Restore credibility of J&K Bank

Banks to a larger extent, have bearing upon the trend of the stock exchanges and even a role to play in the financial stability of a country. Lending activities and the quality of appraisal, sanction of credit proposals and proper and professional monitoring, asset management and safe risk management can be said to be the acid test of the levels of health and stability of a Bank. Being purely professional and governed by laws at every step and in each activity, they must enjoy professional autonomy but never ever any extraneous, political or any type of visible or invisible interference. From an employee manning first line of service providing at counters to the highest hierarchy of management, impeccable honesty, integrity and utmost transparency are inalienable part of their role. Added to all these, personnel manning the Banks must be recruited under a proper, recognised and transparent procedure, only on merits and ability.
Unfortunately, The Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd, having the distinction of being the first Bank in the country to be a state- owned Bank with 59 per cent stake of the State Government, has been found faltering on most of these parameters for the last many years. The unfortunate part of the matter is that train of irregularities, sanctioning unviable and undeserving huge credit facilities in gross violation of guidelines, backdoor appointments and manipulating the most sensitive personnel department, overdrafts of hefty amounts, opening some branches in premises of the favourites, mounting Non Performing Assets, one time settlements of bad loans done with ‘select’ defaulters against huge kickbacks, appointments of the relatives of some relatives of the PDP-BJP leaders and own family members of the C&MD etc all under the nose, patronage and blessings of its top Executive, The Chairman and Managing Director. Accordingly, he had to be removed from the post to save the Bank from plunging into a den of further mess, financial and otherwise and replaced by R. K. Chhibber whose interim appointment has been confirmed by the Reserve Bank of India.
Raids by the Anti Corruption Bureau and seizing of more than 300 files pertaining to illegal and fraudulent appointments and other documents would reveal the extent of the irregularities and acts of violation of rules and regulations having taken place under the sacked Chairman. No political tears are needed to be shed on the action of the Governor’s administration taken all in the interests of this Bank and the banking public. The decision deserves to be welcomed by all with no space for politicking or seeing it with the detestable prism of regionalism or any bias. This Bank has been enjoying funds of the budgeted allocations to different departments in the form of deposits including salary and pension accounts of its serving and retired employees, payment of power, water and other utility bills which other Banks functioning in the State normally have no right as per the set practices thus helping in augmenting its earnings and profits. While the Government, at times, has been borrowing from this Bank paying huge interest thereon which again was denied to other Banks, this Bank kept on expanding its network and got listed on the Stock Exchange. Enjoying such a ‘protectionism’ from the State Government is hardly in the case of any other Bank.
We need not go into the full details of glaring violations of norms in conducting the affairs of this Bank as they are bound to be known in due course. The fact of the matter, however, is that the operations of this Bank are not confined to a few places in the Jammu and Kashmir State but extended to almost all states and cities of the country and it is otherwise imperative to get the functioning of the Bank back on the rails and have the process of accountability and responsibility established. A high level professional probe in addition to the investigations by the ACB must unveil all the shoddy deals and exemplary punishments awarded to those responsible and throwing to winds all norms and procedures for personal gains in running a Banking institution.