GANGTOK: Earlier this week, former Chief Minister Pawan Chamling alleged massive corruption in Sikkim under the SKM-led government along with illegal disbursement of huge loans that have allegedly emptied the State Bank of Sikkim (SBS). This has led the bank to issue statements denying the allegations, while Chief Minister PS Golay levelled counter allegations on the previous Chamling-led SDF government in Sikkim, of having taken unrecoverable amount of loans from the bank.

“A man from outside Sikkim has been given a loan of Rs 70 crore. Other close aides of the present CM have been given loans of Rs 40-Rs 60 crore. The State Bank of Sikkim has been emptied by these individuals. What is worse, the loans have been sanctioned arbitrarily without guarantor and assessment of viability. Such illegal disbursement of loans is unprecedented,” said Chamling.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay countered the former CM’s allegations of the SBS giving away Rs 70 crore in loan to an individual, saying, “They can file an RTI and find out if the SBS has given loan to any outsider. They must declare names instead of making prior assumptions. State Bank of Sikkim is independent with its own set of criteria and rules on awarding loans.”

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The CM added that the SBS runs according to its own set of rules and regulations, and loans a given to those who fulfil the requirements and fall under the purview of the regulations. “Any contractor who takes aid of those rules will be granted loan. Anyone falling out of the criteria will not be granted any loan.”

“Even if I decide to take loan today, I will have to mortgage and show my business for return. SBS is aiding those that are working in Sikkim, like hoteliers and entrepreneurs getting help within the state,” CM Golay said.

Meanwhile, Sikkim BJP President DB Chauhan, who recently resigned from the post of advisor to the State Forest Department, demanded that the State Bank of Sikkim be brought under the mainstream banking system to protect the State undertaking “from political influence to prevent misuse of public money”.

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“We are all aware that the SBS, a heritage of Sikkim, has been involved in different controversies for some time. This bank has been a victim of wrong management, politically, for a long time. There is no denying that huge loans were provided to those occupying high political posts and their close aides, which caused loss of public money. Even in the past, the SBS had cited Article 371F to cover up crores of Rupees of corruption,” said Chauhan.

The State Bank of Sikkim management, meanwhile, denied all allegations of mismanagement and corruption.

“Callous statements saying that the bank is emptied by one political party or the other simply calls for condemnation in strongest form and the allegation of having funded some outsiders is simply baseless. Irresponsible statements of bank lending without security or assessment is the exhibition of their political immaturity,” the bank said in a statement.

While announcing presentation of a Loan Recovery Act in the State Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister Golay took a jab at the previous Chamling-led government for taking “so much loan (from SBS) that the recovery has become an issue”.

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“Our government is trying our best to recover the loans. We are welcoming debtors for an amicable solution. If recovery cannot be done, we are coming up with a Loan Recovery Act in the Legislative Assembly, wherein we will take away all properties of the debtors. The State Bank of Sikkim will be given magistral powers, along with powers to the police, to take away mortgaged properties. It is not there in the current rules, where the bank, despite the necessity, cannot take away property from those who fail to repay their loans,” Golay said.

Chauhan, the Sikkim BJP chief, lauded the chief minister’s announcement to bring an Act on recovery of SBS loans on Wednesday.

“The BJP welcomes this courageous and transparent step. We also expect that this is implemented soon, so that the government is successful in recovering the loans from those who have taken public money,” Chauhan said.

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