Primarily due to transparent recognition of stressed assets as non-performing assets (NPAs), the gross NPAs of public sector banks (PSBs) rose to Rs8.96 lakh crore as of 31 March 2018 from Rs2.79 lakh crore as of 31 March 2015.
As a result of the Union government's strategy of recognition, resolution, recapitalisation and reforms, they have since declined to Rs5.60 lakh crore as of 31 December 2021, the Rajya Sabha was told.
In a written reply, Dr Bhagwat Karad, minister of state for finance, says, "As per data reported by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), PSBs have effected a total recovery of Rs3,12,987 crore, in NPA accounts and written-off loans since FY19 to FY21."
Interestingly, in December 2021, Mr Karad had told the upper house that, from June 2014 to September 2021, gross NPAs of 13 banks, including IDBI Bank Ltd (which had become a private sector bank), increased to Rs5,40,442 crore from Rs2,24,542 crore.
Shaktisinh Gohil, a member of Parliament (MP), had asked about the total number of private sector banks that failed after 1969 and which failed private sector banks were bailed out by PSBs. He had also asked for information for the past three years about NPAs in PSBs, provisions for NPAs, amount written off and recovered by these lenders.
However, Mr Karad, the minister of state, did not share any figure for the number of banks failed after 1969. Instead, he reiterated that in a scenario where a bank is on the verge of failure and other options have not worked, to safeguard the interest of the depositors and ensure the stability of the financial system, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) makes efforts for resolution of the concerned bank.
State Bank of India (SBI) leads the pack of lenders who have written off amounts during the past three fiscal years. SBI wrote off Rs1.46 lakh ccrore from FY18-19 to FY20-21. It is followed by Punjab National Bank (PNB) at Rs58,397 crore, Bank of Baroda (BoB) at Rs49,986 crore, and Union Bank of India (UBI) at Rs49,449 crore.
However, figures for some of these PSBs are not strictly comparable since some of the written off amounts belong to banks that were merged. On 1 April 2019, two lenders, viz., Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank, were merged with BoB. Next year, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India were amalgamated into PNB, while Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank were merged with UBI.
A total of 10 PSBs were merged with effect from 1 April 2020. With the merger coming into effect, India has 12 PSBs, down from 27 in 2017.
In his reply, Dr Karad also reiterated that the Cabinet committee has not yet taken any decision for privatisation of two PSBs. In Budget 2022, finance minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the government's intent to privatise two PSBs.
FM Sitharaman had also given the same reply in December 2021. "Consideration of various issues related to disinvestment, which, inter alia, include the selection of the banks, is entrusted to the cabinet committee designated for this purpose. A decision by the cabinet committee concerned for privatisation of PSBs has not been taken in this regard," she had said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. (Read: Privatisation of Two PSBs: Cabinet Committee Yet To Take a Decision
Earlier, while replying to a question asked by MP Dr Amar Patnaik, the minister of state had informed that the average time between the occurrence of fraud and detection in FY20-21 was 23 months, and the same in the case of large value frauds of Rs100 crore and above was 57 months.
RBI, in its annual report for FY20-21, has stated that private sector banks have reported a rise of 35% in value terms in frauds while PSBs have reported a decline of 45%. According to data disclosed by the central bank, 59.2% of the total value of frauds were reported by public sector banks, followed by private sector banks at 33.5% during 2020-21.
In terms of area of operations, RBI had said, frauds have been occurring predominantly in the loan portfolio or advances category, both in terms of number and value.