Pratibha Patil, True Story – by Arun Shourie (Disturbing Credentials) -Part 1

published on June 28, 2007


Electing a President, rashtramaataa


 


‘A big step for women… This shows India has a lot of respect for women… My nomination will inspire other women and help their empowerment…’ – that is how Pratibha Patil described her selection as the UPA candidate for being our President. Loyalists, of course, went one better. ‘A firm believer in women’s causes and a tireless champion of spreading education among girls… One who always stands for a better deal for women… active role in checking such evils as female foeticide and dowry…’ ‘Working women of Mumbai hail… ‘Yes, Ma’am Commander’ – Armymen look forward to reporting to first woman Supreme Commander of Armed Forces…


 


And all this within two days of her selection.


 


Her bio-data lists her ‘special interests’ as ‘development of rural economy and welfare of women’, and lists as evidence, ‘Establishment of Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank at Jalgaon, Maharashtra… of Mahila Vikas Mahamandal… It records her being Managing Trustee, Shram Sadhana Trust, as her being the ‘Chief Promoter and Chairperson of Sugar Factory in Jalgaon District’. It records her having set up the Engineering College ‘for the benefit of rural youth’…  


 


We start with the ‘cooperative bank’ she set up in her own name to help other women – the Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank.


 


Although this is listed in her bio-data, and although it has been referred to again and again by newspapers, how is it that neither the bio-data nor the newspapers mention that the bank has actually been liquidated? Under orders of the Reserve Bank of India, no less. And that too on the telling ground that its continuance would be prejudicial to the interests of depositors.


 


Brief history


 


Pratibha Patil established the bank in 1973 with herself as the chairperson, and with many members of her own family as its directors. She herself became a director for several terms. As for members of her family, they inter-changed, among themselves, the chairs of the Board of Directors in one ‘election’ after another. But while others changed places, Pratibha Patil continued as Founder Chairperson right till the demise of the bank.


 


Since the bank was not being managed properly, the Reserve Bank of India, in 1995, included it in its list of ‘weak banks’ and placed it under rehabilitation ‘due to heavy erosion in its assets as observed in the inspection in March 1994.’


 


The RBI conducted an in-depth inspection of the bank’s functioning again in 2002. In his order dated 25 February 2003, P.B . Mathur, Executive Director of the RBI, stated that the inspection revealed the following irregularities:


 


1: The real or exchangeable value of the bank’s paid-up share capital and reserves stands at minus Rs. 197.67 lakh. Thus, the bank is not having adequate assets to meet its liabilities. The bank does not comply with the RBI’s requirement of minimum share capital…


 


2: The ratio of the net erosion to net owned funds of the bank is as high as 312.4% and the erosion in the value of the bank’s assets has not only wiped out its owned funds but has also affected the deposits to the extent of Rs. 197.67 lakh, forming 26% of total deposits…


 


3: The gross NPAs of the bank, that is loans that have gone bad, amount to 65.8% of the total loans and advances…


 


4: The Board has not made any concerted effort to improve the bank’s financial position and bring it out of the weak status…


 


As a consequence, the RBI in its order stated: ‘Having regard to all the facts, the Reserve Bank of India is satisfied that allowing the bank to carry on banking business any further would be detrimental to the interest of the present and future depositors and hence the license granted to the PRATIBHA MAHILA SAHAKARI BANK LTD. is hereby cancelled.’


 


Who got the loans?


 


But how did the assets of the bank get eroded? Why did this ‘cooperative bank’ – functioning as it must have been in the interests of its members – not take any action to retrieve the loans and instead endanger its very existence? Remember that the order of the RBI to liquidate the bank was not a sudden bolt. The RBI had put the bank on its list of ‘weak banks’ in 1995, that is a full eight years before the RBI had to decide that it just must be liquidated, and cancelled its license. Throughout these eight years why did Board not make any “concerted effort to improve the bank’s financial position”?


 


A brief list of the sorts of persons who had been given the ‘loans’ and were not repaying them, tells the tale.


Name of the NPA holder               Relationship to P  Amount due with penalty


 


Rajeshwari Kishorisingh Patil    Brother’s daughter-in law – Rs. 45, 82, 670                        


Kishor Dilipsingh Patil                  Nephew                                 Rs. 51, 02, 183


 


Kishor Dilipsingh Patil                        Nephew                           Rs. 43, 87, 680


 


Udhavsingh Dagdu Rajput                 Brother’s kin


 


Udhavsingh Dagdu Rajput and Jayashri Udhavsingh Rajput                  Brother’s kin and wife            Rs. 42, 89, 602


             


 


Randhirsingh Dilipsingh Rajput         Nephew                          Rs. 21, 44, 800


Udhavsingh Dagdu Rajput


 


Jyoti Vijaysingh Patil


Kishor Dilipsingh Patil                        Nephew                           Rs. 10, 69, 893


 


Dilispsingh N. Patil                             Brother                              Rs. 3, 09, 562


 


Dilispsingh N. Patil                             Brother                              Rs. 5, 62, 840


 


Total:                                                                                      Rs. 2, 24, 49, 150


 


______________________________ ______________________________


Notice that among the women that were being empowered by this cooperative for women – this Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank – were the brother and nephews of Pratibha Patil! Males behind the Muslim veil, Dr. Watson!


 


For my friends, the champions of employees’ unions


 


The Cooperative Bank Employees Union wrote one memorandum after another exposing how the directors of the Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank were systematically bankrupting the bank. They demanded dismissal of the family-controlled board. They demanded ‘a CBI inquiry against Pratibha Patil, former Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, for the irregularities in the bank’. They wrote these letters, in Marathi, to the relevant authorities in Maharashtra looking after the affairs of cooperative banks. They sent them to the then President, to the then Prime Minister, to among others, ‘Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha)…’


 


In one such lengthy memorandum dated 3.12.2001, the Employees’ Union complained, ‘Founder Chairperson Pratibha Patil – during, before and after the period when she was formally on the Board of Directors – has facilitated the loot of large sums of money in the form of unlawful loans without surety extended to her own relatives and to people close to her family.’ The Union alleged that, even though the bank was on the verge of bankruptcy, Pratibha Patil got huge amounts of interest waived on the loans given to her close relatives. As illustrations, they listed three such accounts:


 


1) Anjali Dilipsingh Patil (Pratibha Patil’s niece), who got a waiver of Rs. 21.86 lakh;


 


2)  Kavita Aravind Patil (sister-in-law of Pratibha Patil), who got a waiver of Rs. 8.59 lakh; and


 


3) Rajkaur Dilipsingh Patil (another sister-in-law of Pratibha Patil), who got a waiver of Rs. 2.47 lakh.


 


The waivers given, the accounts were promptly closed!


 


This, the Union stated, ‘is a loot of Rs. 32.93 lakh’. You will not be surprised to learn that, within the bank,  the complaint got nowhere. And for good reason: the legal advisor to the bank was Pratibha Patil’s elder brother, Dilipsingh Patil, and Dilipsingh Patil’s own wife was one of the beneficiaries of the loan waiver!


‘The purpose of the cooperative movement,’ the Union’s letter stated, ‘is to promote people’s economic, social and educational development and thereby strengthen patriotism in them. But (in this bank), Pratibha Patil, her elder brother Dilipsingh Patil and the Board of Directors have, through different means, robbed nearly Rs. 2 crore… The bank is thus being bankrupted through a collusive strategy.’ ‘What kind of morality is this?,’ the Union asked.


 


In a writ filed in the Bombay High Court – Pratibha Patil is one of the respondents in the case — the employees of the bank also said something else that will be of particular interest to our champions of social justice. They said, ‘The respondent Directors have also appointed staff without following the recruitment procedure that the posts are reserved for reserve categories such as S.C., S.T., O.B.C. The managing Directors have appointed their relatives as employees of the Bank…’ 


 


To rescue the bank from imminent demise, the Union demanded ‘seizure of the property of Smt. Pratibha Patil, her brother Dilipsingh Patil and her relatives’. In addition it demanded an inquiry into how they had amassed ‘such huge assets’.


 


As a result of this memorandum, the Department of Cooperatives, Government of Maharashtra, initiated an inquiry. Even as the inquiry was going on, a past president of the Employees Union, Anantsingh Patil, wrote an ever-so-helpful letter to Pratibha Patil, on the Union’s letterhead, informing her that she had nothing to do with the irregularities of the bank! He even tendered an apology to her on behalf of the Union! The Union nails the lie. It points to several telling facts. For instance, it says, on 22, January, 2002, the Board had met and, much as the Congress does today !, by resolution no. 23, authorized Pratibha Patil to decide who should be on the Board of Directors and who should be the bank’s Chief Executive.


 


But the matter did not end with the Union’s letter or the inquiry of the Maharashtra Government’s Cooperative Department. The Reserve Bank of India went into the waiver also. In its confidential inspection report dated 18 June, 2002, found the charge of financial fraud involving those large interest waivers to Pratibha Patil’s three close relatives to be valid. It also noted that the Board had not taken approval of the AGM for the loan waiver.


 


Some women were certainly getting empowered!


 


A pattern


 


Memoranda of the Employees Union show that such enterprising sleights-of-account-books were part of a pattern. The memoranda and communications were sent to, among others, Pratibha Patil herself. For instance, in a letter to her on 13 March, 2002, the President, Vice-president and Secretary of the Union informed her that


·                                 


   She had allowed her elder brother, Dilipsingh Patil, to use the bank’s telephone (no. 224672, which he had got installed at his residence) for running his stock exchange business. He ran up a bill of Rs. 20 lakh. Phone records showed that the calls were made to sharebrokers in Mumbai. These records were subsequently destroyed. But later the charge was found to be one of substance. It was one of the things that Amol Khairnar, who was appointed as the chief administrator of bank, asked P.D. Patil, manager of the bank, to explain in the show-cause notice that the former issued on 1 February, 2003.


·                                 


     The show-cause notice also mentioned that the Pratibha Mahil Sahakari Bank had extended unlawful loans to the Sant Muktabai Cooperative Sugar Factory from time to time. As you will recall, the sugar factory too was set up by Pratibha Patil herself to help rural youth! It was inaugurated by Sonia Gandhi in 1999. As The Asian Age has reported, l

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