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Monday, July 15, 2019

How land laws create dead capital: A case study of Maharashtra

by Diya Uday.

Land is an important form of capital. In India, for most households, it is the dominant element of the household portfolio. About eighty per cent of all household assets in India, are in the form of real estate (land, buildings and other constructions owned by households, for residential, commercial or vacation purposes) (Ramadorai Committee Report, 2017, pg. 12). In the CMIE 'Consumer Pyramids' household surveys, almost all households own some land or real estate.

As with other factors of production, an efficient economy requires full utilisation of the resources in the country, efficient mechanisms for discovering its price, and frictionless transactions. This is not taking place well in India. For example, unsecured debt still accounts for two-thirds of the total liabilities for the very poor and one-third of the rich in India (Ramadorai Committee Report, 2017, pg. 6). Similarly, despite landlessness in rural areas, only fourteen per cent of all households reported leasing-in land (NSSO Report, 2013, pg. 30). In many states such as Maharashtra, the proportion of households leasing-out land is well below ten per cent (NSSO Report, 2013, pg. 30).

In the study of land economics in India, a key question that has to be pursued is: Why, despite the seizable presence of land as an asset in household balance sheets, is there poor capitalisation of land in India? What obstructs harnessing the full productive capacity of land in India?

The idea of land as dead capital was made prominent by Hernando de Soto, who used the term to refer to something that could not be easily bought, sold or used for an investment. He showed that the poor possess far more capital than is evident, but institutional failures hinder utilisation of the land as wealth. For example, he found that in Egypt a person who wants to acquire and legally register a lot on either state-owned desert land or former agricultural land has to navigate a plethora of bureaucratic procedures, estimated to take anywhere between five to fourteen years. As a consequence, a large number of people chose to build dwellings illegally (de Soto 2000, pg. 20). This means that these properties cannot be used to access formal credit or be legally sold or rented.

There is a need for a comparable literature on India. How does the land market work? What are the impediments to translating land into value added? How can wealth in the form of land impact upon the life of the owner to a greater extent than is presently the case?

In this article, three questions are studied, treating Maharashtra as the environment under examination:

  1. Do regulations on land hinder the effective utilisation of land as an asset in India?
  2. What are the restrictions imposed?
  3. What are the less visible effects of these restrictions?

Three pathways to harnessing land wealth

The value of land is unlocked in three ways:

  1. A mortgage, whereby land is used as a security to access credit.
  2. A sale, where the owner of the land transfers it to a buyer.
  3. A license or lease on the land in exchange for regular payments.

There has been a considerable focus on mortgage transfers as a means of capitalising the value of land. Land titles and access to credit are now intricately connected in policy discourse on financial inclusion and access to finance. For example, the RBI has recognised the role of land titles in access to credit and consequently to financial inclusion (Mohanty Committee Report, 2015, pg. 26). Some court interventions too, have given creditor rights precedence over transfer restrictions on land.

The other two methods -- sale and lease -- have received less attention, but are no less important. The owner of an asset must be given the freedom to choose the method by which the asset is to be capitalised. Directing policy attention only towards land as a means of accessing credit, and ignoring reforms in sale and rental markets, reduces the choices available for a land owner.

A case study of land laws in Maharashtra

We now turn to identifying provisions of law that affect the transferability of land in Maharashtra.

Methodology. A list of laws was obtained from the website of the Bombay High Court. This list was examined to identify the laws that potentially affect transfers of both agricultural and non-agricultural land and real estate, by reading the names of the laws. The long titles of these short-listed laws were examined to assess the applicability of the law for this case study. This yielded the following list of laws that impact upon land transfers:

  1. Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966
  2. Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948
  3. Maharashtra (Prevention of Fragmentation and Consolidation of Holdings) Act, 1947
  4. Maharashtra Stamp Act, 1958
  5. Registration Act, 1908
  6. Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999

The analysis of these laws yields the following results:

  • Restrictions on the transfer of agricultural land: There are two kinds of restrictions on the transfer of agricultural land. The first kind of restriction is that under the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, agricultural land can only be transferred to a resident agriculturist. An agriculturist is defined as a person who cultivates land personally. A non-agriculturist can only buy agricultural land after obtaining the permission of the Collector, unless the property is specifically allocated to residential, commercial or industrial uses or is to be used for a bona fide industrial purpose. In all other cases, the restrictions on transfers continue to exist. These restrictions apply to subsequent transfers as well. Similarly, mortgages to lenders other than co-operative societies, also require permission of the Collector. In each case, the Collector may grant permission subject to conditions.

    These restrictions induce three problems. First, they increase the cost of transacting on such land. Second, the law does not prescribe a time limit for granting such approvals. Neither are these permissions covered under the Maharashtra Right to Public Services Act, 2015. Without statutory timelines, the procedure for transfer could be time-consuming and tedious. Discretion in delay creates the possibility of corruption. Third, since these restrictions continue to apply even after the land the purchased, they also handicap future purchasers.

    A second class of restrictions kicks in after the sale is completed. Where the law has done away with the requirement for permission, the land must be put to the intended and permitted use within five years from the date of transfer. Failure to do so incurs a penalty of two per cent of the market value and even forfeiture. Further, when a purchaser of this land wants to sell it without utilising the land for a non-agricultural purpose, she can do so only with the permission of the Collector and after payment of a transfer fee of twenty five per cent of the market value of the property. If sold within ten years, these restrictions continue to apply to the transferee as well. There are further restrictions placed on certain classes of agricultural land, such as the payment of fifty per cent of the purchase price to the Collector. In case of a delay in the payment of price, this amount increases to seventy five per cent of the purchase price.

  • Restrictions on the transfer of tribal land: The Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966, places three types of restrictions on the transfer of tribal land. First, for sale of tribal land to a non-tribal, the permission of the Collector with the previous approval of the State Government has to be obtained. Before the grant of this approval, the Collector has to first offer the land to tribal persons residing in the village of the transferor or within five kilometres of the land. In scheduled areas, the additional sanction of the Gram Sabha has to be taken, unless it is for a 'vital government project' such as for highways, canals, etc. In all cases, the Collector is permitted to grant approval for transfer, with conditions. These restrictions would apply upon a lender, who might repossess land, also.

    The second type of restriction relates to the mortgage of such land. In case the mortgage is below five years, the permission of the Collector has to be taken for transfer. In the event that the mortgage is above five years, the permission of the Collector with the previous approval of the State Government has to be obtained. In case of a mortgage to a non-tribal, the same procedure of offering it first to a tribal person within the village or within a five kilometre distance from the land is undertaken. Further, the law permits the Collector to restore possession of the land to the tribal person at the end of the mortgage period, regardless of any court order or law. This means that if a tribal person defaults on a loan where land is taken as collateral, at the end of the term of loan, regardless of a court order to the contrary, the land can be restored to the mortgagee at the discretion of the Collector. These restrictions hamper lending against such land. In a field study conducted across twenty villages in Maharashtra, respondents were unanimous in stating that if they defaulted on a loan for which land was collateral, nothing would happen and that when land is used as collateral it was rarely enforceable if there was a default (Narayanan et. al, 2019). Court rulings on this subject have been conflicting, sending mixed signals to lenders (Zaveri, 2017). Poor transferability also hampers the establishment of a credit history and thus access to credit.

    The third type of restriction relates to lease of such land. The provisions requiring permission of the Collector and State Government and the requirement of offering the land to a tribal person within the village or within a five kilometre distance from the land, also apply to lease transactions. These provisions make leasing of such land to anyone but tribals, a lengthy and expensive procedure. Where there are no takers from among the tribal community, the owner of such land is effectively left with one less tool for capitalising the value of her asset.

  • Restrictions on the transfer of notified fragments: A fragment of land is defined as a plot of land which measures less than the notified standard area. The Maharashtra (Prevention of Fragmentation and Consolidation of Holdings) Act, 1947 imposes two types of prohibitions and restrictions on such land. First, any land which is notified as a fragment, can only be sold to the owner of a contiguous parcel of land. In addition to limiting the owner's access to the land market, as in the case of tribal land, these sale restrictions also inhibit recoveries of lenders.

    Any land which is notified as a fragment can only be leased to the cultivator of a contiguous parcel of land. This provision is problematic in that it operates within an already restrictive lease market, where incentives to lease are few. Further in the event that the cultivator of a contagious parcel is not interested in leasing-in the land, the owner is either forced to cultivate the land herself or to let it lie fallow, effectively making it a dead asset.

The following laws do not place direct restrictions on sale, lease or mortgage transfers, but have provisions that affect these transactions (Category 2 provisions):

  • Rental market restrictions: There are two main laws that govern rental markets in Maharashtra, one for agricultural land and one for constructed property. While these laws, unlike those in some other states, do not prohibit leasing of land, they do impose other restrictions. First, the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, which applies to agricultural land, prescribes rent ceilings. The prescribed formula for determining the maximum amount of rent payable is that the rent must not exceed five times the assessment or twenty rupees per acre, whichever is lower. Similarly, the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999 controls rents in specified properties by imposing a statutory maximum rent which is below the equilibrium rent (determined on the basis of the market value of the property). The law also limits the percentage of yearly escalation in rent chargeable to tenants.

    Rent ceilings reduce the rental revenues of owners. In addition to prescribing the value of the agreements, these laws also prescribe other terms such as the grounds of termination exhaustively. This means that the parties have little or no freedom to contract grounds of termination beyond those prescribed in the law. Further, the recovery of possession of the premises is a difficult process which will most likely require administrative or court intervention, which means additional costs to the owner. These features coupled with rent ceilings, leave no incentive to owners who wish to capitalise their asset by means of a lease. In fact, anecdotal data from land-owner farmers in Palghar and Mulshi Districts in Maharashtra suggests that the fear of non-recovery of leased out land is a key reason for not leasing out of land.

  • Registration of transfers and stamp duties: The Registration Act, 1908 requires certain deeds used to effect transactions in immovable property, to be registered with the office of the registrar or sub-registrar. A document has to be registered by payment of a registration fee. In Mumbai, this amount is thirty thousand rupees. The biggest problem with this system is that while registering this deed, the registrar is not under any obligation to confirm the veracity of the contents of the deed or the marketability of title. The registration of fraudulent documents of transfer thus is possible. For example, in a recent episode, an examination of property documents revealed forged signatures and non-existent parties to the transaction. This system therefore adds to the cost of the transaction, without any real benefit to the parties. A purchaser, borrower or lessee is incurring the cost of registration without actually having the assurance of marketability of the land or identity of the parties.

    Stamp duty is incurred before the registration. Like other taxes upon transactions, stamp duty is a `bad tax' in public finance parlance. The Maharashtra Stamp Act, 1958 imposes a stamp duty of five per cent on the market value of the property in a sale transaction. Recently, a surcharge was introduced which has further increased the applicable stamp duty.

  • Presumptive titles: The Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966 requires the updation of land records each time a transfer takes place. For this, the transferee has to make an application for updation of the record. The concerned officer will invite objections. If there are no objections, the record is updated. If there are objections, the dispute will be adjudicated before updating the record. Despite this lengthy procedure, land records do not have any value in terms of proof of title. The Supreme Court recently reiterated that entries of transactions in revenue records, do not create title to land.

    Purchasers demand the issue of a certificate of marketability of title from the seller. This involves a process of legal due diligence or examination of title by legal experts. In most cases, the purchaser also conducts their own diligence in addition to demanding this certificate, adding further costs to the transaction.

  • Form of land records: There are two types of textual records in the state of Maharashtra: the 7/12 extract for agricultural/rural land, and the Property Rights Card in urban areas. A study on urban records in Mumbai reveals that the fields of information required to be recorded under the rules of Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966, only serve the purpose of collection of revenue (Sheikh et. al., 2018). These records are therefore fiscal cadastres and information contained in these records is limited. Vital information such as easementary rights, restrictive covenants on the land, litigation and encumbrances are not recorded.

    Insufficient information in land records increases the cost to and risk borne by the buyer. In case of a mortgage, the cost of lending is also likely to increase as it will take into account these risks, making borrowing more expensive for land owners.

Thus, we have a depiction of how the landscape of laws in Maharashtra interferes with the translation of land into value added. There are three limitations of this work. First, the list of laws is not exhaustive. There are other laws, regulations, government orders, which affect the transferability of the property, which do not find mention in this case study. For example, there are a number of transfer restrictions in urban areas, such as restrictions on change of land use and development under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966, the Development Control Regulations, the imposition of transfer fees payable by apartment owners to co-operative societies and transfer fees paid on Collector's land. Second, at present, there is no empirical evidence, that links these provisions to the impact on land economics. Third, this study is theoretical and does not analyse how these provisions will play out on-ground. Depending on the administrative processes, these provisions may have either a large or small impact in obstructing transactions.


The aim of this study was to examine the regulatory restrictions imposed on land transfers and their potential role in creating dead capital. This study documents two classes of restrictions: Category 1 provisions, which directly restrict transfers in the land market and Category 2 provisions, which affect the ease of doing transactions. Both these categories of provisions create a complex web of conditions for transfer, which may contribute to create dead capital in land markets, with varying effects. For example, a land owner may not be able to capitalise land by transfers on account of Category 1 provisions for two reasons. First she may be outright prohibited from undertaking a transaction, or second, the provision generates an unseen restriction of some kind, which operates to effectively disallow her from capitalising her asset. Category 2 provisions, again may affect the effective capitalisation of land by transfers in two ways. First, by creating disincentives to capitalisation in some manner; rent ceilings are a classic example of this. Second, these restrictions impose costs which reduce the benefits from capitalisation.

Furthermore, this study highlights the unseen consequences of economic policies and the regulations made to implement them. There is a need for policy makers to think about the secondary consequences of any regulation. Each instance listed above is a case of the proverbial coin with two sides, one of which has been overlooked. In the area of land markets in particular, it appears that policies have been unidirectional; predominantly discounting the impact of these policies on capitalisation of land. Recent amendments to the law too reflect this fallacy. For example, the 2016 amendment to the Maharashtra Land Revenue, 1966, introduced the requirement of additional permission Gram Sabha for transfers in scheduled areas. While the argument for this was that it would would lend more accountability to the transfer process, one must also recognise that this increases the complexity and cost of the transfer process which might reduce demand for such land, leading to a situation where even a willing owner, is left with no market for capitalisations.

The effects of these restrictions will be greater in states which have more restrictive regimes. In solving these problems, therefore, the first step is a comprehensive study, at the level of each state, which documents these restrictions. As an example, for Maharashtra, this would be a more complete version of this article. The impeding provisions must be categorised in the manner described by this case study. The reason for this is that different categories of restrictions will require different action points. The second step is to determine empirically if each category of these restrictions affect the capitalisation of land as an asset. Field studies are required which determine the on-ground effects of these provisions on aspects such as (i) the costs of lending, (ii) the cost to the owners of the land and (iii) the transaction frequency.


Narayanan et. al., 2019, Land as collateral in India, Sudha Narayanan and Judhajit Chakraborty, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, February 2019.

Sheikh et. al., 2018, Rethinking urban land records: A case study of Mumbai, Gausia Sheikh and Diya Uday, The Leap Blog, November 1, 2018.

Zaveri, 2017, Distortions in the Indian land collateral market, Bhargavi Zaveri, The Leap Blog, February 1, 2017.

Ramadorai Committee Report, 2017, Report of the Household Finance Committee, Reserve Bank of India, July 2017.

Mohanty Committee Report, 2015, Report of the Committee on Medium-term Path on Financial Inclusion, Reserve Bank of India, December 2015.

NSSO Report, 2013, Household Ownership and Operational Holdings in India, National Sample Survey Office, December-January 2013.

de Soto, 2000, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, Hernando de Soto, Basic Books, 2000.


Diya Uday is a researcher at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai and visiting faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai. The author would like to thank the three anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions.

Friday, June 28, 2019


R conference as part of IISA conference at IIT Bombay, 26 December 2019

We are pleased to announce the first ever R conference under the auspices of the main conference of the International Indian Statistical Association, to held on December 26, 2019 at IIT Mumbai.

Registration is now open and the registration fee is intentionally minimal for students and academics from India. We welcome submission of abstracts on R related topics. We plan to award 40 to 50 scholarships to deserving students and academics around India who are interested in R. While submission of an abstract is not a requirement for a scholarship award, it will, of course, improve the chances of being selected. The scholarship awards may cover the cost of lodging, board and travel.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Household debt over time

by Subhamoy Chakraborty and Renuka Sane.

In a previous article, Estimates of household debt in India, we presented some basic facts about household borrowings in the months of May - August 2018. We found that 46% of households in India had debt outstanding. There was a significant reliance on informal sources for the purpose of borrowing. Consumption expenditure was the most important purpose for which households borrowed followed by housing and business.

In this article, we use the same dataset, the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) to understand household borrowing across time. We present metrics on household indebtedness across 3 waves (January-April 2016, January-April 2017, January-April 2018). We have chosen the first wave of each year so that comparisons are made at the same point of time each year. We use household weights for each wave provided by CPHS to get population estimates for share of households having debt and the distribution of debt across different sources and purposes. CPHS does not provide information on the value of debt outstanding. Our analysis, therefore, is restricted to understanding the proportion of households borrowing from various sources for different purposes.

Overall level of Borrowing

Table 1 presents percentage of households having debt outstanding in Wave 1 in each of the three years. This has increased dramatically over the last three years. In January - April 2016, only 12% of the population had debt outstanding. This increased to 39% by January - April 2018. There has been an increase in household indebtedness in urban regions - by 2018, 40% of urban households had debt outstanding relative to 37% of rural households.

Table 1: Borrowing Share in Population
Jan16 - Apr16 33 million
21.0 million
11.4 million
Jan17 - Apr17 67 million
45.3 million
20.8 million
Jan18 - Apr18 114 million
79.8 million
34.3 million

Share of sources in the population

Figure 1 presents the percentage of households in the population who have borrowed from the different sources. This throws up several interesting facts. First, the share of households who have debt outstanding from a bank has been steadily rising, consistent with rise in personal loans from banking data. The same is true for debt from relatives and friends. Second, there has been a reversal of borrowing from money-lenders. In 2016, less than 3% of households claimed to have debt outstanding from money lenders. In 2017, this rose to a little over 7.5%, and since then has fallen to 4.5% in 2018. Third, there has been a dramatic increase in borrowing from shops. In 2016, less than 1% of households had debt outstanding from shops. In 2018, this number was about 11%.

Figure 1:Share of borrowing in the population

Figure 2 presents the percentage of households who have borrowed from shops in each income decile. Borrowing from shops increased remarkably in 2018 across all income deciles. The increase was highest for the lowest income decile from 2% in 2017 to 15.5% in 2018. The corresponding increase in highest income decile was from 3% to 7.5%.

Figure 2:Borrowing from Shops across Income

Reasons for borrowing

Figure 3 presents the percentage of households who have borrowed for various purposes. Consumption expenditure remains the single largest reason behind household borrowing. Although in 2016 borrowing for consumption and housing were at the same level, housing grew slowly compared to consumption. Borrowings for business and repaying outstanding debt saw a sudden jump in overall share in 2018.

Figure 3:Reasons for borrowing in the population

Figure 4 presents the the percentage of household who have borrowed for consumption across income deciles. In 2016 the share of borrowing for consumption was almost equal across income deciles, around 2-3 %. However, by 2018, there was a huge difference between the deciles. The share of borrowing in the lowest income decile increased from 2% in 2016 to 21% in 2018. The corresponding rise in the highest income decile was from 2.5% to 10%. In 2018 21% of households in the lowest decile had borrowed for consumption expenditure as compared to 10% in the highest income decile.

Figure 4:Borrowing for Consumption across Income


In this article we have presented some facts about the change in household borrowings in India between 2016 and 2018. These are:

  • The percentage of households who have debt outstanding has increased from 12% of the population in 2016 to 39% of the population in 2018. The increase has been slightly higher in urban India relative to rural India.
  • There has been an increase in borrowing from banks, relative and friends, and shops. In fact, shops have seen the largest increase as the source of borrowing.
  • The incidence of borrowing from shops has been higher for the lower income deciles.
  • The biggest jump in the reasons for borrowing has been on consumption expenditure.
  • Borrowing for consumption expenditure increased more for lower income deciles.


The authors are researchers with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

Developing Public Policy Leaders for a better tomorrow

India has completed its phases of elections, with results on the horizon; policy discourses have been in focus during the entire election campaigning. In fact, if one looks at the incumbent Government's records, a number of policy frameworks have emerged: National Policy on Biofuels 2018, National Health Policy 2017, National Energy Policy 2017, National Steel Policy 2017, National Civil Aviation Policy 2016, National Offshore Wind Policy 2015, National Policy of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015, National Agroforestry Policy 2014 are just some of the examples at the national level. States have their own policies, since many of the key areas are State subjects under the Constitution. As the Government moves from being a service provider to a service facilitator, one sees the importance of policies and regulatory bodies on the rise.

Further to the above, the Government has begun exhibiting interest in hiring people from outside the bureaucratic ranks, in many of their policy and development work, as consultants. NITI Aayog, the in-house government think tank, which replaced the Planning Commission, is staffed by young graduates, from top universities in the world, as policy consultants. The Prime Minister Fellowship Scheme is an initiative to attract young people in policymaking. A range of Government departments and ministries are housed by professionals, from various disciplines, engaged in research and advisory services. In fact, as a marked departure from tradition, the Indian government recently recruited 9 individuals working in the private sector at a joint secretary level (senior bureaucrats) as lateral hires.

Interestingly, however, despite the interest and willingness, there stands a lack of quality public policy professionals in the country. This is attributed to a deficiency of good Schools teaching public policy as a discipline. Of those that exist, almost all of them are embedded in a university set-up with regulations that make them less agile in adapting to the rapidly changing world of public policy. More importantly, they offer two-year degree programmes, since India does not recognize a one-year, post-graduate degree.

Signs of change are emerging however; these are being adapted to by educational institutions imparting training in the field of public policy - be it in the duration of the course, the curriculum design, and/or the faculty, which impart the same. Amongst the notable Public Policy Schools is the Indian School of Public Policy, launched in October, 2018 by N. K. Singh, Rajiv Mehrishi, Gurcharan Das and others, and driven by Parth Shah and Luis Miranda of the Centre for Civil Society. The School is an outcome of academics, policymakers and professionals conceptualizing together a world-class policy education institute in India, and offering a one-year postgraduate programme in Policy, Design & Management.

The School’s Academic Advisory Council includes Vijay Kelkar, Shekhar Shah, Jessica Seddon, Arvind Panagariya, Shamika Ravi, Ajay Shah and many others; it enjoys the guidance and support of patrons such as Nandan Nilekani, Vallabh Bhanshali and Jerry Rao. The faculty includes Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Amitabh Mattoo, Dipankar Gupta, Sanjaya Baru, Pronab Sen, Sudipto Mundle, and other accomplished faculty members.

Industry partners like GMR, PwC, Deloitte, Uber, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, EY, Manipal Education, APCO Worldwide, and many others ( have already come forward endorsing the programme.

The ISPP commences its first batch in August, 2019.

More details on:

The EVM – VVPAT saga

by Abhay Bhatt and Rajeeva Karandikar.

There has been lot of grumbling in the Indian media about Electronic voting machines (EVM), esspecially over last 3 months, with opposition parties accusing the government of manipulating EVMs. This reached a crescendo recently when all the opposition parties joined hands and filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a directive to the Election Commission to cross verify the vote count reported by the EVM, with that of paper slips produced by the VVPAT (Voter verifiable paper audit trail), in 50% of the booths.

The Election Commission had consulted us about the sampling plan to be put in place to instill confidence about the sanctity of the election process. Here is our take on how to think about these questions.

The background

  1. EVMs were first used in the Paravur Assembly constituency in Ernakulam district in the 1982 Assembly poll in about 50 booths. The CPI candidate, Mr. Pillai, defeated the Congress candidate, Mr. Jose, by a thin margin of 123 votes. Mr. Jose went to the High Court with the contention that the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, did not empower the Election Commission to use EVMs. While the High Court dismissed the petition, subsequently the Supreme Court upheld the contention and ordered a repoll in these 50 booths. Mr. Jose won the election after this repoll.
  2. Subsequently, the Representation of the People Act was amended, and S.61A was inserted, in December 1988, empowering the use of EVMs.
  3. These EVMs were designed by public sector undertakings, BEL (a Defence Ministry PSU) and ECIL (an Atomic Energy Ministry PSU), who also manufacture the same. They are subjected to a thorough testing process.
  4. The design and production are overseen by a technical expert committee consisting of senior professors in electronics and computer science from leading Indian Institutions.
  5. The EVMs do not have any networking hardware. There is no ethernet port, no wifi or bluetooth capability, and thus it is not possible to alter or tamper the memory remotely.
  6. The names of candidates on the EVM appear in an order that is determined by the same convention that had been followed since the sixties for the order on the ballot paper. First, the candidates of the national parties appear, in an alphabetical order of their names, then candidates of state parties (again in an alphabetical order of their names) and lastly the rest, again in an alphabetical order of their names. Thus, the order gets determined only after the last date of withdrawal of nomination.
  7. The EVMs are distributed across the constituencies via randomisation. The EVMs used in India consist of two units: BU, the balloting unit and CU, the control unit. The BUs and CUs are distributed independently and on the day of polling, the two are connected. If one of them has been tampered or replaced, the handshake between the two units will fail and the pair will have to be replaced.
  8. After the voting, the machine is locked by the presiding officer and then the EVM are physically sealed using the same techniques that were used to seal the ballot boxes of old.
  9. In the parliamentary elections in 1999, EVMs were used in some constituencies and from 2004, all the elections to the parliament and to the state legislatures are conducted using the EVMs. It should be noted that in several instances, including in 2 out of three parliamentary elections – 2004, 2009 and 2014, the ruling party has lost the election.
  10. The fact that there was no way to do a recount, even if a court ordered the same, was a reason for the Supreme Court to ask the EC to find a way of generating a paper trail. The Election Commission appointed a committee of experts, who came up with a design of the VVPAT machine and the Supreme Court ordered that the same be introduced as soon as possible for all elections.
  11. The Supreme Court had not ordered the Election Commission to routinely carry out any cross verification of EVM and VVPAT count. The purpose of VVPAT was to have the possibility of a recount if a court so ordered, as a result of an election petition.
  12. Since so many doubts had been raised about EVMs, the Election Commission decided that in every assembly constituency, one booth will be picked at random by a draw of lots and for the chosen booth, the VVPAT slips will be counted and cross checked with the count on the EVM. This done in order to increase public confidence in elections.

Our analysis of the recent debate

Over the last year, demands started coming up for verification of much larger number of EVMs. Various petitions were filed. The election commission engaged the two of us along with Mr. Onkar Prasad Ghosh to advise on an appropriate sample size, so if that many EVMs are randomly chosen and the machine count is verified with the VVPAT count and if no mismatches are found, then we can be confident that defective EVMs, if any, are in insignificant proportion.

We felt that given that the EVM's are assigned randomly to constituencies and that the order of names on the EVMs is determined at a late stage, only after the last date of withdrawal, it is not possible to manipulate or tamper the EVMs centrally.

Given that there is no networking component in EVM, tampering is possible only by getting physical access. If someone can get physical access to an EVM and tamper with the EVM, then the VVPAT slips can also be tampered and so validating EVM count by VVPAT count does not give any guarantee that EVM has not been tampered with. For this we must rely on the elaborate process that the Election Commission has about sealing the EVM in a bag, closing the same and storing in such a way that tampering can be detected. This was also the case with the paper ballot and ballot box method of earlier years. We are no worse with EVMs as compared with the old ways, in this regard.

Also, if some smart mind does figure out a way of changing the memory of EVMs remotely, he/she will not stop with doing so in one or two booths. Certainly, the effort will be to tamper with a larger number of constituencies so as to make an impact on the national level.

That is the reason that we took our objective to be to conclude with high degree of confidence that defective EVMs, if any, are less than a certain percentage of all EVMs in use nationwide. In our report we had taken this as 2%, but it can be 1% or 0.5%.

It is true that our suggested method does not give a guarantee at constituency level. But in our view, such a guarantee is not needed. Our sampling scheme can guarantee that the national picture has not been distorted by tampering or by a manufacturing defect. To those who have been insisting upon constituency level guarantees, we would ask: Why stop at the constituency? Should not every voter be assured that his or her vote has been counted correctly? The only way to do so without compromising privacy is to use cryptography. This is the subject of present research, with Prof. Bimal Roy, former director of ISI involved with one such initiative along with a team in UK. But when such a solution would become available, it can and will be attacked as opaque!

The Election Commission, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, stated that in the last 2 years, over 1500 EVM counts have been matched with VVPAT counts and in all cases the matching has been perfect. Statistically, this alone is sufficient to conclude that EVM-VVAPT in use currently along with all the safeguards and practices in place are good.

We believe there is a lot of misinformation in the media. Various cases of EVM malfunction are being reported in the media and social media. These relate to local body elections or even college student union elections etc., which are outside the purview of the Election Commission. Other reports of EVM malfunction on the day of election are mostly about EVMs which fail the test before voting starts and are replaced.

While our recommendation was to draw a random sample from the population of all the EVMs in use, the EC decided to continue with their policy (for operational simplicity) to draw one booth per assembly segment, which translates to verifying 4125 EVMs by cross checking VVPAT counts. Based on the data about the number of booths across 4125 assembly segments, we were able to assert that if no defective is found in these 4125 chosen booths, we can say with 99.99999% confidence confidence that the proportion defective is less than 1%. This bound is true irrespective of the configuration of the defective EVMs. For example, a group of miscreants could have tried to tamper with EVMs selectively across a few constituencies. However, as long as the number of defective EVMs is 1% or more, the sampling procedure will catch this with a high probability.

The Supreme Court has ordered or suggested that instead of 1 per segment, 5 EVMs per assembly segment be drawn and VVPAT count and EVM count be cross verified. Based on our calculations, we conclude that if there are no defectives found in the 20625 randomly chosen booths (5 per assembly segment), then with 99.99999% confidence, the proportion of defectives, if any, are less than 0.25%, irrespective of the configuration of the defectives.

The authors are Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi and Director, Chennai Mathematical Institute, respectively.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Coincidences in investment newsletters, fund managers and bellwether constituences

by Ajay Shah.

Burton Malkiel's design of a newsletter scam

In his famous book, Burton Malkiel offers the following idea.

  1. Start 16 newsletters. In 8 of them, scream for a year that Nifty will go up, and in 8 of them, do the opposite.
  2. At the end of year 1, you have 8 successful newsletters. Close down the losers. Now repeat this, with 4 forecasting up and 4 forecasting down.
  3. At the end of year 2, you have 4 successful newsletters, shut down the others.
  4. At the end of year 3, you have 2 successful newsletters.
  5. At the end of year 4, you are solid gold: you are holding one newsletter which correctly timed the market for 4 years in a row. Now make a lot of money selling subscriptions to this newsletter.

While this is a neat design of a scam, the world is actually, inadvertently, running something like this. A large number of newsletters are born every year. Some of them are lucky, they forecast the market correctly, and they stay alive. The losers tend to shut down.

At every point in time, you see a pool of successful newsletters. This need not imply that they have forecasting capabilities. It could just be survivorship bias at work.

Fund management

This same idea would work in fund management. You could start 16 funds, and at the end of 4 years, you would be holding 1 fund with a remarkable track record. This is possible even if you have no ability to forecast asset prices at all.

Once again, the world is actually running such a system. A large number of money managers spring up all the time. When the bets don't work out, the organisation collapses. The survivors stay in the game.

The world is initiating much more than 16 funds. Thousands of fund managers take a stab at the trade. It is not surprising that at any point in time, we see five or ten of them with five or ten years of a successful track record. While some ability may exist in the world, there is certainly a simple process of survivorship bias going on, which generates a few fund managers with a good track record.

Bellwether constituencies

Suppose you have 500 constituencies, and suppose all election outcomes are roughly 50/50. That is, there are exactly two parties and they each win about half the seats. Suppose that in truth, the outcome of each constituency is completely random and it is just like tossing a coin.

At the end of one election, you have 250 constituencies where the winner of the overall election won.

At the end of two elections, you will have 125 constituencies which were with the winner for two elections in a row.

At the end of three elections, there will be 62. At the end of four elections there will be 31.

This tells us that if we see about 30 constituencies in India, where the winner in each of these constituencies was the ruling coalition that came out of the Lok Sabha elections for 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014, this might just be simple randomness at work. There may be nothing special about these `bellwether constituencies'.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019


Job Opening:

Manager, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi

Centre for Development Economics (CDE) is a research adjunct of the Delhi School of Economics (Department of Economics). It was established in 1992 with a grant from the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. CDE is a small non-profit organisation that supports research activities of the Department of Economics. This includes, inter alia, organising international and national seminars, workshops and lectures, managing research projects, hosting academic visitors, providing IT services to faculty and students and any other research support department faculty may require. The management of CDE is through a Council comprising faculty members.

As the administrative head the Manager has a leadership role and is responsible for managing all of the above activities. Inter alia, s/he (i) communicates with national and international funding agencies, (ii) handles logistics of prestigious international and national conferences and workshops, (iii) coordinates with CDE auditors to ensure accounts are maintained properly and with faculty members in maintaining project records. In these functions s/he is assisted by office staff that report to her/him and is guided and mentored by faculty.

Minimum Educational Qualifications:

Bachelor’s degree in any subject. Other things equal a higher degree would be an advantage.

Work experience:

At least 2-3 years in a similar role.

Other requirements:

  • Proven track record of strong written and oral communication skills including the ability to independently draft letters, memos and emails.
  • Demonstrable fluency in written and spoken English is essential.
  • High level of competence with commonly used software such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Ability to manage research projects.
  • Ability to manage a team of 6-7 staff.

The ideal candidate will be a dynamic self-starting person with a willingness to learn. This position offers high visibility and scope for professional growth. An earlier occupant of this position has gone on to become Registrar at a top university.

Remuneration will be based on qualifications and experience. It includes medical insurance and leave benefits.

Please apply with a CV and names of three references to

The position is available immediately.

Applications will be accepted till it is filled.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and invited for a face to face interaction.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Unsophisticated households and banks versus securities

by Ajay Shah.

The borrowing of banks through deposits

When a household deals with a bank, there is a clear promise by the bank, that the deposit will be redeemable at par with some interest that is known up front. But how is a household to verify that the promise will be met at future dates? Monitoring a bank every day is hard for unsophisticated investors. Unsophisticated households face asymmetric information, a market failure.

In order to address this market failure, we do two things in financial regulation. First, we have micro-prudential regulation. The regulator coerces banks to bring down their failure probability to an acceptable level. A good thumb rule for Indian conditions is to aim for a failure probability of 2% on a one-decade horizon. This requires two elements of work: forcing banks to mark their assets to market so that bad loans are valued at fair market value, and a leverage rule which caps the leverage of banks. Second, we require a Resolution Corporation to deal with bank failure: a specialised bankruptcy process, which pays out deposit insurance to households (Rai, 2017).

This is the well understood regulatory apparatus that is brought into play when banks borrow through bank deposits, which go alongside high intensity promises.

Resource mobilisation by firms through the securities markets

How should we think about households and investment in securities (equity or debt)? Conversely, what should a financial regulatory apparatus do when a firm (a bank, an NBFC or a non-financial firm) wants to issue shares or bonds on the primary market?

A key difference on the stock market or the bond market is the lack of a promise. No promise is made, either about liquidity or about the price at which a future transaction will take place. This immediately improves the situation from a regulatory standpoint. Investors walk into buying bonds or shares with their eyes open, no promises are made to them.

Hence, we do not need to worry about micro-prudential regulation of the issuer when an investor buys shares or bonds on an exchange.

What about the primary market? In a primary issue, there is the risk of an advertising campaign that makes lurid promises to unsophisticated investors. This is addressed nicely by having a rule which requires that a minimum x% of the primary issue (of either bonds or shares) be purchased by sophisticated investors, and these investors be locked in for a certain short period. A good definition of a `sophisticated investor' for this purpose is a person who invests a minimum of Rs.10 million in the issue. Once the issue passes the market test of appealing to such investors, it is safe for households to participate directly in the primary market for securities.

Under such conditions, the gatekeepers for resource mobilisation through the primary issuance of shares or bonds are sophisticated investors and not the state. If a firm had poor prospects, or mispriced its securities, it would not get the support of these investors, and the issue would fail. How much leverage, and what debt characteristics, are appropriate for a highway or a steel company or an NBFC? There is no need for the government to get involved in terms of micro-prudential regulation or interference in the price. The only role of the state is in the adequacy and truthfulness of disclosures that are made at the time of the issue.

As there is no high intensity promise by an NBFC, failed NBFCs should go to the ordinary IBC process. The need for the Resolution Corporation, in handling firm default, is only when a systemically important NBFC fails.

When a bank borrows using the bond market, this changes the overall leverage of the bank, and the bank would of course have to comply with micro-prudential rules that cap its leverage. But there is nothing special about the primary issue of a bank, when compared with the reasoning above.


NBFCs in India are facing many difficulties. However, micro-prudential regulation of NBFCs is not the answer. There is no need for the state to get involved, or engage in micro-prudential regulation, of bond issues by banks, NBFCs (Roy, 2015; Shah 2018) and non-financial firms.

The sophisticated investors on the primary market are the gatekeeper; unsophisticated households free ride on their price discovery.

The Companies Act should not interfere in the bond issuance of companies, and RBI should not micro-prudentially regulate NBFCs.

The reticence of the bond market in lending to some NBFCs, from August 2018 onwards, is market discipline at work.


The regulatory difficulties of NBFCs in India, Shubho Roy, The Leap Blog, 24 December 2015.

Movement on the law for the Resolution Corporation, Suyash Rai, The Leap Blog, 19 June 2017.

Financial regulation for the Fintech world, Ajay Shah, The Leap Blog, 21 March 2018.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Indian bankruptcy reform: old defaults vs. recent ones

by Renuka Sane and Rajeswari Sengupta.

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) was enacted in 2016. At the time, there were a large number of zombie firms in the Indian landscape, where the first default had taken place a while ago. This motivates a question: Does the IBC perform differently when confronted with a recent default, compared with the outcomes obtained when dealing with legacy problems? In what form does the difference manifest itself?

Our prior is that old cases would fare worse, for two reasons. First, there is a selection bias. The defaulting firms who were relatively stronger, are more likely to have found a solution through successful private negotiations. The survivors are likely to be the zombie firms who would be in bad shape. Second, a firm that defaults is a melting ice cube. Every day, value is destroyed. The very fact that the default in these old cases took place a while ago suggests that substantial value destruction may have taken place. In a sound bankruptcy process, the firm is brought to the insolvency resolution process rapidly, which increases the chances of rescuing a viable business under a new ownership and balance sheet. These old cases did not have access to a sound bankruptcy process, until now.

If such a phenomenon is at work, the unconditional performance of the IBC (example, example, example) will tend to be understated. The correct measure of how well the IBC works should then be seen by restricting the analysis to recent defaults only.

In this article, we show some early small sample evidence, where IBC outcomes of old and new defaults are compared. We look at two metrics: the final outcome (liquidation or resolution), and in the class of firms that did go through a resolution, the time taken and the recovery rate. We find that a larger proportion of the old, legacy cases were liquidated. Median recovery rates were lower for the old cases that did go through a resolution compared to the more recent cases. However, there was no difference in time taken to complete the IRP process.

Institutional setting

We do not have access to the date of default. This information is not disclosed by either the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) or the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI). We identify old cases as those where resolution began under the Sick Industrial Companies Act, 1985 (SICA) and have remained pending at the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR).

With the repeal of SICA, the Eighth Schedule of IBC explicitly provides for the abatement of the existing SICA cases pending at BIFR and Appellate Authority for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (AAIFR), with an option to re-initiate them as new cases under IBC.


We use two sources of data. The first comes from the IGIDR Finance Research Group's (FRG) database on bankruptcy. The dataset contains all unique debtor firms from January 1, 2017 till December 31, 2018. This provides us a macro picture on the number of liquidations and resolutions of BIFR and non-BIFR firms.

The data on resolutions is sourced from the IBBI which has obtained the information from resolution professionals. In this databse we see 82 firms where resolution plans have been approved by the NCLT as of December 31, 2018. This is the most recent data available as of now. We remove the outliers from our sample, where the realisation amount exceeds the total amount of claims filed. This gives us a dataset with 72 cases. An interesting feature of this data is that the BIFR cases are smaller, with a mean liquidation value of Rs.1.75 billion, as compared with the mean liquidation value of Rs.6.25 billion for the non-BIFR firms.

Q1: Do we see more liquidations of BIFR firms?

According to the FRG database, there were 1000 ongoing cases of bankruptcy. 304 firms had been liquidated while 79 had undergone resolution. Table 1 provides a break-up of BIFR and non-BIFR firms depending on their resolution status.

Table 1: Comparison of BIFR & non-BIFR cases: Resolution status

Legacy (BIFR) cases Fresh (non-BIFR) cases
Liquidation 220 84
Resolution 28 51

This suggests that most of the firms that had been in BIFR and that came to IBC, went into liquidation. This is not surprising as substantial value destruction would have taken place just by being in the process for many years, and it is highly unlikely that these firms had any value as a going concern.

Q2: Do we see a difference in time and recovery rate of the
approved resolutions?

Using the information from the IBBI dataset, we calculate the average recovery rates and the average time taken for the legacy (BIFR) and recent (non-BIFR) cases, as shown in Table 2. The recovery rate is estimated as the ratio of the realisable amount and admitted claims of the respective classes of creditors (FCs and OCs). This is not calculated on a net present value (NPV) basis and hence needs to be interpreted accordingly. We do not have access to information on realisable amount on an NPV basis.

Table 2: Comparison of BIFR & non-BIFR cases: Time and Recovery

Legacy (BIFR) cases Fresh (non-BIFR) cases
Number 24 48
Mean time to resolve (days) 311 311
Median time to resolve (days) 282 282

Mean recovery rate (%) 46.23 47.63
Median recovery rate (%) 32.69 42.77

Mean recovery rate of FCs (%) 45.57 49.01
Median recovery rate of FCs (%) 35.70 42.75
Mean recovery rate of OCs (%) 36.04 35.44
Median recovery rate of OCs (%) 11.92 19.84

The main feature of these results is that the sample means and the medians of the two groups are rather alike on a number of parameters. The average and median time taken to resolution is the same for the two groups. The mean recovery rate is around 47% for both groups. There is, however, almost a 10 percentage point difference in the median recovery rate - once again not surprising given that BIFR firms are likely to have seen significant value destruction before they came to the IBC. The same pattern is repeated when one looks at recovery rates of financial and operational creditors between the two groups of firms.


Our prior was that the legacy cases have been festering for long and hence have experienced prolonged value depreciation, and would therefore see different outcomes than fresh defaults. We find the difference in the form of more liquidations of the legacy firms, and significant differences in liquidation value, and median recovery rates. We, however, do not find any difference in the time taken to complete the insolvency resolution process. This could be because the legacy cases which were in worse shape went into liquidation and those that remained in IRP were not very different in nature compared to the recent defaults.

This also motivates thoughts for further research. Will this result hold up with stronger datasets that maybe visible in a year or two? This kind of analysis, conducted on a bigger dataset spanning a few years post IBC, is likely to give a more realistic picture of the performance of IBC as opposed to analyses which view the legacy and recent cases from the same perspective.


The authors are researchers at NIPFP and IGIDR respectively.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Delays in deposit insurance

by Karan Gulati, Shubho Roy, Renuka Sane.

In late 2017, the government introduced the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill which proposed a new resolution framework for banks and financial firms. It planned an overhaul of the present system operated jointly by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), and introduce a modern Resolution Corporation with more extensive powers to regulate and resolve banks.

The bill faced resistance in Parliament. The opposition stated that the bill risked the solvency of public sector banks and accused the government of putting public money at risk. Some argued that the current system of deposit insurance would be taken away by the proposed FRDI law. The Bill was said to have been “designed to punish small depositors for the sins of defaulters, corrupt bank managers and political masterminds”. The bill was withdrawn in 2018. As a result, the DICGC has remained the insurer for bank deposits.

In this article, we attempt to measure how the DICGC has fared in processing bank failures and settling claims of depositors.

Present system

Today, the DICGC acts as a pay-box. Under its eponymous law of 1961, the DICGC insures the deposits of banks created by parliamentary (central) legislation, private banks, and eligible co-operative banks. Eligible co-operative banks are a subset of co-operative banks where the state legislature has empowered the RBI to exercise some regulatory oversight. Under the 1961 Act, if a bank insured by DICGC is wound up or has its license cancelled by the RBI, every depositor is entitled to insurance of up to Rupees 100,000.

The law envisages a quick payout to reduce inconvenience to depositors due to a bank failure. Within three months of being appointed, every liquidator of a bank must provide to DICGC, a list of depositors with the amount due to each one of them (S.17(1)). The DICGC, then makes the insurance payout. The law (S. 17 (2)) requires DICGC to pay claims within two months of receiving the list from the liquidator.


We source data from annual reports of the DICGC and RBI notifications concerning the cancellation of license/ de-registration of 127 banks from 2013 to 2018. From these, we note the year of payout under the DICGC Act, number of depositors, and the amount of claims settled. We were able to trace RBI notifications for 115 banks, which accounted for 95% of all depositors, and 99% of the amount of payouts. We measure the time taken between the RBI notification (which we assume to be analogous with the exit of the bank), the disbursement of the payments; and the opportunity cost of the amount of claims at 8% and 20% per annum.

The hand-collected data set is accessible here.

Overall performance

Bank failures are especially disruptive for depositors. Banks work on the promise of providing deposits callable at par. A bank makes a promise to allow the depositor to withdraw their money within one banking day. This gives confidence to the depositor to use banks for their daily needs rather than hoarding cash. Though there have been no commercial bank failures in India in the recent past, this hides a deep and persistent problem of co-operative bank failures in India.

Cases of Bank Failures handled by the DICGC from 2013 to 2018
Year Number of Payouts Depositors Claims (Rupees million)
2013-14 51 96590 1030.93
2014-15 30 185901 3212.89
2015-16 17 90792 471.44
2016-17 10 35215 586.37
2017-18 19 56173 435.19
Total 127 464671 5736.82

As the table above shows, over the last five years, 25 co-operative banks have received payouts by DICGC each year on an average. More than 400,000 depositors had to use the deposit insurance scheme. These are not small numbers. Their experience of the deposit insurance payout will be the basis of the trust they will repose in the banking system, the regulator, and the deposit insurance scheme.

Time taken to disburse payments

Under the DICGC Act, the liquidator is supposed to provide a list of claimants to DICGC within three months of her appointment. However, a major cause of delay for the payouts is that the claims list is not received from the liquidator within the stipulated time limit. This may be because cases filed against the liquidator are in court, appeals by the bank are pending before the Ministry of Finance (Appellate Authority), or clarifications are required about the claims list.

The process of disbursement of payments needs to be expedient so that depositors do not suffer undue losses and maximum value is derived from the failed institution. To measure the effectiveness of DICGC we calculate the opportunity cost of the delay in payments.

Money today is worth more than money tomorrow. Since the depositors are unable to access their money, which was promised to be to be callable at par, they face a loss. Depositors have three choices (i) find an alternate source/borrow, (ii) forgo consumption or, (iii) forgo investment. The time taken by DICGC for the disbursement of the due amount imposes a cost on the depositors. The standard measure for delayed payment is the opportunity cost of the money. It is calculated by discounting the amount with a discount rate over the time by which it was delayed. For example, if the depositor is owed Rs. 100; and the insurance payout delay is 1 year; and the discount rate is 10%, then a payout of Rs. 100 at the end of the year is effectively a payout of only Rs. 91. If the payout is delayed by 2 years; effective payout is Rs. 82.64.

We use two rates of discounting to measure the opportunity cost: 8% and 20%. 8% is slightly above the risk-free rate of return and can be considered as the minimum opportunity cost of money. However, if you are poor or an individual, it is almost impossible to borrow at this rate. So we choose another realistic rate of 20%. This is the rate at which the government requires buyers to compensate MSMEs for delayed payments (S. 16, MSMED Act).

As the graph above shows, it took an average of 2.10 years for the disbursement of the amount by DICGC. This is five times the statutory limit of five months. Similarly, the median time taken is more than four times the statutory limit. The pay-out process took over 5 years in almost 1/3rd of the cases of failures. A reading of the Annual Reports of DICGC shows that in two cases of bank failure, it took over 14 years for the insurance claims to be disbursed.

As of 20th March 2019, there were another 25 bank failures pending before DICGC, where depositors have been waiting for an average of 6.57 years. Two of these banks were de-registered 20 years ago and DICGC is yet to receive the claims list from the liquidator.

Year-wise metrics of delay in disbursement
Year Average Time Taken (years) Claims (million) Opportunity Cost at 8% (million) Opportunity Cost at 20% (million)
2013–14 1.16 1030.93 930.18 814.21
2014–15 2.31 3212.89 2642.44 2030.18
2015–16 1.35 471.44 410.30 342.16
2016–17 2.16 586.37 496.86 399.19
2017–18 3.86 435.20 322.56 216.32
Total 2.10 5736.83 4802.34 3802.05

As Table 2 shows, opportunity costs have risen over the years. At a conservative discount rate of 8%, depositors in 2017-18 effectively got only Rs. 322.56 million, for claims of Rs. 435.2 million, a 26% loss. This is due to the increasing delays in processing payouts. In 2013-14, the loss rate was only 10% of the value of insurance. However, 8% is an optimistic rate. At a realistic rate of 20%, depositors lost more than 50% of the value of payouts in 2017-18. At the realistic rate, depositors have lost over one third the value of their insurance in the past five years due to delays.

Proposed System

One of the reasons for the delay is due to the fact that that DICGC itself does not have the power to obtain the list of depositors in a bank. It has to depend on the liquidator to provide the list. This explains a significant portion of the delays. As shown here, in a number of cases the DICGC is waiting for the liquidator to provide the list of insurance claimants.

The FRDI Bill solves this problem through two measures:

  1. Allowing the Resolution Corporation to take over the management of a bank at risk before it stops banking activities and is bankrupt.
  2. Combining the function of the liquidator/receiver and insurer in the same agency.

The Bill proposed a mechanism for an early warning system for banks at risk of failure. Banks would be classified into five categories ranging from low to critical. If a bank was classified in higher risk categories it would have to formulate its resolution plan which would include information about depositors [S.44]. The bill also allowed the Resolution Corporation to take over the management of banks at critical risk (S. 46) which is before bankruptcy (unlike the present system). This would give the Resolution Corporation the power to get into the books of the bank before it failed and consequently give it more time to make a list of insurance claimants without delay to depositors.

This is unlike the present system where the DICGC enters the process only after the bank has been declared insolvent by the RBI and is unable to pay its dues (see here, here and here). By coming in before a bank has failed, the Resolution Corporation would have the ability to analyse its operational statements, books of records, and list of depositors entitled to payouts in the event of such a failure.

Another cause of the delay is that the liquidator and DICGC are independent of each other. The liquidator is appointed after a Bank has been ordered to be wound up, and is not part of the DICGC. The DICGC hence has no authority in preparing the list of eligible claimants and has to depend on the liquidator to provide it. In contrast, the proposed Resolution Corporation would have acted as the liquidator and insurer for a co-operative bank in the event of a failure (S. 62). As such, the corporation would not have to depend on an external party to prepare a list of claimants.


The process under the current regime is slow. It takes close to two years after the cancellation of license for the disbursement of claims. Since most co-operative banks service poorer clients, their failure hurts people who are not in a position to forgo their deposits for long periods of time. Today, without a framework for bankruptcy and orderly resolution for financial firms, India faces the risk that if a large private sector bank goes bankrupt, the depositors could be stuck for years before getting their money back.

The focus of the deposit insurance corporation needs to shift from payouts after default, into the problem of identifying weak banks and stopping them. Many countries have developed specialised resolution regimes for various categories of financial firms. The Financial Stability Board recommends operational independence as a key attribute of resolution regimes. In several jurisdictions, including the USA, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, Korea, etc., these are in the form of separate institutions with resolution powers.


A welcome retreat: withdrawing the FRDI Bill, The Hindu, 10th August 2018.

FRDI Bill: Panacea for banking sector set for quiet burial after PNB scam?, Business Standard, Archis Mohan, 22nd February 2018.

Movement on the law for the Resolution Corporation, by Suyash Rai in The Leap Blog.

Raghuram Rajan and Ajay Shah. New directions in Indian financial sector policy. In Priya Basu, editor, India’s financial sector: Recent reforms, future challenges, chapter 4, pages 54–87. Macmillan, 2005.

The demise of Rupee Cooperative Bank: A malady, by Radhika Pandey and Sumathi Chandrashekaran in The Leap Blog.

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill 2016, Department of Economic Affairs.

Won’t let Centre pass FRDI Bill in Parliament: Abhishek Banerjee, The Indian Express, Express News Service, 26th December 2017.


Shubho Roy and Renuka Sane are researchers at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and Karan Gulati is a law student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Delays in liquidated and resolved firms: Visualisation of an output measure of the Indian bankruptcy reform

by Geetika Palta, Anjali Sharma, Susan Thomas.

The ultimate objective of the Indian bankruptcy reform is to get up to plausible recovery rates and change the behaviour of borrowers. The key tool for achieving these objectives is reducing the delay. In the existing literature, we know that there are large delays, particularly for large firms (Bhatia et. al. 2019, Felman et. al. 2019, Shah 2018). The most important proximate objective of the Indian bankruptcy reform is to reduce delays in the bankruptcy process (Shah and Thomas, 2018).

A great deal of the focus so far has been upon the average value of the delay. It is, however, important to look at the full distribution of the delay, and not just the sample mean. Box-and-whisker plots are a nice visualisation tool through which we can see more than just the sample mean. In this article, we (a) Construct a visualisation of a key output measure for the Indian bankruptcy reform : a box-and-whisker plot for the delay associated with Resolved and Liquidated firms; and (b) Argue that this output measure is likely to get worse in coming days.

The overall distribution of the delay

Sometimes, it is argued that the right way to measure the delay is to exclude certain elements of the delay, which is not correct seen from first principles. The fundamental fact about distressed firms is that every day of delay reduces recovery rates and hampers economic dynamism. For an analogy, a sick animal is unproductive and suffers, regardless of whether the vet takes the weekend off or not.

We work with two years of data about cases that have concluded and exited from the IRP. These are obtained from the IBBI website. In this data, 1383 cases embarked into the Insolvency Resolution Process (IRP) from January 2017 to December 2018. Of these, 79 concluded with an accepted resolution plan and 304 cases that concluded with the firm being put into liquidation. This yields the following box-and-whisker plots:

Figure 1: Box-whisker plots for the delay of IBC cases, under three buckets (Ongoing, Liquidated or Resolved)

Let's start at the right column (for resolved cases). The bottom pane shows that 79 firms were resolved. The upper pane depicts the range of values for these firms. The black horizontal line is the median, and the box is drawn from the 25th to the 75th percentile values for the delay. The dots show the most extreme values. A key finding here is that the median resolved case took more than 270 days (the horizontal red line).

When we look at the liquidated cases, things are slightly better. The black line -- the median delay -- is close to 270 days. It still says that half of liquidated cases took more time than the legal limit of 270 days. A little under 25 percent of the liquidation cases reached their conclusion in 180 days, while very few of the resolved cases concluded within 180 days. But more than 50 percent of the liquidation cases concluded within the 270 days limit, while a little more than 25 percent of the resolved cases were done by this time.

These two pictures -- the box-and-whisker plots for resolved and liquidated cases -- are a nice visualisation of a key output measure of the Indian bankruptcy reform. The trouble is, so far, we have seen only 79 + 304 cases reach the conclusion. These statistical estimates are censored: the cases that have finished are likely to be the ones where the IBC fared relatively well. The bulk of the action is in the Ongoing cases, and there are over 900 of them. For these, the median delay is already in the region of 270 days.

The box-and-whisker plots for Liquidated and Resolved cases, which is the output measure of the Indian bankruptcy reform, will be modified in the future based on cases emerging out of the Ongoing bucket. Very crudely, we may conjecture that if all the ongoing cases finish tomorrow, the 25th and 50th and 75th percentile values of the overall distribution will be much like those seen as of today with the Liquidated and Resolved cases. But this is an over-optimistic scenario. In fact, cases will only trickle out in the future with higher delays, cases where the median delay has already reached about 270 days. Therefore, as cases emerge out of the Ongoing bucket in the future, the box-and-whisker plots for Liquidated and Resolved cases are going to get worse.

How might the output measure evolve in the future?

The most interesting question before us is: In the future, when Ongoing cases trickle out into completion, how will the output measures (the box-and-whisker plots of Resolved and Liquidated cases) shape up?

To help visualise what comes next, we create the box-and-whisker plots for the Ongoing cases by quarter, from Q1 (Jan to Mar) 2017 to Q4 (Oct to Dec) 2018 in Figure 2. The $x$ axis shows the quarter in which cases were admitted into the IRP. The top pane of the graph shows the box-and-whisker plot for the days in IRP for the Ongoing cases only (those which have not concluded as of Dec 2018) and the bottom pane shows the number of firms.

The graph for the number of firms shows that a large fraction of the Ongoing cases have started their IRP in the last three quarters of 2018 -- between April to December 2018. Among these three quarters, there is a near split of about 33%-33%-33%, between cases that have spent more than 270 days, between 180 and 270 days, and below 180 days.

Figure 2: Delays associated with ongoing cases, organised by quarter

To some extent, these results are mechanically driven by the facts of time. But the results are remarkable nonetheless. As an example, the (few) pending cases from Q1 2017 have already spent over 700 days of delay! When these cases complete, they will push the outcome measures in an adverse direction.

On the other hand, a good number of cases are in 2018 where, so far, the delay that has been clocked is relatively low. If, hypothetically, the Indian bankruptcy reform suddenly works better, then a slew of cases can complete, and then the outcome measure may even improve.


  1. The box-and-whisker plot of the delay (measured in calendar days) for Resolved and Liquidated firms is a nice visualisation of a key output of the Indian bankruptcy reform.

  2. It shows a gloomy picture, where over half of the delays are worse than the outer limit in the law of 270 days.

  3. Looking into the future, based on the delays already incurred with Ongoing cases, the output measure is likely to get worse.



Time to resolve insolvencies in India, Surbhi Bhatia, Manish Singh, Bhargavi Zaveri, The Leap Blog, 11 March 2019.

The RBI-12 cases under the IBC by Josh Felman, Varun Marwah, Anjali Sharma, 2019 (forthcoming).

Sequencing issues in building jurisprudence: the problems of large bankruptcy cases, Ajay Shah, The Leap Blog, 7 July 2018.

The Indian bankruptcy reform: The state of the art, 2018, Ajay Shah, Susan Thomas, The Leap Blog, 22 December 2018.

The authors are researchers at the Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research.

Friday, March 29, 2019


Researchers interested in the field of land and access to finance at Mumbai/Hyderabad

Number of positions: 2

The Finance Research Group (FRG) at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) is looking to hire researchers for a short-duration project in the field of land and access to finance.

The specific project involves understanding the linkages between the distribution of welfare benefits and land record systems in India. The duration of the project is four months, with a possibility of extension if the candidate is found suitable and is interested in working on the broader land research agenda at FRG.

Researchers at IGIDR have been working in the field of land and access to finance for over two years now. Examples of the work done include:

  1. Gausia Shaikh and Diya Uday, Rethinking urban land records: A case study of Mumbai (November 2018)
  2. Sudha Narayanan, Gausia Shaikh, Diya Uday and Bhargavi Zaveri, Do digitised land records mirror reality? (June 2018)
  3. Sudha Narayanan, Gausia Shaikh, Diya Uday, and Bhargavi Zaveri, Report on the implementation of the Digital Land Records Modernisation Program in the state of Maharashtra (November 2017)
  4. Bhargavi Zaveri, Distortions in the Indian land collateral market (February 2017)
  5. K. P. Krishnan, Venkatesh Panchapagesan, and Madalasa Venkataraman, Distortions in land markets and their implications to credit generation in India (January 2016)

We are looking for candidates with a background in development economics, preferably having experience in conducting surveys and analysing survey data. The candidates should have demonstrated ability for analytical thinking, strong qualitative and quantitative skills and average writing skills.

Familiarity with free and open source software like Linux, LaTeX, R and Python is also desirable. While previous experience in these softwares is not essential, the person will be required to learn and use them for their work.

Job description

The researchers will be part of a team spread across Mumbai and Hyderabad, that studies the linkages between the distribution of welfare benefits and land records administration.

The researchers will have to perform the following tasks:

  • Support research in economics, public policy and law;
  • Carry out field surveys;
  • Build, manage and analyse datasets related to land;
  • Contribute towards writing the project report;
  • Contribute towards organising workshops and roundtables to disseminate research.

How to apply

If you meet the above criteria and are interested in this position, please email your resume and covering letter to:

The subject line of your email should be "Telangana recruitment".

The last date for submitting the application is 7th April, 2019.


IGIDR is an advanced research institute established and fully funded by the Reserve Bank of India for carrying out research on development issues from a multi-disciplinary point of view. For more information, please see here.