A news report had recently appeared in a Malayalam daily that the ‘Sangh Parivar plans to start Hindu Banks in all the local administrative levels in Kerala with the motto Hindu’s money for Hindus’. This was picked up by various other online news channels as well. It was reported that approximately 100 companies had already registered under ‘Nidhi Limited’, under the Companies Act of the Ministry of ‘Cooperative Affairs’. This report is a fact-check into the validity and reliability of the news report.
The report claimed that around 100 units were already registered under temples, ashrams and mutts, under the name ‘Hindu Bank Nidhi Limited Companies’. Three individuals as directors, seven members and a capital of 10 lakhs is sufficient to start a Nidhi company. However, as per the reports, 200 devotees should be added as members within a year. It was claimed that 12.5% interest was being offered on deposits, apart from gold loans, business loans, car loans etc. for its members.
What are Nidhi Companies?
Nidhi Company is a company registered under Companies Act and notified as a Nidhi company by Central Government under Section 620A of Companies Act, 1956. It is a non-banking finance company (NFBC) doing the business of lending and borrowing with its members or shareholders. They are also known as Permanent Fund, Benefit Funds, Mutual Benefit Funds and Mutual Benefit Company. As per the Report of the Sabanayagam Committee on Nidhis, “Nidhi is a company formed with the exclusive object of cultivating the habit of thrift, savings and functioning for the mutual benefit of members by receiving deposits only from individuals enrolled as members and by lending only to individuals, also enrolled as members, and which functions as per the Notifications and Guidelines prescribed by the DCA.” This means that the primary function of a Nidhi company is accepting deposits and lending money to member borrowers against mortgage of property or gold.
Fact or Fake?
Upon investigation, certain inconsistencies and misinformation was identified regarding the news report of Sangh Parivar initiating Hindu Banks for hindu money. As per the reports online, 100 companies were registered so far in the state under the guise of ‘Nidhi Limited’, under the Companies Act of the ‘Ministry of Cooperative Affairs’. It is to be noted that there is no Ministry of Cooperative Affairs under the Central Government. The Companies Act, 2013, comes under the purview of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. While most of the online news channels reported that around 100 companies have registered as Nidhis, at least one news channel reported that 800 companies have registered as Nidhis in Kerala. These are inconsistencies in various news reports regarding the number of companies registered recently from Kerala as Nidhis for the purpose of accepting deposits and giving loans. As of now, no data on the list of companies registered is available as well.
Upon contacting the reporter from the malayalam daily who reported the news, he informed that the news was based on police intelligence reports and a circular by CPI(M), Trivandrum District Committee dated 19.06.2021. While there is no solid evidence of such a police intelligence report until now, the circular by CPI(M) was indeed published. However, the circular clearly states that they have come across a campaign by extremist hindu social media groups on starting Nidhi Banks in all the local administrative levels in Kerala. The circular is not a concrete evidence of the starting of Hindu Banks; instead it is a circular advising the members and affiliates of the party not to support or be victims of such campaigning.
The CPI(M) circular states that the as per the circulating news, State Vice President of BJP Kissan Morcha, Venganoor Gopakumar, has been appointed as the state-coordinator of the opening of the Nidhi Banks in Kerala. On contacting Mr. Venganoor Gopakumar, he informed that there is no BJP party circular or decision on opening Hindu Banks for supporting hindus. Instead, for creating awareness on the Central Government schemes among the public, and targeting hindus who had lost their jobs due to the Covid pandemic including NRI returnees, he had recently posted on Facebook and other social media handles stating that such people could register under the Nidhi Companies. This, as Mr.Gopakumar stated, was his personal opinion and not an official statement. He has also given a similar statement to a prominent news channel, and has clarified it in the first few minutes of a live video through his facebook page on 24.06.2021. He also informed that 870 companies from Kerala have registered under Nidhi Companies from its inception until 26.06.2021
It is to be understood that the news reported in the malayalam dailies was picked off Venganoor Gopakumar’s social media post, and the subsequent campaigning by various pro-hindu groups. This along with the circular of caution by CPI(M) was taken and reported that Sangh Parivar plans to begin Hindu Banks under Nidhi Companies for promoting hindus. It is to be noted that anyone can register a Nidhi Company, and it is not restricted to any religious of social group. Nidhi Companies are registered under the Companies Act, 2013, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, and not the non-existent ‘Ministry of Cooperative Affairs’. Moreover, while the news report claims that 12.5% interest will be provided on deposits, it is to be noted that the claim is upon a news that isn’t confirmed or official yet.
The news was reported in such a way that made it look like a part of an official movement, rather than a suggestion and subsequent campaigning by people of a certain political affiliation. However, upon investigation, it was found that this news is, as of now, is simply misleading. There is no official statement, circular or press release by any political party or group on beginning Hindu Banks for Hindus under the Nidhi Companies as of 28.06.2021.
(The article was written by me under my official name as a part of the Fact Checking course completion project conducted by Mathrubhumi Media School, on 29.06.2021)