ABOUT 65 per cent of all electoral bonds sold since the start of the scheme in 2018, till the most recent phase for which data is available (October 1-10, 2022), were sold at the Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad branches of State Bank of India — but 62 per cent of the total bonds encashed during this period were at the New Delhi branch, according to a Right to Information (RTI) reply by SBI.
Since the first tranche was sold in March 2018, electoral bonds worth Rs 10,791.47 crore were sold at 17 branches of SBI, although 29 branches of the bank are authorised to sell them, according to the RTI response.
In a reply to transparency campaigner Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired) on November 23 this year, SBI data showed Mumbai (Rs 2,742.12 crore), Kolkata (Rs 2,387.71 crore) and Hyderabad (Rs 1,885.35 crore) were the top three branches for the sale of electoral bonds.
While the New Delhi branch sold electoral bonds worth Rs 1,519.44 crore, it accounted for the majority of the bonds encashed — Rs 6,748.97 crore — followed by Hyderabad (Rs 1,384.03 crore) and Kolkata (Rs 1,012.98 crore), the data show.
So far, the bonds have been encashed at 14 regional branches of SBI. Bonds worth Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2.50 crore were encashed at the Srinagar and Gangtok branches, respectively, even as the two branches saw zero sales, according to the SBI data.
The electoral bond scheme, which was started in March 2018, was recently amended by the Union Finance Ministry to allow sales for a longer period in a year. As per the November 7 amendment, the Government can notify an additional 15 days of sales in any year with Assembly elections, apart from the usual four 10-day windows. The 23rd tranche of bonds went on sale from November 9 to November 15 this year.
Terming the scheme “opaque”, Batra said the SBI data revealed that 93.67 per cent of the bonds sold so far were of the Rs 1 crore denomination, the biggest available under the scheme.