Amit Shah, president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, arrives in Ahmedabad in November 2017 for a door-to-door campaign for the Gujarat state elections. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave

A Right To Information reply has revealed that a district cooperative bank, which has the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah as a director, netted the highest deposits of old 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes which were demonetized in November 2016.

Less than five days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook the country by announcing demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank secured deposits of more than $112 million, the most of any cooperative bank.

But from November 14, 2016, district cooperative banks were banned from accepting the demonetized currency because of fears that “black money” could be laundered through these banks.

The Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank’s total deposits as of March 31, 2017 were recorded at $759.085 million with net profit for the 2016-17 year of $2.15 million.

Shah, who still holds the position as director at the bank, also served as the bank’s chairman in 2000. Right behind ADCB is the Rajkot District Cooperative Bank, whose chairman is Jayeshbhai Vitthalbhai Radadiya, a cabinet minister in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s government. The deposits of old notes recorded by this bank totaled over $104 million.

Whereas, the apex bank – Gujarat State Cooperative Bank Ltd – secured only $0.167 million. Manoranjan Roy, a Right-To-Information (RTI) activist who filed for the information, told Indo-Asian News: “The amount of deposits made in the State Cooperative Banks and District Central Cooperative Banks – revealed under RTI for the first time since demonetization – are astounding.”

She said it was a serious matter if only a few banks and their branches and a handful post offices, apart from Schedule Commercial Banks and District Cooperative Central Banks, accounted for over half the old currency notes.

“At this rate, serious questions arise about the actual collection of spiked notes through the remaining 14 mega-public sector banks, besides rural-urban banks, private banks (like ICICI, HDFC and others), local cooperatives, Jankalyan Banks and credit cooperatives and other entities with banking licenses, the figures of which are not made available.”

Within hours of the story linking BJP President Amit Shah with the District Cooperative Bank, many websites like Times Now, New India Express and Reliance-owned and Firstpost had taken down the story.

Prabhu Chawla, editorial director of the New Indian Express, said in response: “Editor of the newspaper takes final call on all editorial matters,” The Wire reported. Similar incidents have happened in the past when news involving BJP heavyweights have been taken down by news-sites.