AGR dues: ‘Nobody wants to kill the telecom sector’, says SBI chairman

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered telecom companies to pay AGR dues immediately

State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar said nobody wants to kill the telecom sector which is facing a crisis over AGR dues.

“Nobody wants to kill the sector, let me be clear,” Mr. Kumar said on the sidelines of an event to announce collaboration between Microsoft and SBI Foundation.

Also read | DoT’s test checks on variations in telecom companies AGR dues standard audit procedure: COAI

When asked about the outcome of the meeting between the government and the banks, Mr. Kumar said, “So far there has been no communication from the government, let us wait.”

The Supreme Court came down heavily on telecom companies recently, for not paying AGR dues. The government may invoke bank guarantees of the telecom companies if they fail to pay the dues before the next hearing scheduled on March 17.

SBI alone has ₹29,000 crore exposure to telecom players apart from non-fund based exposure of ₹14,000 crore.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered the managing directors and directors of companies, including telecom majors Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, to show cause why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for failing to pay even a “single penny” to the government in Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, worth ₹1.47 lakh crore, despite an October 2019 judgment.

Following the order, the telecom players paid a part of their dues.

Meanwhile, Microsoft India has announced a collaboration with SBI Foundation to create opportunities for youth living with disabilities in the banking, financial and insurance sectors. In its first year, the programme aims to develop skill of 500 youths for BFSI jobs in five cities — Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and the National Capital Region.

As a part of the joint effort, Microsoft and SBI Foundation will also develop an Artificial Intelligence-powered market place that will enable the BFSI industry to more easily connect to people living for disabilities for skill development and employment opportunities.

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