[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n a recent television interview, on a question about patriotism Mr. Raghuram Rajan professed to be a Karmayogi. Although difficult to translate in English, it can loosely refer to “as acting selflessly”. Most likely he must have been referring to Chapter 2, verse 47 of Bhagavad Gita wherein Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna “to do his duty without looking into the fruits of it”.
Has Mr. Raghuram Rajan acted selflessly in his years with the Government of India and has he done his duty for the country? He was the Economic Advisor to Prime Minister of India when the previous government committed two major blunders – economic stimulus and retro tax amendment. Former Finance Minister Mr. P Chidambaram attributed the high inflation during the entire tenure of Congress government to the fiscal stimulus package of 2009 (violating the fiscal and revenue deficit targets) which he said was the main cause of the electoral debacle in 2014. And there have been abundant analysis on the retrospective tax amendment and its consequences for the Indian economy. Mr. Raghuram Rajan who has an informed opinion on all things like fiscal consolidation, intolerance, beef politics etc and one who is not afraid of voicing them was strangely silent on these two important issues.
And later as Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry, he relegated Gujarat to 12th place in the economic development index of Indian states during the peak of general election campaign to dent the then Prime Ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi’s development credentials for political expediency. These certainly cannot be deemed as a “selfless acts” but quite to the contrary borders on selfishness.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]H[/dropcap]as RBI under Mr. Raghuram Rajan made banking easy for the common man (Aam Aadmi)? It takes more than ten signatures with three pieces of documents to open a bank account. It requires sixty three signatures and seven signed blank checks to get a two or a four wheeler loan. It takes more than hundred signatures to open the popular three-in-one account – Savings, Demat and Securities trading account in banks. By this long drawn process, banks ensure that customers waive off most of their rights at time of opening an account or taking a loan. Rather than being a Karmayogi, Governor has looked the other way and been mum about customer’s woes.
Moreover, banks have been slapping unwarranted charges and excess interest charges on gullible customers who get no support from the banking regulator. RBI Deputy Governor Mr. Mundra admitted in a recent speech that banks mete out shoddy treatment and quite often harass customers. He also confirmed that many banks have been mi-selling third party products to consumers. In August of 2014, after Mr. Raghuram Rajan tookover as Governor, RBI decided to frame a Charter of Consumer Rights. Till today, the charter has not seen daylight thanks to pressure of big banks on the regulator. It looks like the Karmayogi in Mr. Raghuram Rajan was fast asleep with him.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he most important failure of Mr. Raghuram Rajan as a Karmayogi has been the inaction of RBI on the needs of 700 million Indians living in the hinterland. Citizens living in small towns and villages are desperate for banking services and products and have been crying for financial inclusion for the last several years. Indian banks have been too slow to incorporate technological advances in Banking primarily due to regulatory restrictions imposed by RBI. African countries have taken a giant leap in mobile banking leaving India far behind. According to a survey by Gates Foundation and IMF, 15 of the top 20 countries in mobile banking are African with Kenya alone accounting for 80% of the world’s mobile transactions. It is a mystery to many that a much technologically advanced country like India is yet to get a start on mobile banking.
Payment Banks, which the RBI saw as a radical step towards financial inclusion is fast unraveling. Three of the eleven licensees have dropped out while others are seriously re-evaluating their business model. And much to the consternation of RBI officials and the Governor, the 23 entities that were granted small bank license, 10 of them have failed the pre-conditions. And one entity which has been accused of money laundering by the German regulator has also been granted a license by RBI.
Rather than examine Mr. Raghuram Rajan’s record, the Punditry and so called intellectual giants have been practicing what they very often preach against – scare mongering and attacking the messenger. Some have predicted the collapse of the Indian economy and a run on the Indian Rupee if the government decided to let the RBI Governor go which is a laughable proposition. And many others have shamelessly been attacking the messenger – Dr. Subramanian Swamy. Ever since the distinguished economist wrote to the Prime Minister about the unsavory record of RBI Governor, he has been assailed ad nauseam.
How can Mr. Raghuram Rajan redeem himself as Karmayogi? He would do a yeoman service to the country by announcing his return to academia after the expiry of his current term.
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