Nearly two dozen corporate houses and business enterprises in the country have been waiting for more than six months to obtain permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to start their own banks. In turn, the RBI has approached the Election Commission to permit them to issue the new banking license.

Terming the present move of RBI as ‘unfair’ as the Parliamentary elections were on, the All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) general secretary C.H. Venkatachalam said allowing private sector to open banks would lead to ‘profiteering’ and there were chances of public money being diverted by the corporate and business houses to run their ventures without any hindrance.

Substantiating his statement, he said: “Any industry house with Rs.500 crore can open a bank. Thereafter they would become the absolute owner of the bank and can have access to huge cash deposits of public. The funds can be transferred between the bank and their firms swiftly. Accounts can be fudged easily. We don’t want such a thing to happen.”

As per the proposed list, Aditya Birla, IDFC Ltd, IFCI, India Bulls, India Post, India Infoline, LIC Housing Finance, L&T Finance Holding, Muthoot Finance, Reliance Capital, Religare Enterprises, Shriram Capital, SREI Infrastructure, Tourism Finance Corporation and UAE Exchange India others have applied for the banking license.

“Prior to nationalisation of the banks in 1969, most of the banks were owned by one or the other industrial or business house. Their mismanagement and abuse of people’s money resulted in nationalisation of banks. Hence, handing over banking licenses to the corporate and business house is a clear retrograde step. Particularly, when the country is moving towards general elections to elect a new Parliament, RBI’s hurry in this regard overlooking the political views of the Parliament would be unfair,” he said.On Monday, AIBEA sent a letter seeking the intervention of Chief Election Commissioner, V.S. Sampath not to approve such a move stating that would result in conflict of interest and banking institutions cannot be left to the corporate whims.

It may be recalled that AIBEA has been openly criticising corporate houses for being wilful defaulters that led to banks setting aside a large portion of its profits to write off bad debts.

Mr. Venkatachalam quoted the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance which said: “Banking being a highly leveraged business involving public money and public welfare, the Committee are of the considered opinion that it will be more in the fitness of things to keep banking and industry separate. The Committee therefore desires the Government and RBI to review the licensing guidelines accordingly.”