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Yes Bank Fiasco: Govt Does Not Interfere In Jagannath Temple Funds, Clarifies Odisha Minister


12 March 2020

Debashish Maharana


Bhubaneswar: In a bid to come out clean, the Odisha government today washed its hands of the controversy over parking of Lord Jagannath's funds in the crisis-ridden Yes Bank. The government has said that Shree Jagannath Temple funds are managed by the Temple's managing committee and the government does not interfere in it.

"It may be mentioned here that Shree Jagannath Temple's funds are managed by the Temple's managing committee and the government doesn't interfere in it," said Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari replying to a debate on an adjournment motion moved by Leader of Opposition Pradipta Naik in the Odisha Assembly today.

Pujari told the House that before depositing Shree Jagannath Temple's funds in Yes Bank, the Temple administration had selected the bank through a transparent process in which proposals were invited from scheduled commercial banks by way of 'Quotation'.

He pointed out that on March 12, 2019, as many as 12 banks had offered their bids to keep deposits of the Temple's funds and Yes Bank had offered the highest rate of 8.61% interest per annum. Since Yes Bank had offered the highest interest rate in other 'Quotations' funds of Lord Jagannath were kept in this bank for one year, he clarified.

The Finance Minister informed the House that Lord Jagannath's Rs 545 crore is parked in Yes Bank and Shree Jagannath Temple managing committee on March 3, this year has requested the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) Regional Director for transfer of this fund to a nationalized bank and added that he has also written to Union Finance Minister to transfer the funds to a nationalized bank. He further said that the copies of his letter have been sent to the RBI Governor and Finance Secretary of the Central government.

Pujari told the House that Yes Bank was one out of the recommended list for 2019-20 of the 29 banks selected by a committee chaired by the Special Secretary of the State government's Finance Department which had representatives from the RBI and State Level Banker's Committee. The committee had met twice and had drawn up the list after taking into consideration various parameters, he added.

The Minister maintained that Banking is a subject under the Union List and hence all decisions in matters pertaining to banking is taken at the Finance Ministry of the Central government and State government has no role in it.

He informed the House that Yes Bank is a listed bank under the schedule II of the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934 and under section 35 of the Banking Regulation Act 1949 functioning of all banks are supervised by RBI and that there was no directive from the RBI against undertaking financial transactions with Yes Bank before March 5, 2020.

The Minister further informed that ever since the moratorium was imposed on withdrawal of deposits from Yes Bank by the RBI, the State government has on March 7, this year has suspended Yes Bank from the list of banks through which State Public Sector Units and State Level Autonomous Societies can do business and deposit money.

Pujari stated that at different points of time the State government issues advisories cautioning different departments over parking of government funds and on October 21, 2019, the Finance department had cautioned all departments to examine the financial health of the banks before keeping deposits.

The Executive Director of the RBI on October 25, 2019, had informed the State government that it was not proper on part of the Finance department to issue such directive and that RBI monitors the fiscal status of all banks, he added.

Not satisfied with the Minister's statement, senior Congress Member from Bolangir Narasingha Mishra said that the Chief Minister should give an assurance to the people of the State either in the House or outside that Lord Jagannath’s money is safe. Mishra demanded that the Speaker constitute a House Committee to probe the matter.

Opposition Chief Whip and BJP member from Keonjhar Mohan Charan Majhi demanded that the Minister should reveal who without the Chief Minister's permission park Lord Jagannath's money in Yes Bank. He further demanded that if the State government had the guts it should order for an enquiry by the CBI.

The State government should form a House Committee to get back Lord Jagannath's money, he added.