Pradeep Thakur, TNN | May 13, 2013, 01.27 AM IST
Between March 2011 and December 2012, NPAs on corporate advances, compared to NPA-priority sector and NPA-agriculture, went up by 190% to Rs 83,490 crore. “The rising NPAs have eroded the balance sheet of PSBs,” the standing committee said in a report tabled in Parliament recently. Citing examples, it said the net profit ofState Bank of India declined to Rs 3,398 crore in December 2012 from Rs 3,658 crore in September 2012.
To clean up their balance sheets, most of these banks are writing off a part of the bad debts. Canara Bank, which had made over Rs 60 crore advances to firms owned by former railway minister Pawan Bansal’s son and associates, had made write-offs of Rs 1,460 crore in 2012.
Writing off bad debts also helps an accused escape a CBI case. The writing off of bad debts is turning out to be huge scam, with the CBI even approaching the Supreme Court seeking a direction that no banks be allowed to write off bad debts without its approval.
Every year, state-owned banks together are writing off an average Rs 15,000 crore (it was Rs 15,986 crore last year) of bad debts, some of these advances made under political and corporate influence, say sources in the finance ministry.
Till December 2012, public sector banks had accumulated Rs 1.56 lakh crore as bad debts. In case of Canara Bank, the gross bad debts ratio to standard advances went up from 3.5% in December 2011 to 9.16% in December 2012.
Writing off bad debts is generally done in cases where the banks fail to ensure enough collateral against loans offered. As the mortgaged assets are not sufficient to recover loans, banks have to go in for compromise write-offs when such loans turn bad.
Despite huge write-offs being made by these public sector banks every year, actions initiated by the finance ministry had failed to arrest the trend, the standing committee said and sought a detailed explanation from the government.
Asking the government to publish names of all willful defaulters, the committee asked the finance ministry and the RBI to constitute a special NPA management cell at the highest level to review write-offs/upgrades and restructured advances and also to monitor the pace of recovery of NPAs.
In two years between 2010 and 2012, the number of accounts of gross NPAs above Rs 1 crore of public sector banks increased by around 80% to 7,295 accounts from 4,099. Gross NPAs ballooned by 24% in 2011 compared to 2010 and touched Rs 1,17,262 crore in 2012, the standing committee report said.
The percentage of reduction in NPAs due to actual recovery remained stagnant at 35% while write-offs and upgrades together constituted 65%. For instance, SBI was able to improve its actual recovery by a paltry Rs 311 crore as against Rs 1,452 crore increase in write-offs in the last year; Vijaya Bank’s actual recovery was Rs 6 crore compared to Rs 592 crore rise in upgrades; andAllahabad Bank recovered no amount as against Rs 646 crore increase in write-offs and Rs 130 crore in upgrades during the corresponding period.