Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said most of the non-performing assets that banks are dealing with at present were given before the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.

He made the statement in Rajya Sabha after Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram sought data on the number of loans banks granted after May 1, 2014, that became non-performing. “The NPA debate will never end,” he said. “The question was if loans were performing as on 31.3.2014 and they became non-performing later, is that a scam?”

Chidambaram then asked whether Jaitley will furnish the necessary data in the House.

“The question doesn’t relate to loans given with regard to particular dates,” Jaitley said. “But it is absolutely clear that the bulk of these NPAs have arisen out of loans given prior to 1.4.2014.”

Indian banks, especially the public sector ones, have suffered several years with stressed and non-performing loans – loans banks have little hope to recover from the borrower. This has hurt the banks’ financial health, even as the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India have taken several measures in the past two years to counter the problem.

In December 2017, the Reserve Bank of India said in its Financial Stability Report that the amount of gross bad loans is likely to rise from 10.2% of gross advances in September 2017 to 11.1% in September 2018.

The debate in the Rajya Sabha comes days after a CARE Ratings review said ranked India fifth in a list of countries with the worst non-performing asset ratios.

In August 2017, public sector banks wrote off a record Rs 81,683 crore in bad loans for the 2016-17 financial year.