The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the State Bank of India (Amendment) Bill providing for reduction of government equity to 51 per cent from a minimum of 55 per cent. The Lok Sabha had already passed the Bill.

With the passing of this Bill, decks have been cleared for the State Bank of India to raise fresh funds from the capital market.

Expressing reservation about dilution of government stake in nationalised banks, Communist Party of India (Marxist) members Tapan Sen and Prasanta Chatterjee moved an amendment that was defeated (with) 55 ‘No's to 20 ‘Yes'. The amendment was supported by D. Raja of CPI who said this was an attempt to hand over banks to the private sector. Opposition members sought scrapping of the bill and asked the government to allow public sector banks to function like commercial banks.

Defending the amendment, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured them that the dilution of government stake would not be rushed through. “It is just an enabling provision and it does not mean that tomorrow it is going to be implemented,” he said, replying to a debate on Bill. He added that there was no intention of interfering with the working of the bank.

As regards to rights issues, he said the SBI had not yet come up with such a proposal and the government would consider it as and when the bank decides.

More In: Companies | Business