IL&FS: Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam seeks white paper, questions board’s credibility

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Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam Thursday demanded a white paper on the debt-ridden Infrastructure Leasing Financial Services (ILFS) and questioned the credibility of the government-appointed board. He claimed that the country was heading for a huge financial crisis because of the Modi governments mis-governance. ILFS and its subsidiaries, with a consolidated debt of over Rs 91,000 crore, have in the past one month made a slew of defaults on repayments of loans, commercial papers and NCDs. There were also concerns that default by a large NBFC like ILFS would create liquidity crunch in the financial markets. Demanding a white paper on financial irregularities in the functioning of ILFS, Nirupam lashed out at the government for its lackadaisical approach to the issue which, he claimed, was very serious. Despite being a 30-year-old leading infrastructure giant, ILFS has gone completely bankrupt today, he said, wondering how the companys debt jumped by 44 per cent and its profitability declined by 900 per cent only in the past three years. The stock market is crashing. This is a clear case of financial mis-governance, said Nirupam. He also raised questions on reports of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) being roped in to buy out some assets of ILFS. The NHAI has been taking loans from ILFS; how can a defaulter like NHAI be in a position to take over its road transport segment? This is nothing but a face-saver, he said. The government Monday seized control of debt-trapped ILFS, superseding its board with the one led by Kotak Mahindra Bank managing director Uday Kotak. Other members in the board include former Sebi chairman GN Bajpai, ICICI Bank chairman GC Chaturvedi, IAS officer Malini Shankar, Vineet Nayyar, who steered Satyam Computers out of the scam, and veteran auditor Nandkishore. Nirupam raised questions on the selection of the board members to decide on the future of ILFS. The bankers bank (Kotak Mahindra Bank) was also fined by the RBI for illegal exchange of old notes, besides questions being raised about their sudden and inexplicable increase in wealth by 43 per cent post demonetisation. Another board member who was ex-LIC CMD (GN Bajpai) was on the board of Kingfisher Airlines and Financial Technologies, which are being probed by SFIO, he claimed. How can the government entrust investigation into such a huge scam to tainted officials? We demand a high-level probe in this entire issue and request for an investigation to be conducted on the role played by multiple ministers of the BJP government in exploiting ILFS before it went completely bankrupt, he alleged. Nirupam said the government must come out with a white paper on how peoples lives and their savings have been put at risk. Shares of NBFCs which account for 17 per cent of mutual fund portfolios have hit an all-time low, causing huge losses to small investors, he said. The government has betrayed the trust of retail investors and must apologise to them and take concrete measures to restore their confidence, he added.