Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Story of a Bank Manager and the ATM


The other day I visited an ATM of a big Public Sector Bank in our colony. I was urgently in need of cash to purchase a draft from another bank. I found the ATM door locked.  I found no notice displayed outside that the ATM is not in a working condition. But I was not surprised. I had faced a similar situation with the same ATM on an earlier occasion. The difference was the door was kept open at that time. But the power had been simply switched off. Since I was staying in the same colony I was aware there was no power failure. The bank had not bothered to display the non-working condition of the ATM. The customers were simply left in the lurch. I watched outside for some time. I could observe several customers trying to open the door and leaving after some time cursing the bank. It appeared to me that they were well accustomed to such failures of ATM and the negligence of the bank management!

My mind went back by twelve years to the time when I was a Senior Manager of the same bank. This bank had a tradition of introducing new products without properly testing their customer-friendliness and adequacy of technical support. It was left to the branch-in-charge to face the brunt of the customers’ unhappiness. My branch at the prestigious M G Road location was in fact the first branch of our bank to offer ATM facility. Our Chairman Mr. Shetty himself was present during the inauguration of the ATM. As per him, we were privileged to have this first ATM of our bank. I could soon find out what kind of privilege it was!

Our branch was also privileged to be the second branch of our bank to take up total computerization. Right at that time the computerization was in progress. We were facing all sorts of teething problems. The customers were getting frustrated by the daily breakdowns of the system. We used to face problems in the opening of the system in the morning hours (BOD) and also in the closing of the system at the end of the day (EOD). The opening of the ATM only added to our misery.

Coming back to the ATM, the same had been provided by the Diebold Company and started giving all sorts of initial hiccups. Whenever there was a problem with our branch computerization,  we had to close the ATM as it could not be allowed to work off-line. On one particular occasion the ATM was working off-line. One of the customers could draw huge amount from his account in spite of him having no balance in his account. It was a big problem for us to recover the amount from him.

On the occasions when we had closed down the ATM, the customers would simply walk in to my chambers and demand payment immediately. So long as the cash counters were open I could oblige them by asking them to sign a loose cheque. One particular Saturday we had to sit till late in the night, as the system could not be closed on account of technical problems. All the staff had left. Only the Officer in charge of closing and the technical officer were struggling to close down the system. I was sitting alone in the cabin waiting for the system to close down.

We had the account of a big public sector company, an office of which was located in our building itself. One of the employees of this company walked in to my cabin. He told me that the ATM was not working. I immediately asked the technical officer to check the same. He confirmed its non-working and tried to contact the Diebold Company person. But unfortunately he was not available at that late hour. I conveyed my sincere apologies to the customer and asked him to bear with us till next morning. But he told me that he was to leave for Tirupati in the night and was in need of cash at any cost. As both the key holders had left at that time I could not help him in any way.

The customer simply told me that it was my problem! As we had displayed a slogan anytime money we were obliged to give him cash at that time come what may! He made it clear to me that he would not leave my cabin unless he was given a cash of rupees six thousand! I really had a problem on hand. By that time the two officers had successfully closed the system after putting through the end of the day transactions. They wanted to leave as it was already 10 PM in the night.

I requested the technical officer to try for setting right the ATM somehow. He went back and tried his best. But he was not successful. But the customer was not prepared to hear our story. He was simply asking me what exactly our bank meant by anytime money! I simply had no reply. He simply refused to budge! I was at my wit’s end.

Seeing my plight, both the officers went back to the ATM room and struggled with the machine desperately. And lo! They came back to me telling that the ATM was on! I asked the customer to immediately use his card to draw cash. He could do it to my great delight! I was expecting the customer to come back to my cabin to thank me. He did come back; but instead of thanking me he gave me a sound advice! He suggested that in future I can ask one cashier to sit in the ATM room with a cash box. His suggestion was that the moment the ATM failed, the cashier can start paying as a back up system!

One day I received a call from CMD’s Secretariat. I was told that one particular lady would be calling on me. Her family was well known to the Chairman. The lady was in need of an ATM card for her daughter. As she was a sensitive customer I was advised to attend to her carefully.

The lady called on me within a short time. She hailed from a place near Cochin. Her daughter had been admitted in a Bangalore college. She wanted an ATM card for the daughter. I completed all the formalities of opening the account and also obtained her application for the ATM facility. She left happily.

The cards were being issued from another office in M G Road. At my request they sent me the card within two days. But there was another problem. Unlike the present day cards which come with a password, the Diebold machine required another encoding machine to be used. This encoding machine was available at our branch initially for our exclusive use. But subsequently our Seshadripuram branch was also provided an ATM machine. We were asked to share the coding machine with them on fortnightly basis by rotation.

At the time when I received the new card for this lady customer, the machine was with the said branch. When the daughter of the lady called on me I told her that I had the card with me. I also told her that she had to wait to get the same encoded till the machine came back. It required another ten days. I allowed her to draw cash from the account by getting a cheque signed by her.

The girl came back again one day prior to the date of arrival of the machine. Again I had to allow her payment against cheque only. The next day the machine arrived. I telephonically advised her to call on me. She arrived on the next day. Now there was another hitch. The encoding was to be done jointly by a divisional manager from head office and an officer from our branch. Unfortunately the divisional manger was on leave on that day. Hence she had to go back. Next day the DM came back but there was some trouble with the machine and it failed to generate the code!

Next morning I got a call from that lady (mother of the girl). She was simply furious! She told me that she was reaching my branch within an hour. She simply told me that she wanted her daughter to draw cash from the ATM under any circumstances. She also warned me that the things could be very bad for me if the machine failed!

The representative of Diebold Company was already on job. But there was no progress. I thought I really had it coming! The lady was in my chambers within one hour as warned by her. Her daughter was with her. They just wanted to collect the card and walk in to the ATM room. I tried to convince her that the people were on job and she has to just wait. I also told her that the daughter could draw cash by cheque for her immediate needs. She simply told me that her daughter would draw cash only through ATM. She also asked me to get the Chairman on line so that she could speak to him!  I was at my wit’s end. I had already been briefed by the Secretariat that the Chairman was their family friend and visited their house on occasions.

I literally begged her to have some patience and wait for some time. Ultimately she cooled down and left my cabin with the condition that her daughter should draw cash from ATM by that evening! I immediately called our DM to come to our office so that the encoding could be done the moment the machine was set right.

Fortunately for me the machine was set right by the time the DM visited. We could call the daughter of the lady and successfully allow her to draw cash from ATM as per the deadline fixed by her beloved mother!

Three years later I landed in our Seshadripuram branch. The things had improved a lot as far as technology was concerned. I thought I may not face any ATM problems as in my earlier branch. But I was wrong.

One Saturday afternoon we had closed all the systems after office hours and were about to leave. Just then one customer came out of the ATM room and met one of our officers. He handed over one hundred rupee note to him telling that the machine had dispensed one extra currency note to him! He showed him that he had drawn one thousand rupees as per the voucher; but had received one piece of hundred rupee note excess.

The officer immediately reported the matter to me. We were in a fix. Unfortunately none of us had any cards with us on hand to verify ourselves. Most of the staff had already left. More importantly the joint key holders had also left.  We immediately reported the matter to the ATM switch room. The person in charge could not confirm that such extra dispensation of money could not happen. On the other hand he told us that if we allowed the machine to be used there was every possibility that the machine could go on dispensing the extra money. He warned us that we could be held responsible as we were already aware of the extra money being dispensed!

Our efforts to contact people at the head office failed. The person at the ATM switch room refused to help us as he was also alone at that time. His manager had already left. We thought that if the ATM continued to dispense excess cash, the bank could lose heavily for which we would be held responsible. We took a decision to lock the ATM room duly displaying a notice that the machine was not working.

At about 9 PM on that day I got a call from my Divisional Manager. I was asked for the reasons for keeping the ATM room locked. I explained to him the events that led to the closure. He told me that some customer had directly complained to the Chairman. I was expected to organize the things for the immediate opening of ATM even at that late night at any cost. I was also told that the ATM switch room manager was already at the branch. He had been asked to set right technical defects if any.

It was with great difficulty that I could contact the key holders. I somehow managed to mobilize them and ultimately the ATM was made live late at night. It was found that the cash was being dispensed correctly. The mystery of that one extra piece of hundred rupee note was never solved!

It was in the month of April. I was held up in the office and was sitting late hours. I got a telephone call from my brother that my mother had breathed her last. He was speaking from a place near Mysore called Pandavapura. I left the office immediately. I drove my car fast to reach my residence early. I was in an emotional frame of mind having lost my beloved mother.

My wife was anxiously waiting for me with the baggage ready so that I could start immediately for Pandavapura. Before I could remove my shoes my son told me that somebody had telephoned me twice. I was asking him the details when the phone rang again. I took the phone. Somebody on the line started firing me immediately. I could make out that he was an ATM customer. The following was the conversation:

Me: Please have patience and tell me your grievance.
Customer: Are you the Senior Manager of Seshadripuram branch?
Me: Yes sir. What can I do for you?
Cus: I am in urgent need of cash from your ATM.
Me: Okay. Is there a problem?
Cus: Your machine has not only failed to dispense cash, it has swallowed my card!
Me: Sir, You must have put wrong password. You can call on the branch tomorrow and collect the card.
Cus: What the hell! You come over here right away!
Me: I am sorry. My mother has expired and I have to leave the place.
Cus: It is your funeral! I want my card and cash right now.
Me: Sir, you stand corrected. It is my mother’s funeral! I am helpless.
Cus: Let her go to hell!

At this stage I had to disconnect the line as I had no other alternative. I was in a hurry to leave. But this incident left such a bad taste in my mouth that I am unable to forget it even to this day.

My Days West - Episode-12

I used to think sometime as to which branch in Bombay would be the most convenient and comfortable one for me to inspect. I would conclude that Santacruz East branch could be the most comfortable one. It was hardly at a 5-minute distance from my quarters. I was also maintaining my personal accounts with the said branch. Believe it or not! I was assigned the same branch after Kandivli!

The branch was then headed by a highly reputed and a stalwart Senior Manager Mr. B D Shenoy. I had met him earlier in connection with transfer of my accounts from Shimoga. He had treated me well and had personally received the papers from me even though he could have sent me to the concerned Manager. He was highly knowledgeable and was in total control of the branch. The branch had a very good name in the locality and had the prestigious account of BSES (Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Co. Ltd) as its major corporate client. BSES was then distributing electricity to the suburbs north of Bandra by sourcing power from Tata Companies. The distribution of power in South Bombay was by BEST, a Bombay Municipal undertaking. BSES was subsequently taken over by Reliance Group and is presently run under the name Reliance Infra, an R-ADAG company. Currently it has a captive power unit in Dahanu, but still sources power from Tatas.

Mr.Shenoy was very particular that his branch should be rated ‘A’ by the inspection team. He treated the inspecting officers well. But he was very sensitive to the inspection observations. As such it was a tough balancing act for the inspecting officers. The inspectors generally find two types of Managers difficult to handle. The first is – the category which cares very little for inspection and is least bothered about what you write. The second is – the category which is very sensitive on what the inspectors write and disputes even minor observations. The inspectors prefer the category mid-way between these two.

The Santacruz East branch had achieved almost all the parameters for A-gradation. I was assigned the inspection of advances against the pledge of inventory. As it was difficult to own storage space in Bombay, most of the borrowers used to store stock with clearing agents in their godowns on rent basis. The bank used to finance such stocks against storage receipts issued by the approved clearing agents. I had already inspected such advances in A R Street branch. I was aware that as per the manual of instructions such stock should be periodically inspected by the branch officials. But Santacruz branch had overlooked this aspect.

When my observation was brought to the notice of Mr.Shenoy, he told me that it was not necessary as the clearing agents were approved by the bank. He was also not prepared to believe that the Manual of Instructions contained such an instruction. He took out the Manual and asked me to show the same. I could show it to him within no time. Once he read it, he asked his officers to immediately comply with.

The branch was ultimately rated ‘A’ by our team. Shenoy was subsequently transferred to Fort Market branch and was promoted as divisional manger within a short time. He always treated me well and did remember me. Years later he came as DGM of Bangalore Circle. He was responsible for my posting as Senior Manager to the Trinity Circle branch with car facility. He retired as General Manager at the Bangalore circle office.

My wife was in the family-way and I availed the LFC facility for the first time to visit Mangalore on the way to Puttur. We were eligible for first class train fare by the shortest route. The shortest train route from Bombay to Mangalore in those days was through Kerala. The charge was in fact marginally higher than the airfare (Rs285). As such, for the first time in my life I could travel by air with my family. In those days very few people used to travel by air whether on official or private visits.

My next assignment was at Vikhroli, a suburb on the Central Railway. The name Vikhroli is identified with the Godrej Group. In fact the Railway station was reportedly built in 1947 to cater to the needs of the sprawling Godrej complex in the vicinity. The Godrej group owns vast tracts of lands on both sides of the Railway lines as can be observed while traveling on the local trains. The branch had the prestigious corporate account of Godrej Soaps. Branch was located very close to the Railway Station on the western side.

Initially I started the inspection along with another officer Hegde who was with me in my first branch inspection at Girgaum. Hegde had worked in Bangalore and was a knowledgeable officer. He had developed some talent in the matter of stock inspection. He had also made it a point to quote some circular from our Head Office to browbeat the branch staff for all sundry matters. He was highly dominating in nature and always wanted due importance to be given to him even at the cost of insult to his other fellow team members.
Hegde was given some undue importance by some Managers in the inspection department and it went to his head and made him headstrong. As a result it became very difficult for the other fellow officers to bear with him.

The branch was headed by Mr. K R Shenoy whom I had already met in Andheri West branch. Based on his excellent performance he had been posted to this branch to handle the prestigious corporate account. Shenoy had appreciated my work in the Andheri branch and was very positive on my observations. As he had just taken charge of the branch, he requested me to bring all important observations to his notice to enable him to personally handle. In the process he did not give due importance to Hegde. Hegde tried to attract his attention in his usual style. But Shenoy evinced no interest. Hegde turned miserable and his problems ended only with the closure of the inspection.

I remember the branch for two important reasons. It had a young officer by name Narasimhan in charge of advances. He was a south Indian, born and brought up in Bombay. He could speak Gujarati very fluently. It stood him well in handling Gujarati businessmen who formed a major chunk of branch clients. He was a very balanced person and had a maturity beyond his age. He would not get upset even in trying circumstances. His telephonic conversations with clients were a revelation of his personality. If recorded, the dialogues would have served as a model for the officer community. He kept himself upto date in all the matters connected with his department. Most of the information used to be on his fingertips. Narasimhan was later transferred to Ahmedabad, probably knowing his versatility in Gujarati and I had no occasion to meet him again. This is my tribute to the exceptional officer and gentleman.

The second reason is because of Shenoy only. Shenoy’s reputation as a capable Senior Manager saw him in better postings. He was also promoted as a Divisional Manager in due course. In that capacity he was posted to the Mandvi branch in Bombay. It was a tough assignment for him in view of the various problems faced by the branch at that juncture. The branch had huge advances against commodities including exports and import business. Besides, there were staff problems which put him under great stress. He was too hard working and his body could not cope up with the pressure of work. He collapsed in the office itself and died while on duty. He remains as an example for sacrificing the life for the institution. I had no chance to meet him after my Vikhroli assignment. May his soul rest in peace!
By the time we completed the Vikhroli assignment, another outstation programme was waiting for me. This time I was prepared without any reservation as I had sent the family away to Puttur. The assignment was our Sitabuldi branch in Nagpur. I was traveling towards the Vindhyas for the second time!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
8th July 2009

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Don’t Know, Son! - 63

The Sahara Challenge for SEBI!
Son: It appears that the verification of the documents of the investors of Sahara Parivar has become a real challenge to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), dad.
Father: Go on, Son.
Son: It looks more like a nightmare than a reality, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: An article in the Economic Times says that Sahara has dispatched to SEBI physical forms with pictures of its three crore investors, their names, addresses, signatures and proof that they live in the alleys of Lucknow, Moradabad and Jhumri Talaiya, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Sahara’s advocate Ram Jethmalani has told the court that the papers were sent in 31,000 cartons in 128 trucks, dad!
Father: Oh! My God!  Go on, son.
Son: Assuming that they were normal 20-feet trucks, the convoy would extend 1.5 Km long even if they keep a mere 4-m distance between the two vehicles, dad!
Father: Wonderful! Go on, son.
Son: Each truck can carry a volume of 1,360 cubic foot. Hence SEBI received 1,74,080 cu feet of paper, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Stacked on top of one another, the pile of trucks would rise 333 meters into the sky, dwarfing India’s tallest building, the 256-metre twin Imperial Towers at Tardeo in Mumbai, dad!
Father: Great! Go on, son.
Son: SEBI’s Mumbai office has 560 employees. A diligent SEBI employee is expected to take 15 minutes per investor and handle documents of 30 investors a day, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: If every employee is engaged exclusively in the verification, the team is likely to complete verification of documents of 84,000 investors per week, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: If SEBI cancels the leave of every employee and closes down all other activities, the team is expected to complete its task by 2033, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Magic of a Different Kind!
Son: There was a time when Kolkata was known for the magic of the legendary P C Sirkar, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: He used to perform several interesting tricks by making things disappear in thin air and creating things from out of nowhere, dad!
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Now Kolkata is suddenly in the news for the magic of a different kind, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: The West Bengal Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBFDC) has claimed that around Rs120 crore has vanished from its fixed deposits account with UCO bank’s Circus Avenue branch, dad.
Father: Oh! My God! Go on, son.
Son: As per WBFDC, it had transferred Rs59 crore from Bank of India to UCO Bank in August 2012 to avail the higher interest offered by the Circus Avenue branch, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: WBFDC had transferred another Rs60 crore from Indian Bank in January 2013 to the same branch and is holding receipts for both the deposits issued by the branch, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Now UCO bank says that the deposits are fake and at no point of time the receipts were issued by its branch as alleged by WBFDC, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Missing Loan Amount!
Son: While UCO Bank is facing an allegation of missing deposit amount, Canara Bank is facing the trouble of a different kind, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: It is a case of missing loan amount, dad!
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: The bank had lent Rs350 crore to Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd (DCHL) of Hyderabad, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: As DCHL failed to repay the loan, the bank had entrusted Deloitte with the work of tracing the money lent to the company, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: But Deloitte failed to trace the money lent by the bank and the bank feels that the money has been siphoned off, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: According to Financial Express, the bank has filed charges of fraud with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against DCHL for siphoning off funds loaned to the company, dad.
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
24th March 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Days West - Episode-11

On completion of our Ujjain programme, we reached Indore where another team from Bombay was conducting inspection of our Siyagunj branch. From here we went on a tour to visit Khajuraho along with the other members our team. I am not writing anything about this visit as people are generally aware about the temples of art there. Khajuraho had an airport and a Star-hotel even in those days. On return, we were advised to visit a place called Mandu about 60 kms from Indore. Accordingly we visited the place on an arranged tour. This visit was indeed very memorable for me. I have always liked to visit the ancient ruins like our own Hampi (Vijayanagar). In these places one can visualise the events that had taken place there once upon a time. When you know the history of the place, there is no limit to your imaginations! I am tempted to give below a short account of Mandu:
Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Mandu, with its natural defenses, was originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom named it Shadiabad - 'city of joy'. And indeed the pervading spirit of Mandu was of gaiety; and its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty.
Each of Mandu's structures is an architectural gem; some are outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah's tomb, which provided inspiration to the master builders of the Taj Mahal centuries later.
Mandu is a celebration in stone, of life and joy, of the love of the poet-prince Baz Bahadur for his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. The balladeers of Malwa still sing of the romance of these royal lovers, and high up on the crest of a hill, Roopmati's Pavilion still gazes down at Baz Bahadur's Palace, a magnificent expression of Afghan architecture.
Under Mughal rule, Mandu was a pleasure resort, its lakes and palaces the scenes of splendid and extravagant festivities. And the glory of Mandu lives on, in legends and songs, chronicled for posterity.

We were back in Bombay after nearly a gap of two months. I was pleased to get back and hoped that I may not be given such outstation programmes at least for some time. As for my wife, it was indeed a tough time. She was new to city life, that too for a metropolitan city like Bombay. But she did manage well. She could also pick up Hindi fast. It stood her well in the long run.

My association with Selvaraj almost ended with our MP-adventure. He was promoted as Manager shortly afterwards and was transferred to his own place, Coimbatore. I have already mentioned the gains made by me in his association. I never got a chance to meet him again. In the late eighties, I was working as Corporate Credit Manager at our Cantonment, Bangalore branch. I was handling the then well-known BPL Company account. The company had units in Kerala and hence our Trivandrum Circle Office was involved. Selvaraj was handling the accounts as Senior Manager of Advances section in the said office. I used to come across his well drafted letters often.

Our bank had an unwritten, but well-established, policy since long. Even though it had a very fair promotion policy, it was only up to the Senior Manager level. Thereafter one had to fend for himself, whether he deserved the promotion or otherwise. Lobbying was a necessary qualification at the selection grade level. All other processes were for formality’s sake only. While a good number of merited candidates were indeed getting promotion, a significant number of undeserving candidates also came through the lobbying channel! The merited, but non-lobbying type, found themselves stranded at that stage. People like Selvaraj were not expected to win in this rat race!

The result was - the merited got out at the earliest opportunity. But the undeserving continued and survived whether the bank wanted them or not! Selvaraj was in the first category. He left the bank and joined the Lakshmi Machine Group of Coimbatore. He could have been a valuable asset to the bank in the matter of corporate advances. But that was not to be! I end this paragraph as a tribute to my learned colleague.

My next assignment was at our Kandivli branch in the western suburbs. Kandivli was a beautiful and peaceful residential suburb in those days. The travel was in the opposite direction of peak-hour traffic and hence very comfortable. Our branch was located at a 5-minute distance from Kandivli station. All in all it was a comfortable assignment for me after the tiresome tour.

The branch was headed by an elderly Senior Manager (SM), who was in total contrast with Mr. Nayak of A R Street branch. The branch had two major corporate accounts and the SM knew very little about the corporate advances. But the problem was - he was not aware that he did not know! He had some very good young officers. They were eager to learn and handle important work. But the Senior Manager lacked the knowledge and patience to guide them. He was also handling the credit in a piece-meal manner by keeping the things incomplete. I was forced to give two special reports for non-registration of charges under Sec 125 of Company’s Act.

One of the major corporate accounts was that of Ipca Laboratories Ltd. It was an export-oriented pharmaceuticals company with its plant in Kandivli industrial estate. It had been promoted by one Premchand Godha and Chandurkar. The company was doing very well and was giving substantial export business to the branch. It is doing well even to this day and is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. But it was famous at that time because of one main reason. The famous cine actor Amitab Bachchan had acquired a major stake in the company. Amitab’s investments were being handled by Ajitab Bachchan (his brother) at that time. If I remember correctly both Amitab and Jaya Bachchan were Directors of the company. The credit limits were covered by their personal guarantees. We had an opportunity to go through their wealth tax and income tax assessment orders at that time. Ajitab also used to visit the branch on occasions. This was one investment which stood well for Amitab even in his difficult days. I came to know that he sold the stake in full only a few years back.

I came across an interesting case in the branch during the course of my coverage of current accounts. There was an overdrawing of Rs15,000 in one of the personal current accounts of a party, which was outstanding for more than three months. On enquiry I came to know that there was a wrong credit in the account. The proceeds of an outstation cheque of some other party had been wrongly credited to this account. The accountholder had drawn the amount knowing fully well that it was a wrong credit. When I called for the correspondence, the officer-in-charge told me that they had a complicated case on hand and it was not a simple case of recovery of overdrawings. He told me that the bank was in soup and asked me to give my opinion in the matter.

As the party had failed to pay the amount, the bank had served a registered notice to the party. The reply given by the party was indeed interesting! So much so that I felt he deserved full marks for the point he raised in his letter! I have tried to reproduce the contents of his letter here below:

Dear Manager,

I am in receipt of your registered letter informing me that there was a wrong credit in my account. You have also asked me to reimburse the amount drawn by me against the said wrong credit. In this connection I would request you to kindly go through the matter printed at the bottom of your current account statement. It states – “the constituent is requested to notify the bank any discrepancies in the statement within ten days of receipt. Otherwise, the bank would presume that all the entries are correct and no further claims would be entertained thereafter”.

In the instant case the statement was received by me, showing the credit mentioned above, more than a month back. I have not notified any discrepancies to you within ten days. The ‘no claim clause’ printed in the statement becomes applicable automatically. If a customer can be denied a claim after ten days by the bank, the customer also can equally take a stand that bank has no claim against him after ten days! Accordingly I am denying the claim of the bank, purely as natural justice. Please bear with me.


--Surely there was food for thought for the bank regarding the advisability of  such printed clause in the current account statement.

There was another interesting thing connected with this case. The bank management had asked the branch to furnish the name of the officer who was responsible for the wrong credit in the account. The branch had acted very intelligently in the matter! One of the officers working in the branch had unfortunately died a few months back. All his dues had also been settled in favour of his wife. The branch had furnished his name as the officer who was responsible for the wrong credit even though he had nothing to do in the matter! The officer who was really responsible told me that the branch was only trying to save him from the recovery of the amount by the bank. He told me that he would only pray that the soul of the deceased officer may rest in peace!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
27th June 2009

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Don’t Know, Son! - 62

Whom did I Vote?
Son: The elections to Karnataka local bodies have yielded some interesting results, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: One candidate of BSR Congress for the Mandya City Municipal Corporation has secured a single vote, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: It is said that there are several claimants for this single vote, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Several people from his family and friends are claiming that the single vote was cast by them, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The claimants include his own wife, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: It is said that the candidate has absolute faith in his wife and believes that the single vote was cast by her only, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: But now he is said to be puzzled as to whom he voted, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Yeddy’s Unpopularity in the Neighbourhood!
Son: KJP, the party floated by B S Yeddyurappa (Yeddy), the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, has performed miserably in the elections, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son:  The party has won absolute majority in only one Town Municipal Corporation in the entire Karnataka, dad.
Father: Which town? Go on, son.
Son: It is Shikaripur town in Shimoga district to which Yeddy belongs to, dad.
Father: Go on, Son.
Son: But interestingly Yeddy’s candidate was defeated in the locality where Yeddy’s residence is located, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: It obviously implies that Yeddy is unpopular in his own neighbourhood, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Importance of Homework!
Son: We know the parents always give importance to homework given to children and make it a point to ensure they do complete the same, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: But we were unaware that the Kangaroos attach such importance to homework for even the adults, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: The Australian cricket star Shane Watson and three other players have learnt a costly lesson for forgetting to do their homework, dad.
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: Watson & Co have been axed from the current touring Australian team by the team management, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Their crime was that they had failed to give inputs to the management on self-improvement, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A different Catfight!
Son: The top PSU banks have been provided with two Executive Directors (EDs) to assist the Chairman and the Managing Director (CMD), as per the revised policy of the Finance Ministry, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: A South-based top PSU bank had been posted with two EDs about 6 months back, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Incidentally both the EDs were from a top North-based PSU bank and were promoted from the General Manager cadre, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Meanwhile the CMD of the bank retired and the Ministry took its own sweet time to post a new one, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The two EDS being from the same bank had their own ego fights earlier as GMs and carried them forward to the South-based bank, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: In the absence of the CMD, their catfights became daily affairs and the management went to dogs, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The matter came to the notice of the Ministry and a new CMD was posted hurriedly to set right the things, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: But quite unwittingly, the Ministry had overlooked the fact that the new CMD belonged to the same north-based bank and he was junior in service to the two fighting EDs, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: When last heard, the two EDs have ganged up now and are raring to go for a fight with the new CMD, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
14th March 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Days West - Episode-10

Right from day one, the Manager had a lot of apprehensions about me. He found it easy to handle Selvaraj. On the other hand he found me ‘raw’ and always digging out something! Hence he kept an ‘eye’ on me. While it was true that I was a bit raw in my approach at that time, there was no necessity for me to dig out anything. He had kept everything flowing on the surface!

Ujjain had a good number of textile mills in those days (I am told that all of them have been closed since then). The branch had financed a few of them mostly by way of open cash credit facilities. Selvaraj was covering all the major advance accounts. I have already mentioned about the methodology adopted by the Manager to make the inspectors accountable. He got one live opportunity during the course of our inspection.

One evening on a Saturday we were about to wind up our work to leave for our lodge. We found one of the directors of a textile mill, enjoying large facilities, walking in. He told the Manager that a huge fire had destroyed a major portion of the stock in the factory. The Manager became nervous immediately. But the director was cool. He told the Manager to take out the insurance policy document held by the branch for his verification and to lodge a claim with the insurance company. Selvaraj had already noted down the details of the policy in his notebook. Fortunately it was found that the stock was fully covered by the policy and the policy was live. The Manager was still shaky. The director told the Manager that he would arrange for the visit of the insurance company officials on the next day (a Sunday). He requested the Manager to be present during their visit. The Manager immediately assured him that he would be there along with the inspectors! Two things were immediately clear to us. Our plan to go around Ujjain on the holiday had to be cancelled and our accountability as witnesses to the event had been fixed!

The next morning we left for the unit along with the Manager. The Manager used to hold the first set of keys of the branch double lock in a pouch. He used to carry the pouch with him by hanging it down from his right hand through a belt! We could never understand this strange way of carrying the keys openly. We found him carrying the same openly even on the Sunday and even while visiting the unit. We could not make out the logic behind it. We reached the unit and were received by the director in person. He was equally surprised to see the pouch hanging down from the hands of the Manager. He asked the Manager the reasons for carrying the keys on a Sunday to the client’s place. He was told by the Manager that he had come to his place on an official visit and by carrying the keys with him he was proving the same! The director was very much surprised with his logic. But he left the matter at that. Later, Selvaraj advised the Manager that he was not expected to carry the keys other than to the office. He also told him that there was sufficient proof otherwise to prove that he had come on an official visit.

We could get very good quality food in Ujjain. Ujjain is a wheat growing belt in MP and it was known for its special quality locally grown wheat. We could eat very tasty roties made of this wheat at many places in the city. You could watch them reach your plate directly from the oven. I enjoyed eating the roties to my stomach full. They served them with excellent dishes and the charges used to be very reasonable. The roties used to be thin and small-sized and one would easily lose count of them while eating them hot! But the suppliers would keep a proper count and advise the cashier correctly when you reached his table! Sometimes it used to be difficult to believe our counts! Good quality hot milk and lassi were also available in plenty. The city was very lively and people spent their time leisurely. It had a good number of temples and evening bhajans were heard everywhere.

The city had a peaceful and religious atmosphere. The people were of soft nature and respected the officials a lot. The bank staff carried some special respect in the city. People would address them as ‘Saab Log’. The Manager of a bank was held in high esteem and would be addressed invariably as ‘Manager Saab’. Nobody would talk bad about him. I came across only one incident of extreme behavior during my entire stay in the city. But that was to keep the honour of the great city. Let me narrate the incident.

I used to visit a particular hotel for my dinner many times as it served good quality roties. The hotel was called Pathak Rotie House. An elderly gentleman (proprietor) used to sit on the cash counter. After some days a son of him in his twenties started sitting on the cash counter. He was a handsome boy and he treated his customers with respect. He appeared to be a mild person by nature.

One particular night a middle aged man entered the hotel and ordered food. When the roties were being served, he suddenly asked a waiter about the cost. As far as I remember it was around 30 paise. When the new customer heard it, he flared up and told the waiter that in ‘his Jabbalpur’ roties were available 20 paise a piece! But he continued to eat the roties without any break! The young cashier was witnessing the episode silently.

The scene was repeated on the second day in my presence. This time the guy from Jabbalpur was loudly telling others that the cost of a rotie in his place was only twenty paise and the people of Ujjain were paying through their noses for the inferior roties! But he appeared to be eating more of the costly stuff even that day! Again our young cashier heard him in silence, but kept his cool.

The scene started repeating even on the third day. But this time the Jabbalpurwala was not fully through his act, when our young cashier/owner moved to the kitchen in a split second and came out with the grinding stone of the grinder in his right hand like a mace in the hands of Bhimasena! He reached the table of Jabbalpurwala, held his neck in his left hand and waved the grinding stone menacingly! The whole scenario was right out of a drama show! He repeatedly started asking the Jabbalpurwala whether he still felt the roties of Jabbalpur were superior to that of Ujjain!

The condition of Jabbalpurwala was worth seeing! He was totally shaken. It seems he never visualized such a scenario for his casual talk. He unconditionally agreed that roties of Ujjain were far superior and in fact cheaper than the ones in Jabalpur! He begged the young man to bring down the mace in his hand and put it back in the kitchen! I thoroughly enjoyed the whole show. The young man had upheld the honour of the legendary city! The Jabbalpurwala had to simply eat his words! Of course, he finished his full quota of roties and then only left the place!

One best thing the Manager did for us was asking a senior clerk in the branch to show us the city of Ujjain. The gentleman was one Mr.Joshi. He was a typical north-Indian, born and brought up in Ujjain. He had the ins and outs of the legendary city on his fingertips. It was a pleasure to hear him speak the typical pure and original Hindi.

The first place of interest in Ujjain is obviously the Mahakaleshwar Jyothirlinga temple. The idol is one among the 12 Jyothirlingas and the unique feature is that it is Dakshinamukhi – south facing, unlike the other lingas. The Mahakal dominates the life of the city and its people, even in the midst of the busy routine of modern preoccupations, and provides an unbreakable link with ancient Hindu traditions. On the day of Maha Shivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple, and worship goes on through the night. By a strange coincidence, we were in Ujjain exactly during the month of February 1978. We could have the darshan of the Lord on the day of Mahashivaratri itself. Joshi also took us to the famous ghats on the banks of the legendary river Kshipra.

The next place of interest is the famous Sandipani Ashram. It is the place where Shri Krishna studied along with Balarama and Sudama from Maharshi Sandipani. The Ashram atmosphere is retained even to this day. One would get a genuine feeling that Shri Krishna, Balarama and Sudama might have left the place very recently! The observatory (Vedhashala) built by Raja Jaisingh II is one among such observatories in India and features ancient astronomical devices. They are also known as Jantar Mantar (The Yantra Mantra).

Ujjain was known by different names in different periods. Some of the names include Avanti, Avantikapuri, Kushasthali, Kumudvati, Haranyavati and Bhagavati. It has been the capital city of Malwa region in all ages. It has also been the first meridian of longitude for the Hindu geographers since the fourth century BC. It is one among the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. The Kumbh Mela religious festival is held here once in 12 years. The other places where it is held are Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar and Nashik.

Our days at Ujjain were coming to an end. The Manager had been told by somebody that the inspectors would give a confidential report on the Manager at the end of inspection. He was very particular to know what we were writing in that report. He was pestering Selvaraj to show it to him. I don’t know how Selvaraj dealt with him. He had no chance to meet him again. But I was destined to deal with the same Manager the second time! The difference was I was leading the team in the second instance and the branch was in Bombay itself. I would come to it in due course. But I would place on record that the Manager was ‘unique’ and I never came across such a personality anywhere else in my 7-year inspection career!
------- (To be continued) -------
A V Krishnamurthy
20th June 2009

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Budget 2013-2014

(Note: This skit was written after PC presented his Budget for 2013-2014 last year)
The Finance Minister P Chidambaram (PC) has just completed his presentation of Budget for 2013-2014 in the Parliament on 28th February 2013. The entire team of officials is in an upbeat mood. PC is relaxing in his office. He is getting ready to meet a stream of visitors. A giant screen has been placed on the wall of his office highlighting the salient features of the Budget. PC has asked his team to allow only a select band of visitors to meet him. One of the Secretaries has also been asked to brief PC about the visitors before they are allowed inside. He is also supposed to sit with him and give him suitable hints if the need arises. Another Secretary has been told to change the display on the screen to suit the particular visitor/s.
Scene I:
(A team of ladies from different spheres of life enters the Chambers of PC)
PC: Welcome to all of you. Please take your seats. I hope all of you are happy with my Budget.
Team: (In chorus) Yes Sir! All of us are very happy.
PC: Unfortunately the woman leader of my own State has termed the Budget as a “damp squib”.
Team: Don’t worry sir! We know how Mamata Didi let down her own State leader Pranab Da in the Presidential election! These things happen!
PC: I hope you will particularly appreciate my proposal to set up a bank exclusively for  meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs. (Looks at the Secretary. He signals another person to present the scheme on the giant screen. The scheme details are now displayed on the screen)
PC: Hope you will appreciate the spirit behind the decision to open an exclusive bank and allocation of  Rs1,000 crore as initial capital.
One Lady: Sure sir. But which spirit you are talking about sir?
PC: You must be aware of the person behind this major decision, I am sure!
Another Lady: Sir, you are referring to your leader Manmohan Singh, the PM. Am I right?
PC: No Baba! I am referring to the woman leader. Do you understand now?
Another: We do know there is always a woman behind a popular person like you, sir!
PC: Oh! My God! I didn’t mean that!
First Lady: We understand sir. We saw the picture of your wife entering the Parliament along with your daughter-in-law! Who else but your wife could be the spirit behind your decision, sir?
PC: No! No! I am referring to the popular and ultimate leader herself! Do you understand now?
Team: (In chorus) We now understand, sir. You are referring to your leader whose Hindi is as good as yours, right sir!
(The team leaves)
Scene II
(A team of top leaders of the industry is entering the Chambers of PC. PC knows all of them by their names)
PC:  (To the Secretary) Quick! Display the photograph of Premji on the giant screen! Do it fast! (A smiling picture of Premji appears on the screen)
PC: Welcome to all of you! Please take your seats. You know I have done my best in the given circumstances. Now it is for you people to  support me!
One Leader: We agree most of the proposals are on the lines of our expectations. Except of course……
PC: I know you are referring to the tax on the super rich! I mean the people whose income exceeds Rs1 crore . I should thank Premji in this regard! (Meanwhile Premji’s picture gets highlighted on the screen repeatedly)
Another leader: No! No! We never meant to question you on that!
PC: But I can appreciate your feelings. In fact I had dropped the whole idea. But Premji’s statement was unambiguous!
Another Leader: Forget it. A man in Premji’s shoes can go up to any level in making sacrifices! Let us not compare ourselves to Premji!
PC: Anyhow Premji openly welcomed the idea! If you have to blame somebody  it is not me at least! (meanwhile the picture of Premji appears on the giant screen again and again)
Another: All of us know 95% of Premji’s income is through dividends, which are totally tax-free. Hence he is least affected  by this 10% surcharge.
PC: I have no comments.
The Team: OK. That is it. We are leaving now. You may remove the picture of Premji on the giant screen and display something else. We had had it enough!)
Scene III
( A team of Senior Citizens enters the chambers)
PC: Welcome to all of you. Sorry I do not know which group you people represent. (Looks at the Secretary. He keeps mum. Meanwhile the giant screen goes blank as the person in-charge doesn’t have any clue)
Team: Keep guessing! All of us are in the age-group of Pranab Da!
PC: Oh! I understand now. You are from the Senior Citizen Forum. What can I do for you sir?
Team: Are Baba! You are asking the question now! Tell us what have you done for us in your so called “Excellent Budget”?
PC: I am sure there must be something for you people in my Budget. (Looks at the Secretary. He looks at the man who operates on the giant screen. The expression of both is as blank as the giant screen!)
PC: I will ask my people to find out. I am sure there was something. (Asks the Secretary who presses Google search on his laptop. He links it to the giant screen and types out  - Senior Citizen- Budget. But there is no display)
Team: Sir! We know there was absolutely nothing for us in your Budget. Naturally Google is helpless! Do you remember we had met you for Pre-Budget discussions?
PC: I do remember. You had some requests which I had asked my people to note down. I am sure we did something for you people recently.
Secretary: Sir! I have managed! Something has now started appearing on the screen. Let us see now.
(The screen starts displaying the Finance Ministry’s directions to PSU banks to withdraw the additional incentive interest rates to the Senior Citizens! The faces of PC and the Secretary turn red. But they are unable to stop the display)
Team: So this is the something you were referring to!  Your team has presented to us an excellent gift for the new year 2013! Let us leave now. Shathamanam Bhavathi Shathayushhyam!.......
(The team leaves in a huff. PC is totally shaken and disturbed)
Scene IV
(PC asks whether anybody else is waiting to talk to him. The Secretary goes out and comes back)
PC: Anymore visitors?
Secretary: Two persons are waiting, Sir.
PC: Who are they?
Secretary: They are the CMDs of X Bank and Y Bank, Sir.
PC: What do they want?
Secretary: They say they are the first to implement the directive to reduce interest rates on Senior Citizens’ deposits, Sir!
PC: So what?
Secretary: The terms of both of them are expiring this year, Sir.
PC: So what?
Secretary: They expect you to accommodate them somewhere like SEBI, CCI, RBI, etc, Sir!
PC: Ask them to pack off! Show them the door!
---The Post Budget Meetings Come to an End---

-----A V Krishnamurthy---