In its attempt to woo minority votes ahead of the 2014 General Elections, the Congress-led UPA is making every effort to introduce Islamic Banking in India.
The idea was first mooted by Raghuram Rajan in 2008 when he was Chief Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. But the Rajan report did not get the stamp of approval from the RBI Governor of the time, D Subbarao. Rejecting the recommendations, Subbarao conveyed to the government that Islamic Banking was not legally feasible in the current statutory and regulatory framework. He had also made his stand public.
With the RBI governor taking a strong public position, the government too was forced to take a similar stand. With Rajan running the RBI, Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan is now on overdrive to make Islamic Banking a reality. The minister told The Sunday Standard that it would not take much time before Islamic Banking becomes legal.
But the RBI did not confirm the ministry’s optimism. “There are no applications for any approvals lying with us for Islamic banking. Besides, it will take an amendment of the Regulations Act and the RBI Act to introduce Islamic Banking,” a RBI spokesperson told this paper. She said an approval given by RBI to a Kerala-based non-banking finance company that follows Islamic principles was not a blanket permission.
But the UPA is likely to go for it. “No political party, except BJP, will oppose such an amendment in this election year,” said a source in Khan’s office. He said there is a strong demand to introduce Islamic Banking in the country from various quarters. Muslim political parties, including IUML, had submitted a memorandum to the Planning Commission urging it to promote interest-free banking in the country, he said.
In case the government fails to bring in amendments, its next option is to allow more non-banking finance companies that adhere to Sharia principles. “The government shall take measures to permit delivery of interest-free finance on a larger scale, including through the banking system, which is in consonance with the objectives of inclusion and growth through innovation as recommended by Rajan,” said H Abdur Raqeeb, an Islamic Banking expert.