This “excess death” figure was nearly 34 times the official COVID death toll for the same period, according to the data provided by Civil Registration System (CRS).

Madhya Pradesh was even worse. The “excess death” figure was nearly 42 times the reported COVID death toll for the same period.

These facts could not be shoved under the carpet for long. It was the media that did the job. The Economist, with its analysis, and maintaining that the death toll was five to six times the official figures, brought it out in the open.

As for measures for vaccination, the only shield against a painful death from the deadly virus, it is easier to fall victim to COVID-19 than to get vaccinated. More so for the common masses. There are many hurdles, as the process to get registered is digitalized, after which the code is sent online. But among the deprived, there is hardly anyone possessing a mobile. To afford an Android phone is a luxury for those who can have hardly two meals a day. In 2020, the number of smart phone holders in India was just 42 per cent and around 685 million do not have any facility to avail the services of the internet.

In the hinterland, large swathes of the rural population have no access to digital devices. The long stretches of villages and their inhabitants live on the other side of the wall, vulnerable, invisible. For them, even a COVID test is a distant possibility.

A doctor in a far off region of Uttar Pradesh said, “We don’t know how to get rid of the epidemic here, people are dying every day. No arrangement for oxygen has been made.”

Everywhere it is the ‘rule of decay’ that prevails.

Former RBI Governor D Subbarao has expressed worry over the ever growing unevenness in the economic recovery that leads to inequalities. The canyon formed by the deprivation keeps widening the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’. There is hardly any job possibility. If at all there is an opening, it is only for a very short while and the wage is not enough even for bare survival.

The country is reeling under hunger, epidemic and absence of sustenance. The resources are drying up for the common masses that include not only those at the lowest strata, but also the lower as well as the middle. Joblessness keeps eroding the quality of life. Average unemployment rate rose to 13 per cent on June 6, 2021 from 11.9 in May according to CMIE data.

So far as country’s rate of GDP growth is concerned, in the January to March FYQ, it was stuck at 1.6 per cent. There is also a widening gap between the upper income segments and lower income households in the country. The number of billionaires has gone up, accentuating a negative trend hitting all growth prospects for going forward. It was termed as “morally wrong and politically corrosive”.

As regards bad loans, the banks have written off debt worth 1.53 lakh crore to show reduction in non-performing assets, especially in their books. But this write off is not the only one, it is the second biggest write off in a financial year after Rs 2.54 lakh crore in 2018-19. It was Rs 1.45 lakh crore in 2019-20 and Rs 1.44 lakh crore in 2017-18, mostly corporate loans.

The recoveries are falling too. Bank of India faced 37 per cent fall in 2020-21. After Rs 89,000 crore is transferred from 22 stressed accounts to the proposed National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd, NPA figures will fall by the end of FY21, but the banking system would remain stressed.

To facilitate the free flow of finance, a process of disinvestment has also been initiated. There is a cabinet note issued for hundred percent FDI in BPCL disinvestment. The proposal, if approved, would facilitate privatization of India’s second biggest oil refinery. The government is selling its entire 52.98 per cent stake in the company.

(IPA Service)

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