Brief History of Deposit Insurance in India

The Corporate Logo of the Deposit Insurance Corporation as it appeared on the first Annual Report.

The PDF file of the first annual report (3.8 MB)

Deposit insurance, as we know it today, was introduced in India in 1962. India was the second country in the world to introduce such a scheme - the first being the United States in 1933. Banking crises and bank failures in the 19th as well as the early 20th Century (1913-14) had, from time to time, underscored the need for depositor protection in India. After the setting up of the Reserve Bank of India, the issue came to the fore in 1938 when the Travancore National and Quilon Bank, the largest bank in the Travancore region, failed. As a result, interim measures relating to banking legislation and reform were instituted in the early 1940s. The banking crisis in Bengal between 1946 and 1948, once again revived the issue of deposit insurance. It was, however, felt that the measures be held in abeyance till the Banking Companies Act, 1949 came into force and comprehensive arrangements were made for the supervision and inspection of banks by the Reserve Bank.

It was in 1960 that the failure of Laxmi Bank and the subsequent failure of the Palai Central Bank catalyzed the introduction of deposit insurance in India. The Deposit Insurance Corporation (DIC) Bill was introduced in the Parliament on August 21, 1961 and received the assent of the President on December 7, 1961. The Deposit Insurance Corporation commenced functioning on January 1, 1962 .

The Deposit Insurance Scheme was initially extended to functioning commercial banks. Deposit insurance was seen as a measure of protection to depositors, particularly small depositors, from the risk of loss of their savings arising from bank failures. The purpose was to avoid panic and to promote greater stability and growth of the banking system - what in today’s argot are termed financial stability concerns. In the 1960s, it was also felt that an additional the purpose of the scheme was to increase the confidence of the depositors in the banking system and facilitate the mobilisation of deposits to catalyst growth and development.

When the DIC commenced operations in the early 1960s, 287 banks registered with it as insured banks. By the end of 1967, this number was reduced to 100, largely as a result of the Reserve Bank of India’s policy of the reconstruction and amalgamation of small and financially weak banks so as to make the banking sector more viable. In 1968, the Deposit Insurance Corporation Act was amended to extend deposit insurance to 'eligible co-operative banks'. The process of extention to cooperative banks, however took a while it was necessary for state governments to amend their cooperative laws. The amended laws would enable the Reserve Bank to order the Registrar of Co-operative Societies of a State to wind up a co-operative bank or to supersede its Committee of Management and to require the Registrar not to take any action for winding up, amalgamation or reconstruction of a co-operative bank without prior sanction in writing from the Reserve Bank of India. Enfolding the cooperative banks had implications for the DIC - in 1968 there were over 1000 cooperative banks as against the 83 commercial banks that were in its fold. As a result, the DIC had to expand its operations very considerably.

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of institution building. 1971 witnessed the establishment of another institution, the Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd. (CGCI). While Deposit Insurance had been introduced in India out of concerns to protect depositors, ensure financial stability, instill confidence in the banking system and help mobilise deposits, the establishment of the Credit Guarantee Corporation was essentially in the realm of affirmative action to ensure that the credit needs of the hitherto neglected sectors and weaker sections were met. The essential concern was to persuade banks to make available credit to not so creditworthy clients.

In 1978, the DIC and the CGCI were merged to form the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC). Consequently, the title of Deposit Insurance Act, 1961 was changed to the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961. The merger was with a view to integrating the functions of deposit insurance and credit guarantee prompted in no small measure by the financial needs of the erstwhile CGCI.

After the merger, the focus of the DICGC had shifted onto credit guarantees. This owed in part to the fact that most large banks were nationalised. With the financial sector reforms undertaken in the 1990s, credit guarantees have been gradually phased out and the focus of the Corporation is veering back to its core function of Deposit Insurance with the objective of averting panics, reducing systemic risk, and ensuring financial stability.

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