Mumbai -To fix whistleblower, bank moves from verse to worse


ALOK DESHPANDE, The Hindu, June 13, 2013 

Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. File photo
The Hindu–Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. File photo

Union leader Devidas Tuljapurkar faces victimisation and possible dismissal by the Bank of Maharashtra, as it suspects him of being the whistleblower behind a story in “The Hindu” on July 7, 2012.

For one unfortunate whistleblower, things have gone from verse to worse. Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. And since it can’t pinpoint them, the bank has gone after internal critics on novel grounds. It has chargesheeted a Union leader and ex-Director of the BoM for acts “prejudicial to the interests of the Bank.” That is, for publishing 19 years ago, a poem it calls ‘vulgar and obscene,’ in the Union’s in-house magazine, ‘Bulletin.’ That poem is the basis of the Bank’s charge sheet against a worker with an impeccable service record.

In 1984, the Marathi poet Vasant Dattatraya Gurjar wrote a satirical poem titledGandhi Mala Bhetla Hota (Gandhi met me) which shook the literary world with its polemical content. In 2013, Devidas Tuljapurkar, General Secretary of the All-India Bank of Maharashtra Employees Federation, faces victimisation and possible dismissal by the bank, ostensibly because the Bulletin, of which he was editor, carried that poem in 1994!

The real reasons for going after Mr. Tuljapurkar appear to have little to do with poetry and seem far more prosaic. He has been a thorn in the flesh of his management. Both, as an alert employee and, for a while, as Workman Director on the bank’s Board. He has also drawn the RBI’s attention to the BoM’s odd handling of some corporate accounts and advances which, he charges, are being favoured at the expense of BoM’s main depositors — lakhs of small farmers, working people and retired employees. But the BoM leadership has something more against him. They suspect him — with no basis or proof — of being the whistleblower behind a story in The Hindu, July 7, 2012. That story exposed how the bank had granted a Rs. 150-crore loan to a defaulter owing BoM Rs. 40 crore by greatly weakening the terms of the original sanction letter. The defaulter company was a part of the United Breweries (UB) group headed by Vijay Mallya. The expose embarrassed Bank Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Narendra Singh, sparking a whistleblower witch-hunt.

But no whistleblower was found. And after several transfers of senior officers within the bank, the search hit a dead-end. Ironically, it was an unthinking action of the Reserve Bank of India that handed the BoM management a scapegoat: Devidas Tuljapurkar.

Mr. Tuljapurkar told The Hindu, “Last October, I wrote a letter to RBI Governor D. Subba Rao highlighting questionable corporate advances and imprudent banking decisions of BoM at the instance of CMD Narendra Singh.” The letter, written in his capacity as a Union leader, was backed up with facts and documents. Having served as a Director on the Board of BoM from 2004 to 2009, he was very familiar with the rules and procedures.

However, the RBI failed to protect his identity as a whistleblower. In one of those unthinking acts of bureaucracy, the RBI routinely forwarded Mr. Tuljapurkar’s letter to the very BoM management that it exposed, for their comments. The bank had found its scapegoat and Mr. Tuljapurkar’s ordeal began. “Since I had written a letter to RBI, the management assumed that it was also I who had leaked that story about gifting a Rs. 150-crore loan to Mallya’s company. They wanted to corner me, so they started scanning my history,” he says.

And all they could come up with was a poem from 1984. Vasant Gurjar’s poem is a political satire that is scathing about the followers of Mahatma Gandhi who, in the poet’s view, were merely serving their own interests. In 1994, the poem was published in the ‘Bulletin’ the house magazine of the Union. In March 1995, an organisation called the ‘Patit Pavan Sanghatana’ filed a complaint against the Bulletin for publishing the ‘obscene’ and ‘vulgar’ poem. As editor of the Bulletin, Mr. Tuljapurkar was made an accused in the case.

This May 3, 19 years later, the BoM management issued an internal charge sheet against Mr. Tuljapurkar. It accuses him of ‘publishing such an inflammatory, vulgar, obscene and objectionable material in the magazine “Bulletin” meant for bank employees …” And claims that circulating that issue of the Bulletin on the BoM’s premises (in 1994) was “prejudicial to the interests of the Bank.”

Interestingly, the ‘State Performances Scrutiny Board, Government of Maharashtra’, headed by well-known Marathi poet F.M. Shinde, has a very different take on the poem. In January 2011 the Scrutiny Board made it clear that the poem is neither obscene nor vulgar. “What Gandhi had envisioned about Swarajya is nowhere to be seen. The poet has expressed this in satirical form,” Mr. Shinde had said.

Apart from ignoring the Board’s view, the BoM seems to take no notice of the Supreme Court’s order in the case against Mr. Tuljapurkar. “After the FIR in 1995, we approached both the sessions court and the High Court to discharge me from the case. But that was rejected and our appeal is pending in the Supreme Court,” he says. “The apex court, in its order dated July 7, 2010, stayed all proceedings in lower courts in this case and the actual trial has not even started in any court.”

The charge sheet accuses Mr. Tuljapurkar of not disclosing this pending litigation against him while serving as the Workman Director of the bank and for knowingly making ‘false statements’ in the forms of the bank. BoM CMD Narendra Singh took personal interest in the entire matter, says Mr. Tuljapurkar. The CMD placed the 19-year old case before the board meeting in January this year, recommending action against the union leader.

All this sidesteps the truth that Mr. Tuljapurkar’s name was mentioned in the FIR as editor of the Bulletin and not in any ‘personal capacity.’ It also ignores the fact that even charges in the case are yet to be framed. Calls, faxes and emails from The Hindu to Mr. Singh have so far drawn no response.

Meanwhile, an outraged All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), to which Mr. Tuljapurkar’s union is affiliated, has called for an agitation across the entire BoM on June 17. “We demand immediate withdrawal of the charge sheet slapped against him and thorough investigation of loans sanctioned by the bank to various corporates ever since the present chairman took charge,” CH. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, AIBEA, told The Hindu. He added that the BoM being a public sector bank, every citizen had a right to express concern about its financial health. “We shall fight back any attempt at victimisation.”

If the departmental inquiry against Mr. Tuljapurkar proceeds the way bank management wants, it could result in his dismissal. A whistleblower exposing the questionable actions of a public sector bank could be dismissed for publishing a poem in 1994. He is also a man who, while a director of the bank, transferred all the money he received as sitting charges for Board meetings to the Union’s account via cheque, accepting no monetary benefits as a director.

“I wrote to RBI because I found Mr. Singh’s financial moves unhealthy for the bank’s future. Hence I’m being targeted and victimised. They aim to make an example of me so nobody in future will dare raise his voice. It has to be stopped,” he said.

 

#India- Now, penalty for paying credit card dues by cheque! #RBI #WTFnews


 

SUCHETA DALAL | 12/03/2013 , Monelylife, Exclusive

In a mockery of RBI‘s independence, a lowly under-secretary of Dept. of Financial Services has issued a fatwa to government banks to penalise you if you pay your credit cards due by cheque! The under-secretary got this idea from HDFC Bank!
Nearly a month after Moneylife Foundation discovered and took up the issue of the Reserve Bank of India‘s (RBI) bizarre idea of penalising bank depositors for using cheques, we find that the idea or rather the fatwa to this effect had emanated from the finance ministry as far back as 25 October 2012 at the possibly at the instigation of India‘s most profitable bank.

On 25 October 2012, DD Maheshwari, Under Secretary in the Department of Financial Services sent out a fatwa marked “most immediate” to all chief executives of public sector banks (PSBs). The burden of this two-paragraph diktat was that “to discourage the use of physical/cash mode of transactions, all public sector banks are requested to consider charging a processing fee from the customer paying credit card dues either in cash or through cheque”. HDFC Bank has recently increased such charges from Rs50 to Rs100 per transaction and has sent a communication to its customers in compliance with the regulatory requirement of giving a month’s notice.

It doesn’t stop at that, after holding up HDFC Bank’s usurious charges as a role model for PSBs, the letter asks them to “consider issuing appropriate instructions in this regard” and send a “copy of the instructions” back to the finance ministry. 

The finance ministry may have used the word ‘consider’, but its insistence that banks must report back to it shows that it is an order and various banks are planning to fall in line.  The finance ministry’s fatwa makes a mockery of the RBI’s pretence that it is an independent regulator of banks, because the government has not even bothered to refer this issue to the central bank before issuing orders on what amounts to micro-management of bank charges.

RBI deputy governor Dr KC Chakrabarty has repeatedly exhorted customers to vote with their feet and move to another bank if they dislike the high costs and charges of foreign and private banks. It now appears that the finance ministry will forcefully intervene to ensure that they do not have PSBs to turn to.

The government, as owner of PSBs obviously feels it is within its rights to dictate charges, since it is coughing up vast sums of taxpayers money for bank recapitalisation (Rs14,000 crore is set to be pumped into PSBs for their recapitalisation just now). But instead of ensuring better loan recoveries from dubious industrialists such as Vijay Mallya of the UB group, realty companies and others, who owe tens of thousand crores to banks in bad loans, the government has hit upon the idea of punishing legitimate and tax paying bank customers with new charges.

It gets worse. The RBI, which has been lamenting that a large part of the Indian population is unbanked, then responds by setting up an internal committee to prepare a paper titled “Disincentivising Issuance and Usage of Cheques”. This was put up on its website and open for public comment until 28th February. The report itself was kept low-key and been ignored by the mainstream media almost entirely.  Moneylife had then pointed out that the plan to levy a series of punitive charges on the use of cheques, with the utopian objective of forcing people to use online money transfer facilities (such as NEFT and RTGS which are also charged) only punishes those with legitimate bank customers. Please read RBI Must Scrap No Cheque Idea, which is the most commented article in Moneylife since then.

Moneylife Foundation, which has over 21,000 members has sent a detailed memorandum to the RBI on behalf of depositors.

A senior banker who writes for Moneylife under the pseudonym Gurpur also said that the RBI report on Dis-incentivising Issuance and Usage of Cheques “is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse. Because there are problems galore in the electronic payment system, and even before stabilising this, the RBI wants to dispense with the cheque system”. See Incentivise usage of electronic payment systems before dis-incentivising usage of cheques.  Gurpur followed it up with another article that pointed out how the UK had bowed to public pressure given up the idea of abolishing cheque usage. See UK govt bows to public pressure-rejects abolition of cheque system. Will RBI follow suit?

Moneylife had said, “The report on stopping the use of cheques makes you wonder whether RBI is accountable to us or exists solely to help banks enhance profits at the cost of customers, under the guise of seemingly lofty objectives”. Ironically, the finance ministry’s order makes it clear that it swings to the tune HDFC Bank.

Source- http://www.moneylife.in/article/now-penalty-for-paying-credit-card-dues-by-cheque/31536.html

‘You are a Mahadalit. Where did you get Rs. 1 lakh cheque from?’ #WTFnews #caste


Prasun K Mishra, Hindustan TimesRamgarh, Kaimur, Bihar, January 08, 2013

 

The reward of Rs. 1 lakh by Hindustan Times in recognition of his outstanding community service has brought more misery than joy to Banwasi alias Banarasi Musahar. A change of fortune still awaits the 58-year-old brick kiln labourer, who overcame all odds in his Akrohi Mahadalit Basti,

 

about 40 km from Kaimur district headquarters town of Bhabua, opened a school near his thatched roof house and changed the destiny of scores of members of his Musahar community.

Banwasi was on cloud nine when he was handed over the cheque for Rs. 1 lakh by Buxar MP Jagadanand Singh at Ramgarh in the presence of HT deputy executive editor Rajesh Kumar Mahapatra, HT (Patna) senior resident editor Mammen Matthew, Kaimur district magistrate Jai Singh and superintendent of police Uma Shankar Sudhanshu, on October 17 last year.

 

His happiness was, however, shortlived.

 

Banwasi’s trouble started the moment he went to the Ramgarh branch of Bank of India to deposit the cheque. The bank manager allegedly not only refused to accept the cheque, but also passed casteist remarks against Banwasi.

 

“Tum apane ko Mahadalit kahte ho, garibi rekha se niche batakar zero balance par khata khulwate ho. Ek lakh ka cheque kahan se aa gaya (You call yourself Mahadalit. You have opened a zero balance account claiming to be the member of a below poverty line family. From where did you manage a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh)?” the manager is reported to have asked Banwasi.

 

After visiting the bank almost everyday since October 18, Banwasi managed to get the cheque deposited on December 12, but only after a local photo journalist, Sanjay Kumar Jaiswal, intervened.

 

The branch manager, however, said the amount would be credited to Banwasi’s account only after he submitted details of his Permanent Account Number (PAN).

 

Finding no other way, Banwasi applied for a PAN card, which he received on January 7, 2013. But when he reached the bank with the newly acquired identity proof, he was in for another shock.

 

Despite showing the pay-in slip for the cheque, the bank branch manager asked him to produce a photocopy of the cheque he had deposited on December 12.
The photo journalist again came to Banwasi’s rescue. When Jaiswal enquired about the status of the cheque from the manager, he was told that it had been sent to the service branch of the bank in Mumbai and a clearance from there was awaited.

 

The manager, however, refused to consult the Mumbai service centre branch.

 

When asked for a complaint book and telephone numbers of senior bank officers, the branch manager said he had none.

 

Lead bank manager (LDM) M S Tuly told HT that a complaint book and a board displaying the names, addresses and phone numbers of senior officers were a must at every branch of banks governed by RBI rules.

 

#India-As farmers suffer, NABARD offers soft loans to corporates


NEW DELHI, December 10, 2012

Shalini Singh, The Hindu

Private companies get loans at 6.5% with additional cash refunds; for farmers it is 7%
Private companies get loans at 6.5% with additional cash refunds; for farmers it is 7%

 The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), which is dedicated to promoting rural development by providing soft loans to State governments for social sector projects, has given hundreds of crores as loans to corporates on concessional terms.

In the Union Budget of 2011-12, Rs. 18,000 crore was allocated by the Centre to NABARD’s Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), of which Rs. 2,000 crore was exclusively earmarked for the creation of warehousing facilities. While the allocation of Rs. 16,000 crore to the States was made by NABARD’s State Projects Department, the allocation of Rs. 2,000 crore towards warehousing was entrusted to a new team set up on the recommendation of global consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), after being awarded the mandate for a repositioning exercise.

In a circular of September 27, 2011, NABARD, making a significant deviation from its earlier policies, included private entities as eligible institutions without consulting the RBI. In another circular of December 23, 2011, NABARD further revised the scheme, again without consulting the RBI, to provide private firms an interest rate rebate of 1.5%. In violation of the regulated 8% rate levied by RIDF, an avenue was created for flow of funds to corporates and release of the interest rate rebate to the borrowers directly by NABARD.

According to documents available with The Hindu, a total of Rs. 759 crore was disbursed, including as refinance at 8% to various banks to fund 516 warehouses and cold storage projects of private entities in March 16-31, 2012. Shubham Logistics Ltd, a subsidiary of the over Rs. 6,000 crore Kalpataru Group, was handpicked for a rebate of 1.5%, allowing it to access Rs. 115 crore under a government scheme at a concessional 6.5% rate of interest. Shubham Logistics would have paid a 10.5% rate of interest had the funds been sourced from the market. The company, which was disbursed a total of Rs 180.87 crore, to set up 18 warehouses, became the beneficiary of a further 15% subsidy under another government scheme, entitling the company to a refund of over Rs. 20 crore.

The two schemes that were used to favour Shubham Logistics are Grameen Bhandaran Yojana which offers subsidy of 15% to 33.33% for construction of rural godowns. For corporates the subsidy is 15% of total financial outlay up to a maximum of Rs 28.12 lakh. Under the other scheme, ‘Warehousing scheme under RIDF’, banks are offered refinance at 8% which can be further reduced to 6.5% as an incentive for prompt repayment.

Documents reveal that the RBI has questioned NABARD’s interest rate manipulations in financing warehousing projects without its permission and demanded a recall of the Rs. 759 crore allocated to private firms. Compliance with this directive means that NABARD will have to return the money to the RBI and raise debt from the market to honour its commitments. This is likely to hit NABARD’s balance sheet by roughly Rs. 150 crore. The Ministry of Agriculture has further questioned irregularities in Shubham Logistics storage projects in Deesa, Banaskantha, pointing out that the project is ineligible for sanction of the subsidy.

Meanwhile, Aditya Bafna, Executive Director of Shubham Logistics Ltd (SSLL), a subsidiary of Kalpataru Power Transmission Ltd was appointed Director on the board of NABARD Consultancy Services Private Ltd (NABCONS) — a wholly owned subsidiary of NABARD — on January 15, 2010. He refused to comment on either the allegations of special favours or the conflict of interest arising from his appointment on the NABCONS Board.

NABARD’s response to a RTI query reveals that it released Rs 13.3 crore BCG for a ‘repositioning’ report that it admits has never been submitted. Sources in NABARD allege that an additional payment of Rs. 9 crore has also been released to “rollout the recommendations”. NABARD Chairman Prakash Bakshi, under whose leadership these transactions were sanctioned, did not respond to detailed questions that were emailed to him on December 3, including on the fresh release of Rs 9 crore to BCG or what hit NABARD’s balance sheet was likely to take after the repayment to RBI of the unauthorised fund transfers to corporates.

BCG’s Chairman, Asia Pacific, Janmejaya Sinha did not respond to detailed questions regarding whether the firm had any exposure to working with any developmental financial institution prior to its consulting assignment with NABARD, especially in the Asia Pacific region, the terms of reference and payment for the assignment or whether it was true that BCG was scouting for fresh business opportunities with the RBI.

 

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