One of the most interesting and challenging work in a bank branch is the preparation of the annual P&L account and the Balance Sheet. Generally it used to be the privilege of the senior most officer and the manager of the branch. Hardly any of the clerks could get exposure to this special work in those days. But Mallya was reluctant to entrust this work to his Accountant or the Special Assistant. He would ask BGR to prepare the same exclusively. BGR utilized this opportunity to his full advantage. He would chalk out a proper plan and prepare the balance sheet with accuracy and neatness with the assistance of other clerks. He would complete the work so correctly and meticulously that the auditors could hardly make any remarks. He went on to prepare the balance sheets for three successive years in the branch. This stood him well when eventually he was promoted as an officer.
BGR as a Trade Union Leader
Many of the colleagues of BGR, who came into contact with him only at the later part of his career, may not be even aware that he was a very staunch and active trade union leader in his younger days. He belonged to a rare breed of union leaders who could not only lead the employees in trade union activities, but also perform exceedingly well in their professional roles. BGR’s strength lay in the fact that he never compromised his professional duties for the union activities. No doubt it was truly a delicate balancing act. But he could do it and do it successfully at that! I am proud to say that he stood tall among the other union leaders with this special and exceptional capacity.
BGR started his union activity as a member of the Canara Bank Employees’ Union affiliated to AIBEA. The union had been recognised by the bank and regular joint conferences used to be held to negotiate various issues between the union and the bank management. However, post the annual conference of the union in 1967 at Madras, there was a split and the Staff Union was formed in 1968. At this juncture there were strikes, agitations, court cases, frivolous charge sheets, transfers, etc. There was total turmoil and utter chaos prevailed. The management stopped calling joint conferences in this background.
The central committee decided to hold the General Body meeting in Bangalore in July 1969. Upendra Shenoy was nominated as the Chairman, while BGR was made the convener of the Reception Committee. It was a huge responsibility and BGR’s organizing capacity came to the fore at that time. Of course, one of the challenges was mobilizing the necessary finance. All the active members of the union became busy and participated enthusiastically.
The inaugural conference was to be held at the Town Hall on 26th July 1969 and the delegates’ session for the next three days at Kuchalamba Choultry in Jayanagar. On the day of inauguration more than 2,500 members (including 707 delegates) assembled at the City Market at 4.30 pm and the procession moved to Town Hall by 6 pm. Meanwhile, sensing the mood of the assembled members, the bank management sent a word to A C Nayak (ACN), the Liaison Secretary, to meet B V Bhandary, the DGM. On meeting him, ACN was told to convey the message to C Subramanian (CS), the General Secretary, that the bank had decided to call a joint conference within ten days to settle all the pending issues.
The Conference was inaugurated by D P Chadha, the President of AIBEA. After his speech, CS, as General Secretary, announced the good tidings – the message from the bank management. The entire gathering cheered the news and clapping and thumping went on for over ten minutes. The delegates’ session on the next three days was highly successful. The discussions were of a very high order. BGR was totally involved. With the co-operation of the young comrades, the conference was a grand success with excellent arrangement and to the full satisfaction of delegates from different parts of the country.
After the joint conference, the bank announced the date of promotion test as 9th August 1969. At this juncture, BGR and his colleagues were enjoying the success of the Conference and were busy with attending the post-conference work like writing the accounts, etc. Meanwhile, the Government of India announced the nationalization of 14 commercial banks on 19 July 1969. The word “Ltd’ was removed from the name boards of the nationalised banks immediately. Interestingly, within a week, the Supreme Court struck down the Bank Nationalisation Act on some technical grounds. Some of the banks like Bank of Baroda and Bank of India immediately replaced the boards with “Ltd” added back! But immediately thereafter, the Government brought an amendment to the Bank Nationalisation Act to plug the loophole and the words “Ltd” were removed once again!
One day before the test, Mallya called BGR to his cabin and wished him best of luck. At that juncture BGR and his friends were basking in the glory of success of the conference. The event and drama of bank nationalisation had also created some sort of confusion. In this background BGR was not in a mood to take the test and he simply gave it a miss!
The next morning when BGR went to the branch, Mallya asked him about his performance in the test. He was shocked to hear that BGR hand absented. Mallya was very angry and expressed his disappointment to BGR in no uncertain terms. According to him, if persons like BGR were not willing to take higher responsibilities who else will work for the growing institution? BGR simply kept mum.
Several things took place between 1969 and 1970. BGR also got married on 13.05.1970. At this point of time, BGR was also thinking whether he should take a promotion or not. He took a final positive decision and appeared for the test. He secured the promotion and was posted for training at STC initially. This time, Mallya was not interested in retaining him, as he himself was due for a transfer. Eventually BGR was posted to Shimoga Main branch after the training. A new chapter in BGR’s eventful career had started unfolding.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
18th May 2012