Gangtok: State Bank of Sikkim (SBS) continues to face the heat for allegedly lending money to outsiders and being part of widespread corruption within the state government.
Previously, former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling had accused the SBS of loaning an individual from outside Sikkim Rs 70 crore. Now, Sikkim Nagrik Samaj has accused the bank of using the IFSC code of a bankrupt private bank, Yes Bank.
Addressing a press conference at Journalist Union of Sikkim office Monday, SNS president Bharat Basnet claimed, “The State Bank of Sikkim is using the IFSC code of the bankrupt Yes Bank, which shut operations in 2016. All Yes Bank centres have closed in Sikkim. The matter is gravely concerning largely because the salary of all state government employees are credited from SBS and all electricity or water supply bills are also paid at SBS. In the past, the SBS didn’t need an IFSC code. We feel now this is a way of using the IFSC code for direct withdrawal from the bank by corrupt leaders as well as businesses.”
The State Bank of Sikkim was a State Treasury during the Chogyal era, protected under Article 371F and State Bank of Sikkim Proclamation of 1968. The bank came under scrutiny during the time of demonetization with demands for bringing the bank under Reserve Bank of India regulations. The same was opposed by sections of people claiming it will dilute Article 371F, while the state government defended the bank of being a treasury with heritage status.
“On February 22, a lot of buzz was created by a national news article that said the bank was coming under the RBI. The case is currently underway in the Bombay High Court concerning the same,” the Sikkim Nagrik Samaj claimed.
The SNS went on to claim that the bank was used by both the SKM government as well as the previous SDF government “to hide corruption”.
Pointing to the demolition of two heritage sights in Old STNM Hospital and West Point Taxi Stand, which are currently being demolished to make room for ‘private companies to run a mall’, the Sikkim Nagrik Samaj said it was just a “tip of the iceberg”.
SNS general secretary Pasang Sherpa said the upcoming project in West Point Taxi stand in Gangtok of a 14-storey mall falls in seismic 3 zone upon a hill in Arithang which has been constantly been marred by landslides every monsoon.
“The state is actually paying for the demolition; it has already paid Rs. 7.20 crores. The private company that is building the mall is not paying.”
Hinting at corruption, Sherpa said the company that has been awarded the project is called Mesasu which has never worked before and was registered mere 8 months ago in Kolkata under the name of Meenakshi Mittal Agarwal and Sanjay Mittal Agarwal.
“They have spent Rs 13 crore to secure the project. How does a new company have so much money? Next, Mesasu was awarded the Rs. 70 crore loan by the State Bank of Sikkim. The project will run into hundreds of crores with land, loan, and demolition, all being taken care of by the government and State bank of Sikkim. While even after construction it will be the company benefiting and not the people or the government,” Sherpa added.
Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay had earlier defended the two demolitions and upcoming projects, claiming they are both on Public Private Partnership module and, had said anyone can file an RTI to find the loan case in SBS.
“In PPP mode, the revenue comes back to the state government and in case of the West Point project, the property will become state government property after 26 years,” said Golay, last week.
Reacting to the claim, Sherpa said, “The government doesn’t want to admit that under PPP mode, the upcoming mall will still have share of the private company even after 26 years. It will be their construction and their property. Rather, it is Build Operate Transfer (BOT) mode that will come back to the public, as they will have to transfer the property later. The property could have been better awarded to locals, entrepreneurs, businessmen and contractors in Sikkim.”
The organisation also named Hanuman Ganga Private Limited of securing the Chogyal-era 12 MW Lagyap Hydro Power Project in Jalipool, claiming that the company was registered only on February 3, 2020, with a share capital of Rs. 1lakh.
The organisation has demanded a white paper from the government on all such privatization of old heritage structures and upcoming projects in Sikkim, and said they will submit their report to the Enforcement Directorate.
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