Friday, January 24, 2014

My Days South - Episode No.3

Our branch used to work with the official timings of 10 AM to 5 PM. Generally I used to be in the office well before 9.30 AM. Mr. Kulkarni used to arrive at the office well before 10 AM. That particular day he had just settled down at his work and I was discussing some files with him. Suddenly his telephone started ringing.  The call was from the Chairman & Managing Director (CMD)’s Office at our Head Office. I could make out that he was being asked to do something which was not to his liking. He put the phone down and started moving out while asking me to follow him. He appeared to be quite agitated in his mind. I followed him without posing any questions to him. I thought we were proceeding to our HO to meet the CMD.
But I was surprised to find that the DM was not getting into his car parked outside our office. Instead he walked towards the M G Road. We entered a building near our Circle Office and got into an office complex. It was the corporate office of a company called Telecom Corporation of India. I could remember now that the company was one of our corporate accounts and its file had been marked as ‘sensitive’ in the list given to me by the DM.
We met a person who was the Accounts Manager (AM) of the company. He was surprised to see us in the morning hours. Our DM asked him why Mr. Janardhan, the MD of the company, had gone to meet the CMD of our bank in the morning. He expressed his ignorance in the matter. Then the DM asked him whether the company was in need of any additional facility. It now dawned on the AM that the company had received some bulk orders from the Department of Electronics (DoT). He told us that the company was in need of adhoc facility to meet the bulk order and his MD must have visited the HO in the same connection!
We came back to the branch after telling him to submit a proposal with the necessary papers. He said he would do so immediately after the MD came back to the office. I came to know later that Janardhan was the son of an ex-Chief Minister of Karnataka. He was in the habit of going to the CMD directly for all his company’s needs! He would submit the proposals to the branch only after getting CMD’s nod! It did not matter to him whether the sanction fell within the purview of the DGM of the Circle!
Immediately on coming back, the DM contacted the CMD’s Office and informed the DGM in-charge there that Janardhan was there to seek some adhoc facility for the company to meet the orders from DoT. He then told me that I should be prepared for such visits in future. There were certain parties who would call on the CMD without even informing their requirements to the branch. The CMD Secretariat would contact the branch before these parties met the CMD. The idea was to brief the CMD in advance about the requirement of the party before the party went inside his cabin. For the branch this was an emergency as they had to rush out to the party’s place as it was difficult to get the details over phone in the early morning hours.
I came to know from Gupta, the officer who was handling the company’s file, that Janardhan was very close to the then Communications Minister at the Centre Mr. Arjun Singh. He was a kid when his father was the Governor of Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Arjun Singh was the then Chief Minister. The association went back to those days. Janardhan’s company was dependent on orders from DoT/MTNL which were directly under Arjun Singh’s Ministry. Those were the days when Sam Pitroda had started the telecom revolution in India. Janardhan had started his company to manufacture telecom equipments to take the advantage of the said revolution under the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
I had occasions to meet Janardhan personally later. He was a well qualified sophisticated gentleman with impeccable manners. The problem with him was – he would approach only the CMD for all his needs! He perhaps thought that all other officials were there just to carry out the CMD’s orders! There was one more reason of course. In the normal course the branch would insist on the company bringing in the necessary margin (promoter’s contribution) before the adhoc limits are released. The meeting with CMD would generally reduce this component to the barest minimum as I saw in this particular case.
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The next day the DM gave me a list of corporate files, which he wanted me to handle personally. Most of those were files that were being handled by the officer Gupta so far. I took out all the files and started going through them one after another. I could see that all the files were related to major irregular accounts. The sanctioned limits were quite large mostly falling under the CMD and the board’s powers. The irregularities pertained mainly to deviations from sanctions, frequent overdrawings in the accounts, frequent sanctioning of adhoc facilities, non-submission of annual renewal/financial papers, etc. I could also find that there was something lacking in the matter of follow up, reporting the irregularities to the sanctioning authorities and keeping the correspondence up-to-date and in a manner to indicate the current position of the account at a glance.
I had a discussion with the DM. He told me that he was not happy over the way the accounts were being handled. He told me clearly that the accounts were sensitive in nature and reporting of all the irregularities and obtention of sanctions and approvals for all the deviations were critical. He was afraid that he would be in trouble at a future date on account of mishandling of these files. Most of these parties were directly in touch with the CMD and this made his position very delicate. He told me that my previous DM B R Nayak had told him about my capacity to streamline the affairs. He expected me to undertake the job without any further delay.
I could make out that the situation here was quite in contrast with the position that prevailed in the Canning Street branch. The parties here were quite aggressive and had direct access to the CMD and other executives at the Head Office. It would be indeed a balancing act to perform. One had to follow the dictates of the higher authorities while simultaneously keeping his own position safe by handling the matters efficiently without annoying the authority! The things appeared to be quite challenging in the days to come. Yes! Indeed they were as I could find out later!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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