Union home minister Rajnath Singh has come down heavily on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for “freezing” 52,000 accounts of the State Bank of Sikkim (SBS), terming the decision “seemingly unreasonable” and based on “specious ground”.
“When the attempt should be to smoothly implement the demonetisation announcement, this creation of an unnecessary roadblock will give both the programme and the government of India a bad name,” Singh wrote to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, urging him to persuade the RBI to withdraw its decision and allow Sikkimese people to withdraw money from the bank.
The home minister’s intervention came in response to Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling’s letter to him.
The RBI stopped withdrawal from those 52,000 accounts on the ground that the SBS is not covered under the Banking Regulation Act. The SBS has been functioning since 1975 without being covered under the Banking Regulation Act.
Singh pointed out that the SBS enjoys protection under Article 371 F of the Constitution of India, which provides for special provisions for Sikkim.
“At this stage, the reason given by the RBI seems at best to be a specious ground,” Singh said in his letter dated December 8.
“Sikkim is a politically sensitive state and the last message that needs to be given to them is that they are not at par with Indian citizens,” he added.
On Saturday, Chamling said that he was “extremely grateful” to the Union home minister for upholding the sanctity and status of the SBS.