RTI: Pandemic hurt banks too, with NPAs’ write-offs zooming

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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020 has not only hurt the people, but has also hit the banking industry hard — with NPAs write-offs shooting up significantly, as per an RTI reply.

The malady affected almost with equal force all public sector banks, private, foreign, NBFCs and urban cooperative banks, as per the recent figures provided under RTI to Pune businessman Prafful Sarda.

The calculations for only 15 months – from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 – are an eye-opener on the dismal scenario faced by the banking industry with huge write-offs of NPAs.

During the 15-month pandemic period, the PSBs wrote off a mountain of NPAs to the tune of Rs 1,56,681 crore, the private sector players had a write-off of a pile of NPAs worth Rs 80,883 crore, while the foreign banks, NBFCs and Scheduled Commercial Banks notched NPAs’ write-off of around Rs 3,826 crore, Rs 1,216 crore and Rs 2,859 crore respectively.

This comes to a staggering total of Rs 2,45,465 crore NPAs written off in the first 15 months of the pandemic – which still continues.

Among the major banks which have revealed the highest NPAs write-off during the pandemic period are the State Bank Of India, Bank Of Baroda, Punjab National Bank and Union Bank Of India.

Some of the major private sector banks that have declared huge NPA write-offs in the pandemic period include Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Yes Bank.

At least two foreign banks also stand out with respect to NPAs write-off — Standard Chartered Bank and CitiBank — among around the five dozen which figure in the list, though some have shown zero NPAs written off.

The major NBFCs that figure in the NPAs write-off list are: Jana Small Finance Bank Ltd, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank Ltd, and Equitas, besides large amounts written-off by Scheduled Commercial Banks during the pandemic.

The amounts of NPAs written-off from April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2020 were: Rs 875,770 crore consisting of PSBs Rs 675,593 crore, Private Banks Rs 172,161 crore, Foreign Banks Rs 20,056 crore, NBFCs Rs 1,526 Crore and Urban Co-operative Banks Rs 6,434 crore.

In comparison, from April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2021, the loan write-offs to reduce the NPAs were: Rs 11,19,482 crore, comprising PSBs Rs 832,274 crore, Private Banks Rs 253,044 crore Foreign Banks Rs 23,882 crore, NBFCs Rs 2,742 crore and Urban Co-operative Banks Rs 7,540 crore.

Accordingly, Sarda said that from April 1, 2015 till June 30, 2021, the figure of NPAs write-offs during the NDA rule went up by more than 500 percent compared with the write-offs allowed during the 10 years of the previous UPA regime, as per the government’s own RTI replies earlier.

On this, Sarda said that despite claims by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government, the economic situation is not all that rosy considering the RTI revelations of loan write-offs to reduce NPAs during the 15 months of the pandemic.

“The Government had announced a huge pandemic relief package worth Rs 20 lakh crore to boost the economy. By its own admissions vide RTIs in the past, the Centre has admitted that it has barely given out around Rs 3 lakh crore from those packages. Is that the reason for the banks now suffering massive NPAs? Who’s responsible for this mess,” demanded Sarda.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

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