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Core banking is the latest mantra of bankers – both in the private and public sector. Never mind, most times the computers don’t work. During the rest, bankers don’t. And when they do work, they work at cross-purposes leaving customers completely exasperated. Try depositing a cheque or getting a TDS certificate from banks, you would know what I mean. Every time after his monthly visit to his bank my aged father, a retired banker himself and a Gandhian, tells me – “I need to shoot these guys” and after a brief pause would add “six inches below the belly button.”

Despite understanding his angst I always pacified him. I had no other option. That was till I was the gullible victim of the wonderful services of my own bank. Enough is enough. I decided to meet my good friend Mukesh Agarwal, the CMD of the bank, merely to sensitise him of the matter at his residence. After all Mukesh and I were together in college. Though a backbencher, Mukesh even at that early age had a knack of winning friends and influencing people. No wonder he became the CMD of a bank. “Mukesh, your bank” I began as he was adjusting his tie. Looking admirably smart for his age in his three-piece suit, he cut me short and advised that I could meet him next week. Like all men who have made it to the top, Mukesh, by force of habit had to feign that he was busy. “I am on a pilgrimage to south India,” he said. I was instantly thrilled, for no apparent reason. “Are you going to Madurai, Rameshwaram?” I went on reeling names of pilgrim centres in South India. Mukesh enjoyed every bit of this. Suddenly he seemed to have found time to discuss his travel plans. After a few moments, sensing that I had given up, he said “Sivaganga.” “Sivaganga,” I literally yelled and added “is no pilgrim centre.” Mukesh looked distinctly uncomfortable. But more was to come. “A pilgrimage in a three piece suit?” I enquired. Mukesh squirmed in his seat.

“Narada, you do not understand. From June 2008 many important offices including the office of the Governor of RBI and various other regulators are falling vacant. And all my peers who are CMDs of various banks want to be on the right side of the FM,” Mukesh quipped. Dale Carnegie at work, I muttered to myself. “So you are opening a branch at Sivaganga and must have invited the FM for the function,” I said, suddenly playing Nostra Damus. Mukesh was distinctly uncomfortable. “No we already have a branch there,” he said defensively. “Then it must be the ATM,” I said, this time unsure of myself. “No,” he said and after a long deep breath and added “It is that we are providing a second cash counter in the branch. And we deemed it fit that the FM should inaugurate it. And the FM despite his busy schedule was kind enough to readily consent to come all the way to Sivaganga for the occasion.” Obviously Mukesh had rehearsed his welcome speech fairly well. “Didn’t you see the full page ad in the morning dailies?” The dismay in his tone was apparent. He did not know that like many ordinary Indians, I have lost the ability to question the use of public money for personal agendas.

Back home as I was dusting my bookshelf I laid my hands on a copy of the Radhakrishna Committee report that went into farm distress. As I flipped through the pages I could find the list of one-hundred farm stressed districts identified by the report across the country. Tamil Nadu has just one district – Sivaganga – the constituency of the FM. Obviously, the FM and banks have devised an ingenious strategy to tackle the issue of farm sector at Sivaganga – open more Banks. Perhaps this is what they teach at Harvard – the new frontier in “developmental” economics.

PS: The piece is purely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely co-incidental.

Last modified on Sunday, 07 July 2013 07:36