SHRI MOINUL HASSAN (CONTD.): It is a worldwide-accepted system. Computerisation is taking place throughout the banking system of our country. Sir, I personally feel, not only personally, but my party also feels that it is a dependable measure. But, what is happening when we are going to the deployment of skilled personnel and they are used in the particular area of banking system. It is also important. But, we have seen that there is a computer. Actually, it is dumped in a corner of a room. There is nobody, no personnel to use this computer which can help the farmer and the unemployed youth of our country also. So, what is the use of this computerisation? It is sad that in many places of rural areas, there is no use of computerisation. I know that the Government of India has a good intention. But, what is happening throughout the country should be taken note of when we take a decision and bring out a Bill like this. So far as computerisation is concerned, I would like to say another small point. I would like to say -- it is my personal experience and with your kind permission, I would like to express it here -- that many administrative officer posts are lying vacant for months and years. So, I would say that it is not a comprehensive Bill. It is only an ad hoc measure that we are taking. It is a good Bill; but it is an ad hoc Bill. There is still a scope for bringing out a comprehensive Bill with administrative set up, with a new approach to the indirect and direct taxes, customs duty, etc. So, it is also my request to the hon. Minister.
Sir, my another point is regarding the charitable trusts. I am not going into the details. I am very much in favour of the charitable institutions, those who are working throughout the country in a big way. They are doing a very wonderful job in the country.
(MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN in the Chair)
But, I would say that there are some charitable institutions, whose work and whose activities are not out of question. So, what is the position of the Reserve Bank to think over these so-called charitable institutions, which are transacting the people's money? It is my question to our hon. Minister, Mr. Bansal is here and the other Minister is also here. I am not left with much time to give you examples, but I would like to give you one example. We have seen hospital-cum-research institutions in different parts of the towns and cities. They have provided only one room in their building for research. There is small scope; there are some instruments and they are called research institutions. They are running like a private hospital but they are getting all the facilities and concessions that other research institutions get. I would like to say, please, look into this, so far as private hospitals are concerned and private medical institutions are concerned.
Sir, again I say, so far as the administrative set up is concerned, income tax, customs, Central excise, etc., should be defined properly and anomaly and loopholes should be removed.
Sir, I would like to make another two-three points. As Mr. Poojary has already talked about, what is the relation between bank and the unemployed youth of the country? I have seen in the List of Business, tomorrow, there is a Resolution to be discussed regarding the unemployment situation in the country. But, I can firmly say that there is no help forthcoming from banking institution or financial institutions to the unemployed youth of our country. (Contd. by 2b-YSR)
SHRI MOINUL HASSAN (CONTD.): I would request the hon. Finance Minister to extend his hands to the unemployed youth who are the main assets to our country. They are running like vagabonds in the open air, because they have no work to do. We should do something for the unemployed youth. We should do something for the poor farmers who are working in the fields. They are not getting loans properly from banks. They go to mahajans, zamindars, and other private parties to get loans from them. They are not going to banks. So, banks are not in a position to cater to the unemployed youth and farmers. I request the hon. Minister to take a comprehensive view towards this main asset of our country -- unemployed youth and farmer.
My another point is this. There is a circular of the Reserve Bank of India. As far as minority communities, ethnic minorities, and linguistic minorities are concerned, Sir, please, take special care in bringing them into the mainstream of society. What is happening throughout the country? I have some experience of meeting with banks' officers at the State level as well as district level, and I have found some grey areas in our country. I would request the Minister of State for Finance to look into the matter. I support the Bill. With these words, I conclude. (Ends)
SHRI C. RAMACHANDRAIAH (ANDHRA PRADESH): Sir, I rise to support the Reserve Bank of India (Amendment) Bill, 2006. I welcome it, Sir. It is a very positive move for the banking sector. It is one of the measures that are being taken in continuation of the liberalisation process. In fact, I think it will strengthen the important regulator of monetary system in our country, the Reserve Bank of India. It is the need of the hour. Economy of the country is undergoing transformation; more capital is being brought in; and capital markets are undergoing some very big change. So, there is every necessity to have more powers with the regulators, so that they can effectively control the monetary system to the advantage of the economy, so that the vested interests could not exploit the economic change that is being taken place in this country. Sir, it provides operational flexibility to the Reserve Bank of India. I have been under the impression that the disposal that is being kept at the banks was one of the reasons why these private sector banks used to approach very lucrative lines of lending, though they are very risky. Now, the Reserve Bank of India is being conferred with the power, so that there would be more flexibility to change the statutory ratios, both SLR and CLR, as per the needs of the day to protect the economy. (Contd. by VKK/2c)
SHRI C. RAMACHANDRAIAH (CONTD.): Sir, I think this Bill should have been more exhaustive because it has to deal with the future derivatives also. Derivatives may deal with commodities, may deal with monetary instruments or may deal with both. It is complex and multiple. So, I think, the definition that has been given in derivatives may not be exhaustive to cover all these instruments.
Sir, I find some inconsistencies. I draw the attention of the Minister. This amendment Bill seeks to confer specific powers to the RBI to regulate the derivatives. Sir, as everybody knows, derivative is an instrument which derives its characteristics from underlying, a change in the price -- it may be a commodity or financial instrument or whatever it is. But, Sir, section 45V (1) of the Reserve Bank of India (Amendment) Bill, 2005 clearly states that transactions in derivatives, as specified by the bank from time to time, shall be deemed to be valid notwithstanding anything contained in the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956. To be specific, the section of the Bill states, "Notwithstanding anything contained in Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956 or any other law for the time being in force, transactions in such derivatives as may be specified by the Bank from time to time, shall be valid......" This is the amendment that is being introduced. Sir, there is a relative clause in Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act which was amended in 1999 to facilitate derivative transactions which states, "Notwithstanding anything in any other law, contracts in derivatives shall be legal and valid if such contracts are traded in recognized stock exchanges." Sir, I feel that these two provisions -- one which you are going to incorporate now in this amendment Bill and that which is already there in the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Bill in 1999 -- seem to be contradictory. I need a clarification as to which overrides what. This has to be through banking instruments only. This creates ambiguity. So, I feel that unless some amendment is brought in, it would give rise to a situation where there will be two statutes conflicting each other.
Sir, my second suggestion is regarding RBI itself. RBI is working satisfactorily at macro level. But, Sir, more monitoring has to be done by this regulator at micro level. Sir, we have been seeing and we have been reading in the newspapers, whether it is systematic failure or individual failure whatever you call it, but ultimately, they are leading to very big scams whether it is IPO or stock market scams, whatever you may call it. A number of committees have been appointed, JPCs, Standing Committees and we could not come out with a foolproof system where the economy of this country or capital market of this country is insulated from this issue. Sir, I don't advise the RBI to play a police role. But, ultimately, being a regulator which is responsible for the entire monetary system of this country, it has to equip itself with powers, if at all it does not have. I think the existing powers are more than sufficient for the RBI to regulate the monetary system. But, it is my personal observation that at micro level, RBI has to do more. Sir, my third suggestion is, with this amendment, I draw the attention of the Minister dealing with banking laws, what will be its impact because you will be keeping more funds at the disposal of the banks.
(Contd. by MKS/2d)
SHRI C. RAMACHANDRAIAH (CONTD.): Now, the RBI has got the operational flexibility to reduce the CLR and SLR. So, more funds will be available with the banks. Sir, I know one bank, a privately promoted bank, had to go to the stock market because it had to compete with the nationalised banks and to earn more profits. In that process, it had knocked the doors of the stock market operators. So, more funds had been sent to these operators. Ultimately, the bank failed, and the RBI had to intervene to save the interests of the depositors. What impact it had on the stock market is to be kept in mind.
Sir, about speculation, a senior Member from the BJP has said that there is a speculation in the market. Speculation, I feel, is a characteristic feature of the stock market. But as far as the Regulator is concerned, they should be more careful. Sir, I am weighing 500 kgs; I need not jubiliate. Instead, I should feel that there is something wrong with my health; I should rush to a doctor. But the present tendency in this country is that if the Sensex goes up, we feel that it is an indication of a very sound state of our national economy. That need not be necessarily so, Sir. Unless the fundamentals of the economy are commensurate with this increase in the Sensex, we have to feel alarmed. The Sensex is coming up and going down. Of course, it is a universal phenomenon. But abnormal, volatile tendency has to be monitored by the RBI.
Sir, I want to make one more suggestion to the Minister of Banking. There are huge funds available, especially petro-dollars. Generally, they are not interested in levying an interest. Sir, they want to participate in the equity of the corporate sector in this country. Why don't we promote more instruments, financial instruments, where we can attract these funds? I am told that the estimated funds that are available in the system are around 800 billion dollars. It is a huge amount. But we need more amounts for our infrastructure. We have been saying that the planners are advocating that more investments are needed for our infrastructure to achieve a growth rate of ten per cent. When such is the case, when the funds are not available, when we are unable to tax the people for raising more resources, it would be better to tap the resources from abroad. I make a suggestion to the Minister of Banking to pay attention to it and initiate some measures to attract more funds.
Sir, ultimately, I support this Bill because it strengthens the RBI because now, a larger variety of products are entering the financial market and there is a need on the part of the RBI to use newer versions of financial instruments. So, more powers are needed. As this Bill confers more powers on RBI to determine a policy relating to interest rates, interest-related instruments, and give directions in this regard to agencies dealing in the money market, foreign exchange and also derivatives, I fully support this Bill. Sir, it should have been introduced a long time back as Mr. Poojary was saying. I fully support this Bill, but what will be the impact on the stock market and how to assess the irrational volatility of speculation in the stock market has to be kept in mind. (Ends)
DR. ABHISHEK MANU SINGHVI (RAJASTHAN): Sir, I rise to support the Bill. The Bill is a very limited exercise in respect of some specific concepts, definitions and powers. So, the first point which I wish to humbly submit, Sir, is that we should not look at this Bill as the panacea and the answer to all evils. (Contd. by 2E)
DR. ABHISHEK MANU SINGHVI (CONTD.): This is not the answer to all the problems. Many of the problems mentioned by the hon. Members are genuine situations. But they are really relating to policing problems. They really relate to implementation problems. This is providing a legal framework for implementation and, I think, the fact that this Bill does not address other issues should not mean that the issues it does address are bad or wrong.
Secondly, the key words underlying this Bill, I submit, are the words "flexibility" and "greater autonomy". We cannot, on the one hand, look upon India as a world, global, economic power competing with the likes of China and developed countries like the USA, and, at the same time, require the apex bank of this country to constantly go back to the Central Government or to other authorities for permission or for empowering the increase or lowering of rates. This flexibility is extremely important in a global market, in a global scenario, and, as you know, some of the scenarios involve very fast-moving fluid situations, which require systematic fine-tuning changes on the spur of the moment at short periods. Consequently, for example, a provision, as it existed earlier, that you can't alter the ratio below three per cent is something which in an emerging fast-moving situation would be an unnecessary obstructive limitation on the powers of the apex bank and I support the clear element of flexibility given by removing that lower limit.
Take, for example, the issue of derivatives. There is no reason why an apex bank dealing in the current global scenario with a whole host of public-private participatory exercises should not have the power to touch or deal in derivatives in the manner provided now. Derivatives are a very important aspect of the market. I think the definition is very comprehensive and, prior to this, the degree of autonomy, flexibility and empowerment required to deal with derivatives was not available to the apex bank and, I think, this again is a welcome move. Indeed, this is something in conformity with the global paradigm. Several other apex banks in several parts of the world have that power and, therefore, there is no reason why the Reserve Bank of India should not have that power.
Sir, there is one point of definition which, I think, does require a comment or explanation by the hon. Minister. You look at the amendment in clause 2 which seeks to insert section 17(6A). It does so by adding an explanation, which has a definition of both "repo" and "reverse repo". Now, this explanational definition of "repo" and "reverse repo", which is under 12AB, at page 2, under the Explanation (a) and (b), is different from the definition of the same terms "repo" and "reverse repo" in section 45U which is given under clause 4 of the Bill. Clearly, the intent is that, as far as the amendment to section 17 is concerned, the repo definition is limited to securities of the Central Government or the State Government or the local authority, as specified by the Central Government. This limitation is absent in the definition of the same terms in clause 4 which deals with section 45U. Now, the intent is clear. But I would request the Minister to consider in his closing remarks to explain the rationale of why in two parts of the same Act a different definitional approach is taken.
As I said, I heard the objections raised and the comments made. I think, all of them are made in a positive, good and constructive spirit. But, as I said, many of them relate to policing and implementation issues and not to the legal framework which this Bill seeks to provide. Therefore, I said that issues like, for example, the policy and the movement of gold or direct and indirect taxes or evasion were issues which had their relevance in their place, but might not be addressable in the limited focus of this Bill which deals with instruments in particular.
Lastly, a point was raised about a possible contradiction with section 45V as provided in clause 4 of this Bill. (Contd. by 2F/VK)
DR. ABHISHEK SINGHVI (CONTD): It is true that clause 45 (b) has an opening word which is a non obstante notwithstanding anything contained in -- one particular Act is mentioned -- the Securities Act and also any other law. As the hon. Member rightly pointed out, the securities law also mentions non obstante notwithstanding any other law. So there is an apparent or plausible or a possibility of collusion. May I submit that it is well established and it is well known rule of construction, interpretation and implementation that both the later Act and the special Act will always prevail? So, if the intent is that this is the RBI Act which deals with the RBI, which deals with the specific powers of the RBI, it is a later Act and it is an Act special to the RBI, so, in the normal course also it will prevail. But one of the reasons why clause 45 (b) may not be any problem, as the hon. Member pointed out, and that is this. The non obstante clause which is mentioned in the Securities Act, is part of the Securities Act; whereas this Bill is correctly drafted. Clause 45 V (1) says, "Notwithstanding anything contained in the Securities Act. itself." In other words, the Securities Act is overridden. Therefore, the clause of the Securities Act which has a separate non obstante will also be overridden. I think, there will be no problem on that. But I think the slight difference in the definitions of repo and reverse repo would require some detailed comments by the hon. Minister. Sir, I support this Bill. Thank you. (Ends)
THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE (SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I, at the very outset, thank all the hon. Members who have participated in this very fruitful discussion and have supported this Bill. Sir, let me again, without hesitation, admit that this Bill is not intended to cover the entire gamut of economic activity in the country, the working of the banks or the taxation regime, as it was also sought to be suggested by one hon. Member in this case. But I must also admit that there have been many valuable suggestions which would be of utmost use to the Government. I owe it to the House to make certain points clear which have been raised here during the course of this very fruitful discussion. I must also thank, before I proceed further, Dr. Abhishek Singhvi, who has raised certain pertinent points, but, at the same time, has made my job a little easier in dealing with the situation. One point which I must really refer to immediately is regarding the reference to the Securities Act as also the amendments being made here now in the RBI Act. As you know, Sir, the derivative trading became legalised in India with the enactment of the Securities Act, 1999. Sir, as the hon. Members know, it is in terms of the provisions of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act 1956, which was amended in 1999, that only such derivative contracts which were traded or are traded in a recognised stock exchange are legal and valid. Over the time, a dispute, a sort of ambiguity, has arisen about the legal validity of what we call, over the counter derivative trading. It is precisely to cover that point that this specific amendment is now being made in the RBI Act. In this context, permit me to read the definition of derivative. This Explanation, which was referred to by Dr. Singhvi, says, "For the purposes of this clause, "derivative" means an instrument, to be settled at a future date, whose value is derived from change in one or a combination of more than one of the following underlyings, namely:- (a) interest rate; (b) price of securities of the Central Government or a State Government or of such securities of a local authority as may be specified in this behalf by the Central Government; (c) price of foreign securities; (d) foreign exchange rate; (e) index of rates or prices; (f) credit rating or credit index; (g) price of gold or silver coins, or gold or silver bullion, or (h) any other variable of similar nature." (Contd. by 2G)
SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL (contd.): It is, in fact, to address the various apprehensions or concerns of the hon. Members that this specific Amendment has been brought about, and I reiterate, it has been brought to remove the ambiguity about the legal validity of the transactions in OTC derivatives. Just for the sake of repetition only, to add emphasis to it, I would say that it is to cover all derivatives that this Amendment has been brought, and is much needed. For this, support has been forthcoming from the hon. Members for which I must thank them.
A point has been made about the definition of the three terms at two different places. Sir, this point was considered at length by us, and I am sure, Mr. Singhvi would appreciate that the definitions, even in the same enactment at times, are sometimes contextual. There can be two definitions of the same term for different purposes. Here, we have Section 17 which deals with the business which the bank may transact and, in that context, I have just read the definition of derivatives. There are definitions which, of course, are almost similar in the case of the other two, that is, the repo and reverse repo. When we come to Section 45, it deals with the regulatory power of the RBI. Here, because of the context in which the three terms are used, it did warrant that there has to be a different definition like, for example, the words, trading in gold, etc. I am sure the hon. Members would appreciate the context in which the definitions at different places have been used both in Section 17, which deals with the business that the bank can transact, as also when we come to Section 45 U, V, etc. where we deal with the regulatory powers of the bank.
Sir, there are some points, let me say, which are not strictly within the ambit and scope of the present amendment, but, nevertheless, are very important points about which the Government does attach utmost importance to the views of the hon. Members, including what was said about the large amount of money available and the need to have some sort of instruments, as was pointed out by Shri Ramachandraiah. I would like to inform him -- he may also be aware -- that a company, the India Infrastructure Finance Limited, has been set up, and I am sure, once that company gets down to its business, it will take care of financing infrastructure in the country and would be able to raise resources from wherever it does because that autonomy is granted to it. There has been a doubt about the role of the RBI. Let me say that our Regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, is ranked as one of the best Central banks in the world. Over the years, it has played a very important role in discharging the responsibilities which are mandated to it, and wherever some loophole is found, some lacuna is found, Parliament has always been willing to grant more power to it. That is what is precisely being done today.
There is a reference -- that is a very important point -- about the fixing of the CRR. Though it has been accepted by the hon. Members that this manoeuvrability of the Reserve Bank which was curtailed because of the conduct of the Monetary Policy becoming more of the market-based one, they thought that there was a need to grant greater flexibility to the Reserve Bank, and it is, precisely, for this purpose that the floor of three per cent of the total of the demand and time liabilities in the CRR and 20 per cent as the ceiling has been removed. And this has been done only to give flexibility to the bank. An apprehension was perhaps expressed that the bank would be flushed with money. What would happen and would it lead to inflation? I suppose we have to have confidence in our Regulator; it has been reacting to the situations as have developed from time to time and stepping in to apply correctives if needed anywhere. We can have faith that the Reserve Bank would continue to do that. In my opening remarks, I have referred to a High-power Committee, which includes the Governor, Reserve Bank, the Chairman, SEBI, the Chairman, IRDA and the Secretary, Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Finance. (Continued by 2H)
SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL (CONTD.): The Committee meets, exchanges information and coordinates policy-making. So, I suppose, any fear or any doubt on that score need not really be entertained any further.
The banking system in our country has financed the GDP to the extent of 35 per cent. When we want the GDP to increase, our economy to grow, which is growing, we certainly expect the Reserve Bank of India to be able to play a much bigger role. And it is only to provide that flexibility, that position, that environment, through the Reserve Bank, that this amendment has been brought forward.
Sir, there are certain other points. I would very hurriedly rush through those because those points do not directly relate to the Bill as such. But, nevertheless, as I said earlier, those points are important.
About inflation, I would like the Members to rest assured that the Government is always conscious of the responsibility of the movements, from time to time, and it is a matter of satisfaction for us that the inflation is certainly under control, very well under control. There may be one or two items, which may, at times, cause some concern, but the Government does always take corrective measures to ensure that the people do not really face any undue burden of anything.
Sir, there was repeated reference to the IPO scam by two or three hon. Members. They are important subjects. All that I would like to say at this stage is that the Government has taken certain determined steps in the matter, which was alluded to by two hon. Members. We can have a detailed, full-fledged, independent discussion on that matter any time. But, for the moment, I can say that it is only to address these concerns that the present powers are being given to the banks.
Sir, certain matters were raised here, but they do not relate to the Reserve Bank of India. But SEBI is a different matter which can be discussed from time to time. About computerisation, Shri Moinul Hassan had raised a point, though it is not directly related with this. Sir, it is because of computerisation today that you have `any-branch-banking'. There is a networking of all the branches of different banks, particularly, the State Bank of India, at the moment. You may be having your account in Delhi, but you can go to Chennai and operate your account from there. It is because of the use of computerisation and the maximum use to which it has been put to that we are making that progress. My hon. friend does know that the Government has very many schemes to come to the aid of the unemployed youth. When it comes to the role of banks, with which we are precisely concerned, it may not be meeting the entire targets. But, certainly, the progress in that case is always monitored and, from time to time, whether it is the State-level banking committees or the lower ones, they do meet occasionally and take stock of the entire matter and see as to what can be done. But the Government is committed to take care of it.
The credit provided to the priority sector has grown. In fact, in the last year, it was expected to exceed the target that we had set for ourselves, and by the end of the current year, it will exceed the figure of Rs. 1,75000, the target which we have set for ourselves. The priority sector lending is completely being met. And, in this Budget, the hon. Finance Minister had declared, and that is the commitment of the Government, that up to a loan of Rs. 3 lakhs for farmers, the interest would be only at the rate of seven per cent. That would mean a substantial subvention to be paid by the Government. But the Government is willing to do this. And for the earlier two crops, the interest rate was reduced, that amount is equivalent to two percentage points, which would be credited to the accounts of all the farmers who have taken those loans. So, the Government is conscious of it, and the Government attaches the utmost importance and priority to the agricultural sector, to the plight of the farmers. And we are aware of it. We have repeatedly said that the access of formal credit to the farmers is not adequate. And it is the moneylenders in various States who are charging usurious rates from the people and that it is for the different State Governments to really act boldly in that direction. The Finance Minister has been taking up that matter with the various Chief Ministers and we would continue doing that. But on our own part, the Government of India would leave no stone unturned to meet the needs of the vulnerable sections of our society.
I am sure, Sir, given the intent of this Bill, and the five important and salient features which I had outlined in my opening remarks of my intervention, I am sure, the hon. Members, the entire House, would extend their full support, which all the Members while participating in this debate have done.
Sir, with these words, I commend this Bill to the House.
(Ends) (Followed by 2j/tdb)
SHRI RAJEEV SHUKLA: Sir, I want to make one observation. The hon. Minister has said that the inflation is well under control. Here I would like to disagree with him because price-rise is becoming a very important issue. It is a vital factor which is drawing the attention of the people of this country. I think he should re-look into it, and he should try to curb the prices of the essential commodities, at least.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: What the hon. Minister said is that the Government is seized of it. He did not say...
SHRI RAJEEV SHUKLA: No; he said it is well under control.
SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL: I said, one or two items, at a time, do cause concern, and the Government does take action. ...(Interruptions)...
SHRI RAJEEV SHUKLA: You are saying one or two items! ...(Interruptions)... By and large, I am telling you that the price-rise is becoming a problem.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: The question is:
That the Bill further to amend the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934,
as passed by Lok Sabha, be taken into consideration.
The motion was adopted.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: We shall now take up clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.
Clauses 2 to 4 were added to the Bill.
Clause 1, the Enacting Formula and the Title were added to the Bill.
SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL: Sir, I move:
That the Bill be passed.
The question was put and the motion was adopted.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: The House is adjourned for lunch to meet at 2.30 p.m.
The House then adjourned for lunch at forty-two minutes past
one of the clock.