Bank spanner in DMK promise to waive education loans

Chennai: The DMK's poll promise of writing off education loan has evoked mixed reactions while some are of the view that a good portion of the blame for this populist move by a party should be laid at the banks doors. "The naming and shaming of education loan borrowers by banks like State Bank of India (SBI) and non-implementation of the scheme properly has brought the issue to the focus of political parties," said C.H.Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees'Association (AIBEA). The Bodinayakanur branch of SBI in Theni district, 515 km from here, displayed photos of students and their parents for defaulting on their educational loans. Several political parties like DMK, CPI, VCK and others had condemned the SBI's action. DMK president M. Karunanidhi had said: "When several money sharks are cheating banks of thousands of crores of rupees by not repaying loans, it is defamatory to display photos of students from poor and middle-class families for defaulting on education loans." The CPI had said: "Indian industrialists get about Rs.5 trillion in annual tax concessions. Big industrial groups do not repay loans and these are written off as bad debts. Not worrying about these, the central government and the SBI are shaming students who had availed education loan. It is highly condemnable." Citing the adage `what is sauce for goose is sauce for the gander' Venkatachalam said: "If the banks write off thousands of crore of rupees as bad loans and provide for lakhs of crore of rupees for doubtful loans given to corporate on the grounds of economy not doing will, the same logic should be applied to education loan borrowers." "How can fresh graduates get a job when the corporate sector is not doing well? If the economy is not doing well then creation of jobs will also be affected," Venkatachalam said. According to him, the banks should extend the education loan repayment period, reduce the interest rate on such loans. Agreeing with him is K.Srinivasan, convenor of Education Loan Task Force (ELTF) told IANS: "Political parties are doing a disservice to the poor student community by such populist promises." The political parties can question the government as to why the education loan scheme is not properly implemented. They can also question why the interest subsidy scheme for education loan borrowers is not provided properly than resorting to populist measures, Srinivasan added. The ELTF guides students on rules and regulations governing education loans offered by nationalised banks free of cost. Srinivasan said education loan write off promises by political parties gives a wrong moral signal to the youth at the time of starting their career by laying premium on loan default. "The government can make the education loan as zero interest," Srinivasan said. "The loan write off is a political stunt. The fundamental principle that a borrower should repay his debt should not be forgotten," B.Pattabiraman, a public sector employee told IANS. He said the loan can be restructured by extending the repayment period. On DMK's poll promise Senthamizh Arasan a college student told IANS: "In 2006, they promised to relieve farmers of debts, and introduce Rs. 2 rice scheme to the public. They kept up their promises largely. If this new addition is part of their manifesto, I feel that they will try to reduce the interest rate on these loans." "It has to be seen how the DMK will fulfil the promise. If DMK comes to power and its government pay off the education loans, the government banks will not lose anything. But it is not right," Srinivasan added.