The top 50 bank defaulters in India alone accounted for loans worth Rs 68,607 crore being written off in the banking system until September 2019, the Reserve Bank of India said in its response to a Right-to-Information query. These 50 defaulters included the companies of absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi and fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya.

The central bank was responding to a query by activist Saket Gokhale, who had asked for the list of the top 50 loan defaulters till February 16. He had filed the RTI request on March 19, days after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked the Centre for the same details in Parliament. Gandhi had alleged in the Lok Sabha that he had not received any answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman about the topic.

After the RTI response on Tuesday, Gandhi tweeted: “I asked a simple question in Parliament – tell me the names of 50 biggest bank scammers. The finance minister refused to reply. Now RBI has put names of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and other BJP ‘friends’ in the list. This is why they hid the truth from Parliament.”

Choksi’s company Gitanjali Gems tops the list of the defaulters with a whopping amount of Rs 5,492 crore being written off until September 30, according to the RTI reply. The fugitive businessman’s other firms Gili India and Nakshatra Brands also have loans of Rs 1,447 crore and Rs 1,109 crore respectively written off. Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines figures in the list at ninth position, with outstanding loans of Rs 1,943 crore.

Gokhale told IANS that he had filed the RTI request because the finance ministry had refused to reply to Gandhi’s starred question in Parliament.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala released the list of the top loan defaulters in the country during a video conference. He questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on why the loans were waived. “This is a classic case of promoting dupe, deceive and depart policy of the Modi government, which can no longer be accepted and the prime minister has to answer,” he said.

The Congress also alleged that the government has waived loans worth Rs 6.66 lakh crore since 2014 till September 2019. Surjewala said this “reflects the misconceived priorities and dishonest intentions of the Modi government”.

Indian banks are burdened with a bad loan pile of over Rs 10 lakh crore, according to Reuters.