Protection of small depositors' interests
Government of India has inserted new Sections 58AA and 58AAA in Companies Act, 1956, in addition to enhancing penalities for defaults committed under Section 58A to protect the interests of small depositors with full vigour.

Section 58AA requires every company that accepts deposits from small depositors to intimate the Company Law Board (CLB) within 60 days the name and address of each depositor(s) to whom it has defaulted in repayment of deposits or interest thereon, alongwith an action plan for payment. Upon receipt of such an intimation, CLB shall, within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of intimation, pass an appropriate order after giving the small depositor(s) an opportunity of being heard.

As per the provisions of Section 58A(10) and 58AA(9) of the Act, any person who knowingly fails to comply with the provisions of these sections shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to a fine of not less than Rs.500 per day, for the period during which such non-compliance continues.

As per Section 58AAA every offence connected with, or arising out of acceptance of deposits under Section 58A or 58AA, is a congnizable offence under the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 2(c) of Code of Criminal Procedures 1973, defines a `Cognizable Offence' as an offence for which a police officer may, in accordance with the first schedule under the Code or any other law for the time being in force, arrest a person without warrant.

As Section 58AA(10) makes a director of the company liable for default, the implication of Section 58AAA is that a police officer can arrest, without an arrest warrant, a director of a company which has contravened any of the provisions of Section 58A or 58AA. 

Parks to promote use of bio-technology to be set up in states

In an attempt to promote bio-technology and its several applications, the government is planning to set up bio-technology parks in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Uttaranchal and several other states.

The Small Industries Service Institute, Bangalore, is also planning to set up a bio-tech incubation centre in Karnataka.

The main purpose of these parks is to set up some institutional framework for the promotion and application of bio-technology in states. The broad parameters for setting up bio-technology parks include industrial competitiveness, existence of biotech-based firms, availability of expertise and trained human resource, basic infrastructure facilities, nature of bio-resources and financial mobilisation.

Centre to boost handloom sector in NE

Centre has made a special provision of sharing 90 per cent of the total project cost of Rs.690 crore to boost the handloom sector of North Eastern states, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir. Project cost under Deen Dayal Hathkargha Protsahan Yojana, which otherwise is equally shared by Central and State governments, would be shared in the ratio 90:10 in these states and also for the backward classes of the country, according to an official release in February 2001. 

Finance ministry files affidavit on SICA repeal

The Ministry of finance on 06.02.2001 filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court stating that the government was considering a proposal to repeal the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985.

The Act was enacted with a view to secure timely detention of the sick and potentially sick companies and to provide speedy determination by a Board of experts for the preventive, ameliorative and remedial measures with respect to such companies.

However, the whole Act and especially, Section 22 of the Act has been grossly misused. Section 22 gives protection to a sick company from litigation and recovery proceedings.

The main grievance against the Act and the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction is that unscrupulous promoters have utilised the BIFR process to stall creditors from taking recourse to legal proceedings for recovery of their dues by enjoying protection under section 22(1) of SICA. As such, artificial sickness is created which is against public interest.

Enough funds for microcredit 

The Finance Minister, Shri Yashwant Sinha said that there is no shortage of funds for micro-credit while speaking at the Asia Pacific Region Micro Credit summit. He further asked the industry to develop skills for handling it and ensuring that the best possible returns accrue. On the issue of efficiency and success of women self help groups he said. "It has led to silent revolution in the field of microcredit".

While the RBI has deregulated interest rate on loans given by banks to intermediate micro finance institutions (MFIs) the Centre had announced a `micro finance fund' with a contribution of Rs.400 crore each from NABARD and the RBI.

The experience of banks in financing SHGs has been generally good. The number of SHGs has increased from a meagre 255 in 1992-93 to 33,000 by March 1999. The banks have financed 2 lakh SHGs thus bringing an estimated 4 million very poor families within the fold of formal banking and more than 85 per cent of these are women groups.

Empowering women would ensure the best social security system. The task force on micro-finance has estimated the microcredit business alone of the size of Rs.30,000 crore. As these businesses graduate to higher levels of credit, the banks could begin catering to the credit demand. 

Rs. 2400 crore revival package for 3 banks

The banking division of the ministry of finance has cleared a Rs.2,400 crore revival package for three banks - Indian Bank, United Bank of India and UCO Bank.

Indian Bank, which has already received Rs.800 crore earlier, will get about Rs.2100 crore. UCO Bank and UBI would get around Rs.200 crore and Rs.100 crore respectively.

The Rs.2,400 crore package comprises an amount for recapitalisation apart from outgo on the voluntary retirement scheme introduced by the three banks and other costs incurred in areas like technology upgradation.

The revival plan submitted by the three weak banks to the finance minister amounted to about Rs.6,000 crore, including interest subsidy. Of this about Rs.2,500 crore was for recapitalisation, Rs.1,100 crore for VRS, Rs.400 crore for technology upgradation and another Rs.1,000 crore for writing-off non-performing assets.

Over the last four years, the government has already provided around Rs.1,850 crore to the three weak banks with Indian bank accounting for about Rs.800 crore and UBI and UCO Bank getting about Rs.500 crore and Rs.650 crore respectively. 

Sectoral caps on foreign equity to go

The government will lift sectoral caps on foreign equity to attract $10 billion annual foreign direct investment flows, announce a package of incentives for special economic zones and fix a higher than 18 per cent growth target for next year in the face of surging exports. 

The special economic zone in Nangunery, Tamilnadu will have top-class infrastructure - including uninterrupted power, clean water, a super speciality hospital and airport and will have an investment of about $10 billion in phases, besides attracting FDI almost double the amount, commerce and industry minister Shri Murasoli Maran said on Feb.11, 2001 while inaugurating the SEZ.

Bank panel lists relief norms for quake-hit

A state-level Bankers' Committee meeting held in Ahmedabad in February has formulated a package of measures to sanction new loans to earthquake victims for housing, trade, industry and agriculture.

As per the package nodal offices would be set up by the banks in affected areas to monitor and report the implementation of relief measures to the Control Room on an ongoing basis.

Other decisions taken by the banks include loan classification status in case of borrowers affected by the quake to be frozen on "as is-where-is" basis till March 31, 2003, no demand for recovery to be made for two years with regard to standard assets, no penalties to be levied in the event of non receipt of repayments due during the next two years with regard to loans not classified as standard assets.

During this period the banks would charge simple interest at the rate of 10 per cent per annum till March 31, 2003 and thereafter normal rate of interest will be charged. 

Loans up to Rs.10 lakh will carry a rate of interest at PLR and for loans above Rs.10 lakh at the banks' discretion. No processing fees would be charged by the banks for affected beneficiaries. 

Banks have also decided to grant loans upto Rs.2 lakh at interest rate not exceeding PLR for repairs / construction of house/shops damaged by the earthquake. Branch Managers have been vested with discretionary powers for granting such facilities.

With regard to advances to SSI business, transport, trade and industry, banks are to consider sanction of additional limits/ rescheduling of existing limits under a need based arrangement depending upon the past performance of borrower and conduct of account.

Settlement of claims made by nominees of depositors killed in the earth-quake would be made within 48 hours and in other cases on the bank being satisfied about legality of the claim. Payment upto Rs.50,000 in deceased claims would be released against indemnity and affidavit.

The state agencies would identify the persons affected by the earthquake and on the basis of their certificate, granting of such loans will be made by banks. For monitoring relief measures, SLBC will be convened on a monthly basis. The monitoring committee consists of Dena, SBI, RBI BoB, BoI, Central Bank of India, NHB, NABARD, SIDBI and Relief Commissioner, Secretary Agriculture or his representative. 

Citizen's charter issued by RBI for Currency Exchange Facilities

1. You can

i) Exchange your notes and coins in the denominations of your choice subject to limits indicated at the public exchange counters.

ii) Exchange your soiled notes at the specified counters subject to the limit indicated per tender.

iii) Either get your torn/cut/mutilated currency notes exchanged across the counter subject to the provisions laid down in the RBI (Note Refund) Rules, in force or by depositing them at the triple lock receptacle counter, in the specified cover available free of cost at any RBI office. The exchange value of such notes as admissible under the rules will be remitted to you within 15 days.

2. All exchange facilities are available free of charge.

3. You are assured of prompt and courteous service throughout specified banking hours.

4. Please contact the officer-in-Charge of the Grievance Redressal Cell in person or write to him at your convenience for any suggestions/complaints about the currency exchange facilities.

5. The facilities are also available at the branches of public sector banks maintaining currency chests/small coins depots. (A list of these branches is available with the enquiry officer at any RBI office).