The number of members at the ‘Transit Camp’ of Canara Bank Managers and officers at the Komala Vilas Hotel kept on increasing. The members included Prabhu of Circle office, Guruprasad and Gururaj of Brabourne Road branch, Suresh of Howrah branch, Kamath of Shealdah branch, Hasan Sab of Gariahat branch and Kudva of Hare Street branch. During the discussions in the night we came to know that all the branches had employee-related problems. Actually right then Canning Street was the only branch, which was supposed to have no staff-related problems.
Some of the major problems included certain restrictive practices followed by the employees. Passbooks were not being written on Mondays and Saturdays and during the first week of every month. No department could be closed on any day even if there was absolutely no work. The number of cashiers could not be reduced even if cash receipts and payments were low. Our Canning Street had one exclusive clerk to handle CDS accounts under IT Act 1974. This department was functioning under me as Manager-Deposits. The clerk had full-time work only during the months of March to June every year. But I was not supposed to shift him to another section to fill up a leave vacancy! Our branch was handling huge cash receipts and payments as most of the accounts were that of traders in the Bagree market. The closing cash on most of the days exceeded one crore rupees. There were eight cashiers exclusively for receipts and three for payments. One officer was placed exclusively for counting the cash continuously and the Manager-Establishment would join him by afternoon. Sen Da was in-charge of writing cash waste sheets including consolidation of cash from the deposit section. He would not allow any reduction in the number of cashiers even on the lean-business days. In view of the huge volume of cash handled, the department was very sensitive.
Our branch had an officer by name Subramanian who had also been recently transferred from Tamil Nadu. He was also staying at Komala Vilas at that time. One evening he introduced me to his ex-Senior Manager in Tamil Nadu who was presently in-charge of a branch in Kolkata. His name was Vaidyanathan (name changed). Subramaniam later told me that the gentleman was popularly known as ‘one percent (1%) Vaidyanathan!’
Vaidyanathan’s was a story that proved there was no recognition for ‘innovativeness, honesty and hard work’ in our bank. The story went like this. He was a Senior Manager in a branch that had large number of agricultural loans. He was personally handling all the advances. Considering the huge volume of work and time involved in processing and disbursing the loans, Vaidyanathan thought it necessary to collect some processing fee from the borrowers. The idea of collecting processing fee for all loans was not prevalent in the banks in those days. It was an original idea of this innovative Senior Manager! Honestly he thought that the money should also go to his kitty as he was handling most of the work load!
Vaidyanathan decided to levy a flat fee of one percent on all the loans and found the borrowers very cooperative and willing to pay without any objections. The system worked quite fine and the borrowers used to hand over the money to him in a closed cover at his residence. There were occasions when Vaidyanathan found some excess money in the covers due to mistakes in calculations. He was so ‘honest’ that he would call back the borrowers and hand them back the excess amount! His popularity spread fast and he came to be addressed as one percent Vaidyanathan!
Like all good things, this ‘good thing’ also came to an end one day! You may not believe this! But Vaidyanathan’s innate honesty only led to his downfall. On one occasion he had received one envelope that had a shortage of Rs50. It was actually a genuine mistake in calculations. When the matter was taken up with the borrower, he disputed the calculations and very unwillingly paid the amount. Vaidyanathan stood his ground as he wanted to be arithmetically correct always!
The branch conducted a Farmers’ Camp after some time and the Regional Manager (RM) of the bank was the chief guest. Everything went well until the RM asked the farmers to tell him their grievances, if any. While everybody spoke in praise of the Senior Manager, the borrower who had short-paid the ‘processing fee’ told the RM that he was not happy with the figure arrived by Vaidyanathan as fee! Immediately two other borrowers stood up and defended Vaidyanathan telling the RM that he was very honest and had even refunded the excess fee to them!
The RM was at a loss to make out what exactly the farmers were trying to tell him! But Vaidyanathan tactfully closed the meeting and took the RM back to the branch. He tried to convince him there that the issue was about the interest calculations. But the RM found something ‘fishy’ and left the branch in a huff. The very next day an investigating officer arrived in the branch. He spoke to the staff in confidence and was shocked to be told that it was an open secret that Vaidyanathan was regularly collecting his fee of one percent in cash!
The bank charge-sheeted Vaidyanathan and he lost an increment as punishment. It was not known whether the bank could recover the one percent from him and pay back the hapless farmers. He was posted to Kolkata as an additional punishment. Perhaps the bank thought that the employees in Kolkata could keep a check on his innovative and self-rewarding schemes!
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There was absolutely no progress in fixing of quarters for me. I was hesitant to fix certain houses in view of reported water shortage and security issues. The corporation water supplied in most of the areas used to be hard-water. The sweet water from Ganga (Hooghly) was available only in certain localities. We were supposed to use our servant to fetch sweet water from limited sources. Some of the landlords were particular that the tenant should not have any children! For them the children were a nuisance and unfit to stay in their valuable houses! I had the opportunity to read one particular lease-deed signed by one of our officers. One of the paragraphs read as follows:
“The present family of the tenant consists of his wife and self only. The tenant hereby undertakes that the number of family members would remain at two only and he will not increase the same during the entire lease period.”
There was absolutely no ambiguity in the wordings of the lease-deed. While the landlord had made it clear that the tenant should not bring his parents to stay with him, it was also made clear that the tenant should not give scope for adding children during the lease period. In other words, the tenant was expected to either practice celibacy or strictly follow the family planning agenda!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy