Thursday, August 2, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 23

One of the important achievements of BGR in the Shimoga Main branch was guiding the young and aspiring employees of the branch in the matter of preparation of the yearly and half-yearly balance sheet and profit & Loss account of the branch. In those days the half-yearly balance sheet fell due on 30th June and the annual balance sheet on 31st December. In most of the branches the work was the exclusive preserve of senior accountants. The work would be completed only by late evening on the closing day that would be a banking holiday for the customers.
BGR saw that the juniors like us, particularly those working in advance department, were totally involved in the closing work by distributing the work well in advance. He had a knack of identifying the right persons for the right kind of job. He would ensure that the work on the previous day (29th June or 30th December) was completed early and the job of preparing the P&L account and balance sheet took off immediately thereafter. All the employees would work as a close-knit team and there used to be a festival atmosphere in the branch. We used to even sit late in the night so that the work was completed before we left the branch. Consequently 30th June and 31st December used to be like unofficial holidays for us. We would assemble at the branch for a lunch party and leave the office early in the afternoon. The exposure helped us immensely later in our career as managers and senior managers.
I have already written that BGR was a staunch union leader as a member of AIBEA. He continued his leadership in the Shimoga branch even as he performed his duties excellently as an accountant. He worked hand-in-hand with another strong leader, H C Raja Rao (HCR), who was indeed a tough nut to crack, as found by the manager CNN. In fact CNN’s only target appeared to be  - to get rid of HCR from the branch! While he failed miserably in his first attempt, he succeeded in the second. But HCR managed to continue his stay in Shimoga by getting a posting to our Bhadravathi branch. I have already written an exclusive story on HCR. Those of my readers who are interested may read the attachment herewith.
BGR and HCR together conducted several union activities in Shimoga. In fact bank employees from several banks in the Shimoga district used to seek the guidance of the two on different matters. However, the emergency declared by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1975 saw a clampdown on the union activities in the banks. Overnight, the negotiation rights of the union for the annual bonus were taken away with the introduction of ex-gratia payments in lieu of bonus. The unions found it tough to manage with several cases foisted on them by the managements. Even collection of subscriptions from the members became tough with banks refusing to accept mandates for deductions from the salary.
It was in this background that the union leaders asked BGR and HCR to collect contributions from the general public. In those days a music programme called Ashok Charan Night (a music brand of Mangalore) had become very popular. BGR & HCR decided to arrange a programme in Shimoga to collect subscriptions through tickets for the show. Even though BGR was a master in organising such programmes, the things were not so simple in view of the prevailing emergency. Conducting a popular music programme in the night also required permission from the police authorities – not a simple issue in the days of emergency.
The District Superintendent of Police (DSP) at that juncture was none other than H T Sangliana who later became a legendary police officer on whom three Kannada films were made with one of them becoming a superhit. It was not clear what type of stand the upright police officer would take under the circumstances. An innovative idea suddenly struck BGR. He along with HCR met the DSP with a different request. They extended an official invitation to him to be the chief guest on the occasion! The strategy worked and Sangliana agreed to be the chief guest. Then the question of seeking permission became only a formality!
The union had given a collection target of Rs10,000. But the over enthusiastic team led by BGR and HCR collected Rs30,000 through sale of tickets – quite a huge amount in those day standards. There was a minor hitch before the programme commenced on the D-day. The chief guest Sangliana had gone out on official duty and was held up. He sent a wireless message that he will be delayed by half an hour. As it was a highly popular programme it was a difficult situation to delay it. However, the programme was postponed to 6.30 pm from 6 pm. Sangliana arrived just before 6.30 pm and he profusely apologized to the audience for the delay. The programme was a grand success.
The union activities had already costed heavily for BGR just before the emergency was clamped in June 1975. George Fernandes as the President of the Railway Union had called for the Railway strike from 8th May 1974. In support of the Railway men the central trade unions called for a one-day nationwide strike on 15th May 1974. BGR was at that time holding the first (cash) key as senior Accountant, while the second key was with HCR. The other officers were either on leave or deputation. BGR took a confirmation from the manager CNN that he had the keys of the office premises. Both BGR and HCR participated in the strike along with other employees. The branch could not function on that day as CNN was the only person on duty!
The bank called for an explanation from BGR and HCR for not handing over the  keys before going on strike. Both of them sent the explanation that as CNN was the only person to attend the office, there was no way they could handover the keys. Both of them took up the matter with the Union and were assured that the Union would ensure that no punitive action was taken against them. Meanwhile BGR had become eligible for promotion as manager and he received three letters in July, August and October calling for his willingness to be posted as sub-manager in Kolkata, Warrangal and East Zone.
BGR had lost his father in October 1973 and the first death anniversary was due in October 1974. In order to attend the ceremony, BGR requested the bank to post him only after November. BGR also collected the information that in view of his seniority, he was likely to get a posting in Karnataka by Jan 1975. BGR undertook full responsibility for the preparation of P&L account and balance sheet for the year 1974. As usual the work was completed on 30th December itself and a party was held on 31st December. BGR was in high spirits in anticipation of securing a posting as manager in Karnataka. All of us were getting ready to bid him farewell on promotion.
But the bank management was quite unkind to him. A charge sheet was delivered to him on the 1st of January 1975. The power of a charge sheet is such that the charge-sheeted officer’s promotion is withheld till the charge sheet is vacated. It was obvious that the charge sheet was served with the specific intention of withholding BGR’s promotion. Actually the charge sheet had been received much earlier at the branch. BGR could make out that CNN had delayed the handing over till the annual balance sheet work was completed smoothly!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
2nd August 2012

1 comment:

Narain said...

Such dutiful union leaders were a rarity, still we could spot some of them those days! The vindictiveness of the management of the Bank was notorious. A fine portrayal of nobility in work place!