Rip Bank Winkle

 Through a common man’s prism, the modern Rip Van Winkles are in the banking industry. The PNB fraud indicates that the supervisors, top management, regulators and auditors were in deep slumber. Reuters file photo.

As a kid, I was quite fascinated with the story of Rip Van Winkle. I would wonder what it would be like to sleep for 20 years like the fictional character and wake up to see a different world.

It has suddenly dawned on me that there are plenty of Rip Van Winkles in our society. Through a common man’s prism, the modern Rip Van Winkles are in the banking industry. The PNB fraud indicates that the supervisors, top management, regulators and auditors were in deep slumber. 

There is a political slugfest going on between the two main political parties. Except for the TV anchors, no one is interested in it. What is worrisome for the common man, is the breakdown in internal controls and supervisory mechanisms in the banks.

Let us presume that politicians influenced the bank in granting a loan to Nirav Modi. That bankers complied, speaks volumes about their integrity. It is questionable that all of the top-rung were party to the fraud. But they kept quiet.

And what were the independent members of the board doing? Or, were they not really independent at all? It is common knowledge that often directors are nominated for their closeness to powers to be than for their merit.

The irony is, PNB won the award for vigilance for many years. It brings back memories of Satyam receiving the best corporate award! It only shows that these award ceremonies are good public relation exercises.

As per norms, an officer cannot be kept in the same branch or department for more than three years. The accused was handling the same account for more than seven years till his retirement. It did not raise any eyebrows that a junior officer could purchase a flat worth Rs 3 crore in a posh Mumbai locality.

Perhaps, the supervisory officials adhere to the proverbial principle, ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.’

But when a common man faulters on his monthly EMI, the banks come to hound him. I wish they would go after the rich with the same zeal. We used to think that keeping our money in the public sector banks was safer than the private sector ones. Thank you, bank frauds! You have opened our eyes. It is time for the Rip Bank Winkles to wake up.

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