Skip to main content

State Bank of India refuses to divulge names of corporate donors buying up electoral bonds for political parties

By Our Representative
The State Bank of India (SBI) -- the only bank authorised by the Government to sell Electoral Bonds (EBs) to sold to individuals or other entities to be given to political parties as a means to fund their poll activity -- has refused to divulge the identity and other details of buyers under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act).
Introduced by the Government of India following a law passed in Parliament and notified by Union Finance Ministry in January 2018, EBs have so far been sold through various SBI branches in three phases -- in March, April and May, this year.
After waiting for the first two sale windows to close, senior RTI activist of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Ventakesh Nayak submitted a plea to the SBI details of denomination-wise total number of electoral bonds sold in March and April 2018, along with the total number of buyers of each denomination.
Nayak also sought details total number of buyers of electoral bonds in each category -- individuals, company, firm, charitable trust and others who purchased electoral bonds; copies of application forms received against which electoral bonds were sold; copies of redemption slips received and accepted by political parties in relation to EBs; and methodology applied to ascertain whether or not a political party redeeming EBs had secured at least 1% of the votes polled during the last round of general elections to Parliament and state assemblies.
The SBI provided data about the number of EBs sold. Thus, the RTI reply said, SBI sold 776 EBs worth Rs. 333.48 crore during the two phases through 5 out of 11 notified branches. SBI's Mumbai branch recorded the highest sale of EBs (both phases included) at a little more than Rs 173 crore, followed by the Kolkata branch (Rs 70 crore), the New Delhi branch (Rs 63 crore and the Gandhinagar branch (Rs 19 crore).
The most number of EBs of the highest denomination, Rs 1 crore were sold through the Mumbai SBI branch (166 nos) followed by New Delhi branch (62 nos), Kolkata branch (40 nos), Chennai branch (14 nos) and Gandhinagar branch (9 nos).
In terms of absolute numbers, EBs of Rs.10 lakh denomination were sold the most, netting Rs 45.80 crore. However EBs of Rs 1 crore denomination were sold to the tune of Rs 291 crore through multiple branches of the Bank. On the other hand, only 17 EBs of Rs 1,000 denomination and 10 of Rs. 1,00,000 were sold during this period.
Further details show that duirng the first phase, of March 2018,520 EBs worth a little more than Rs 222 crore of various denominations were sold through SBI's designated branches in major metropolital cities. But during the second phase, only 256 EBs worth Rs 101 crore worth of EBs were sold, which is 50% lesser than the sale clocked during the first phase.
Says Nayak, "The above data about the implementation of the EB scheme obtained from SBI under the RTI Act clearly indicates that it is serving the super-rich and somewhat less rich donors more than the rest of the citizenry", regretting, SBI withheld information about who all bought the bonds by "wrongful" interpretating the RTI Act.
According to Nayak, "The application form used by the buyer and the redemption slip filled up by the political party for claiming the funds presented by the donor have been rejected under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act by the CPIO claiming 'fiduciary' relationship", adding, "So the CPIO is treating both the buyer of EBs and the political parties as being in a 'fiduciary' relationship with SBI!"
Even worse, Nayak says, "Is the SBI CPIO's claim that all reports sent to the Government of India and the RBI regarding the sale and redemption of EBs are also covered by 'fiduciary' relationship."
Continues Nayak, "The SBI's CPIO has also invoked Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, namely the protection available for personal information against unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual, to reject access to information about both buyers of EBs and political parties which redeemed them."
Calling it "an incorrect decision", Nayak says, "If the reply is based on factual data, then it implies that all EBs were bought only by individuals and not corporations, firms, associations or trusts", which is clearly not true.
"However", he adds, "It is difficult to reasonably conjecture that none of these private entities used EBs to make donations to political parties. Prior to the launch of the EB scheme, corporations and Electoral Trusts made large-sized donations to political parties. This information is available on the website of the Election Commission of India (ECI) which the Association for Democratic Reforms analyses and reports upon from time to time."

Comments

TRENDING

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Palm oil industry 'deceptively using' geenwashing to market products

By Athena*  Corporate hypocrisy is a masterclass in manipulation that mostly remains undetected by consumers and citizens. Companies often boast about their environmental and social responsibilities. Yet their actions betray these promises, creating a chasm between their public image and the grim on-the-ground reality. This duplicity and severely erodes public trust and undermines the strong foundations of our society.

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9. 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice.