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My fight against Corruption as a Bank Manager in rural Rajasthan

By Nutan Jha, SMBPL-10

This story is about my ordeal fighting corruption as a female branch head of India’s largest bank, posted at that time at a semi-urban branch. It was the period of 2014-15, I was in my mid thirties. I had been sent on a mandatory rural/ semi-urban assignment in the hinterland of Rajasthan.

First, a little about myself, I spent my formative years in a boarding school in Hazaribagh district of present day Jharkhand. From getting up at 5.30 am in the morning to going to bed at 9.30 pm sharp in the night, we followed a very strict routine which was meant for everybody including hostel matrons. The seeds of discipline germinated and were nurtured in me at that institution. The seeds of integrity and  honesty had been planted in me by my parents. My father, an academician, was a man of great probity in public life. Being the head of a department in college, where he taught Physics, he had often been made the member of purchase committees for procuring books and  equipment. But he always resigned from those committees as it was a common thing to entertain corrupt practices in purchase of any item for the institution. So, I grew up valuing honesty under all circumstances.

In March 2013, I was sent on a semi-urban assignment to a place called Kaman in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, which shares its boundary with Uttar Pradesh and  Haryana as well. The place is a notorious one and a hiding ground for many anti-social elements because of being at the junction of three states.

After one year of joining, I got promoted and was made branch head of that branch. Being in the role of a branch head and at an infamous place demanded greater responsibilities. A popular feature of agriculture credit is financing working capital requirements of farmers in the form of revolving credit, better known as Kisan Credit Card (KCC). Apart from that, we used to give loans of long duration for purchasing farm equipment like tractors and purchasing cattle as an allied agricultural activity. All these schemes have been devised by banks in order to financially help poor rural farmers.

Unfortunately, the same need was exploited by local touts due to widespread illiteracy in that underdeveloped area. A major chunk of farmers were unable to read and  write aiding the touts who extracted money from them in the name of bribing the branch head and  field officer. I had been watching this whole nexus  for one year. Since I was not given the charge of agriculture finance in the first year of my assignment, despite knowing the fact that such practices are prevalent, I couldn’t do much to stop them. But after assuming the charge of branch head, I decided to clean the whole system. I immediately stopped entertaining these touts and encouraged farmers, through various financial literacy programs organised in nearby villages, to interact directly with branch personnels. My effort started reaping results and farmers started approaching us without the involvement of touts. In this way I removed  corruption completely in KCC and allied loan sanction and  disbursement. But the touts came up in arms against me as I had snatched their unethical livelihood from them. Being local goons, they started a vicious agenda against me. They made a frivolous complaint to district authorities that the lady is very rude and adamant and not suitable for a banking job. They had their connection in local broadcast media and they managed to manipulate their news headlines by calling my name as a corrupt branch head, in their news readings. This caused me great agony.

They complained to my top management that this lady branch manager is taking bribes in sanctioning loans to poor farmers. The bank instituted a high level enquiry against me and a top ranked official came for interrogation. After making a thorough enquiry, he came to the conclusion that I was extremely honest and that local goons couldn’t digest the fact that a bank branch head, that also a lady, had put an end to their unethical practices. Not only did he give me a clean chit but also upheld my efforts in cleaning the bank’s image which was otherwise known for serving the poor and  underprivileged. The episode, not only, boosted my morale after a long fought out battle but gave me wide publicity in the bank as an honest and  upright officer. Since that day the legacy of integrity has been ingrained in my mind and those principles shape my every decision in public life.

Through my experience, I would conclude that ‘No legacy is as rich as honesty’.

Author is Chief Manager and currently works in SBI in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh

AUTHOR: admin
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