In my previous article “Small is Beautiful”, an attempt has been made to make the readers aware of the importance of small issues in the life of an individual and how they need to be tackled. What I am taking up today does not relate to economic conditions, policy decisions or the contribution of the foreign banks to the export-import trade. They are small issues of human heart, customer welfare and exhibit the genuine concern to make banking practices useful for the common man and the poorest of the poor customers.
Selden Menefee in his book, “The Pais of Manipal” (1969, p.1), made an interesting observation. He wrote, “The road narrows as it passes through farming villages…winds through more paddy fields…and suddenly starts uphill. You round a curve and see towering above you on a hill a huge modern building with the sign “Manipal Engineering College.”You feel as if you had suddenly jumped from the middle ages into the twentieth century….the beginning of a fascinating real-life story.”
It was a small decision of a man with a big heart, Dr. T. M. A. Pai to establish the Engineering College in a small village. Manipal Group of Industries, the educational institutions and the Syndicate Bank (now nationalized) are world renowned institutions now. His nephew, Mr. T. A. Pai, rose to become the Chairman and Managing Director of Syndicate Bank later. It was said of him, “Mr. T.A. Pai is a rebel against the procedures, wherever it holds up progress.” He encouraged the Branch Manages of the Bank to take original, independent decisions, with the sole purpose of helping the clients and never to let them down in their hour of difficulty.
Problem and decision number one.
Mr. X, a poor farmer, was financed for a dairy unit of 4 buffaloes under the Marginal Farmers & Development Agency, wherein 33 1/3% of the cost of the animals was subsidized by the Government. I refer to the loaning done in the year 1971 and the total amount of the loan was Rs.10, 000/- The farmer had repaid two installments, and unfortunately all the four buffaloes were run over by a train and died instantly. Due to some technical faults (why the buffaloes were allowed on the railway tracks) the insurance claim was not admitted. But the Bank had to recover the loan amount as per the rules. A proposal was sent to the Head Office to file the legal suit against the client.
The decision of the Head Office was, “Loan recovery proposal not accepted. Sanction to him a further loan for 8 buffaloes. He will repay the present loan from the profits of milk sold through 4 buffaloes and from the profits accruing from the remaining 4, he will maintain his family.”
The poor farmer was in tears, and could not believe his fortune. Soon, a loan was arranged and he repaid both the loans well in time. Goodwill earned by the bank, amongst the farming community of the area was immeasurable. This case was cited in the monthly news bulletin and it was circulated to all the Branches of the Bank.
Problem and decision number two
A village was adopted for intensive financing of dairy units. About 300 landless laborers were identified for financing one buffalo each as per a time-bound program. They were poorest of the poor and they lived in thatched huts. Most of them were illiterate and affixed thumb impression, not knowing to put the signature. As per the rules and regulations of the bank, each one of them was required to fill up a loan application form and furnish a self-attested photograph.
The Agriculture Officer of the Bank put up the proposal to call 100 farmers per day, to the Bank for completing all the formalities. They will be asked to bring the photographs. The proposal was modified by the Head Office. It read thus.
“The Agriculture Officer assisted by two clerks should visit the village. A photographer will be arranged by the Bank.”
The villagers were asked to assemble in the community hall of the village and each one of them was identified by the village Chief. The entire work related to 300 applications was completed within a day. What were the implications of the above decision?
- To and from bus fare of the landless laborers was saved.
- Most of them were daily wage earners. Their one day’s wage was saved.
- Instead of three days, the work was completed within a day.
- The bank earned tremendous goodwill among the farming community.
An inspection team of IAS level officers appointed by the Government to oversee the implementation of the above Scheme visited this village later.
“Any problem from the side of Bank Manager and staff?” a question was put.
The village Chief replied, “Wait a minute Sir, He is not the Bank Manager, He is our brother!”