Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh Kolkata!- Episode No.12

By this time, the leaders had exhausted their energy and they suddenly realised that Maller was about to lodge a police complaint against them for the physical assault. Within no time, they planned their strategy and one of the leaders also called the Lal Bazar police station from a telephone line in the banking hall. Their version was – the management was not accepting cash from the cashiers and was holding them in captivity by not even allowing them to visit the toilet! Their request to the Officer-in-Charge was to release them from ‘captivity’ at the earliest!

Hardly within a matter of 15 minutes, the Officer-in-Charge of Lal Bazar station arrived at the branch premises with a small battalion of police constables. The armed-guard at our office had, meanwhile, locked the premises and had not allowed anybody to enter or leave the premises. He opened the doors only after the police party arrived at the branch. The moment the officer entered the premises with his men, the leaders requested him to permit them to go to the toilet urgently as they could not hold back their ‘urge’ anymore!

It appears Mr.Burman, the Officer-in-Charge, was quite familiar with such drama and tactics adopted by the workers in Kolkata. He simply asked them to hold back their ‘urge’ for some more time and walked into the cabin of Maller. Maller started explaining the situation to him. But the leaders wanted the officer to hear their version first. Burman knew exactly how to handle such a situation. He asked both Maller and the Union leader to first ensure that the cash was counted in full, tallied and kept in the strong room. He also told both of them to submit their version to him - only in writing - later. Meanwhile, permission was also given to the employees to visit the toilet under the supervision of the constables!

While Maller started typing out the letter of complaint in a typewriter in his cabin, all of us moved back into the cash-cabin and started counting the cash once again. One of the leaders also started typing out his complaint letter in a typewriter in the banking hall. Some of us were apprehensive that there may be some shortage in cash and we may land ourselves in the Lal Bazar police station to account for the shortage! But fortunately (and thanks to the integrity of the employees), the cash was found tallying straightaway. With great relief, we kept the cash in the strong room under the police supervision. By that time it was almost 1 am in the night.

Maller had prepared a list of employees, who had assaulted Padmanabhan, with their staff numbers. Burman collected the same along with the letter of complaint from the Union. He asked all of us to leave the premises without any further delay. While the employees left immediately, it took some more time for us to leave, as Padmanabhan was not in a good physical condition. We had to walk a good distance to reach BBD Bagh where Maller used to park his car. Actually it used to be a crowded parking place in the peak hours. But by the time we reached there, the car was waiting alone desperately, in the large parking plot, for its owner!
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Mr. Ramamurthy, the Divisional Manager of the branch who was on sick leave, had tried to call Maller at about 11 pm over phone. He was aware that the cash counting used to be over only by that time. But somehow he was not getting the line. He called his residence at about 11.30 pm and was told by Maller’s wife that Maller had not come home. He became restless but did not know what to do. He called Maller’s wife again at 1 am and found that there was no information from Maller even to his wife. He rang up the DGM and was advised to go to the branch immediately along with some other local Branch Managers to see what exactly the situation at the branch was. Ramamurthy collected a few Managers including Rangaraya, the Senior Manager of Lake Road branch and proceeded towards our branch in the dead of the night.

Our car driven by Maller was moving towards South Kolkata on Sarat Bose Road at about 1.30 am, when we suddenly saw Ramamurthy’s Ambassador car coming from the opposite direction near the Lansdowne Market. In fact these were the only two cars on that road at that late night! Ramamurthy was greatly relieved to see us. But he grew very tense on knowing that Padmanabhan had been physically assaulted and the police had to visit the branch.

All of us got down from our vehicles and there was a lengthy discussion about the stand to be taken and the strategy to be adopted in the aftermath of the physical assault. It was decided to admit Padmanabhan to a hospital and obtain a medical certificate about his physical condition. In any case, it was also decided that he will not attend the office for a minimum of one week. As Padmanabhan was carrying the first key to the strong room, it was found necessary to hand it over to another Manager. As I was the only other Manager present at that time (Mallya was enjoying a sound slip at that late night at his house oblivious of the real-life drama that took place in the branch!), it was decided that I should receive the keys from him then and there itself!

It was nearly 2 am in the night when I was dropped at my house by Maller. My wife was waiting for me anxiously and desperately. There was no way I could send her any message about the situation in the branch. She was relieved to see me at last! But for me it was a sleepless night. The repeated assurances given to me by Maller that the employees would never resort to physical violence had been proved to the contrary in his very presence! To add to my further trouble, I had been entrusted the responsibility to hold the first key that was held by Padmanabhan so far. While nobody knew what exactly could be the situation at the branch on the next day, it could not be expected to be better in anyway. The bank management was expected to take severe action on the employees responsible for the physical assault. That in turn could invite more trouble from them than it was so far. The cash department, in any case, would be the centre of action and this time I was supposed to be in-charge directly as the first key holder. I was almost sick with the thought of all these situations that were to unfold, as I got up in the next morning.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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