JK Bank, People's bank

JK Bank, People's bank

Certain questions that need an answer

I am sure the following lines will not go well with many people. One because for last more than two decades we have more or less lost the ability to accommodate viewpoints other than our own. Secondly, several socio-political compulsions oblige us to stereotype even our own opinion regarding some vital issues.

The narrative that is building regarding Jammu and Kashmir bank’s present status and functioning is the poorest illustration of this pigeonholed mindset. Just a few months back most of the Kashmiri people would consider JK Bank and its management as wickedest villains proficient only in benefiting the chosen and favoured ones.

The netzines were more vocal and out to have the Bank and its management. Interestingly, this situation compelled the Bank authorities to announce contemplating legal action against the rumor-mongers (that is what Bank people called them). How far the Bank authorities were right in mulling to sue the people speaking against their working only a high-level, in-depth probe into Bank’s working for the past two decades will reveal? Then there was another controversy regarding appointments etc. That controversy got rightly mellowed by state administration issuing a crisp clarification.

Anyways this was what people, authorities and Bank people thought of each other in recent past and how JK Bank was able to salvage its image as state-owned people’s bank. JK Bank portrays the history and heritage of Jammu and Kashmir state. It reveals another side of the autocratic ruler Maharaja Hari Singh—the visionary. By establishing the JK Bank in 1938 Maharaja intended to modernise the financial business system in the state. After crossing many phases of transformation the Bank while empowering the common people through its huge banking network revolutionised the saving and lending structure both in macro and micro financing sector. However, a few decades earlier like all other institutions in the state JK Bank too because of its robust financial health invited the attention of many fraudsters, habitual defaulters and favour-seekers. It is alleged that for last two decades political intervention on all fronts created a cancerous growth within the institution. If not controlled well in time this menace will ruin not only the image of this prestigious institution but the efforts put in by its workers even at the cost of their lives will go waste. Maybe sheer speculations! But many eyebrows are raised regarding Bank’s swelling non-performing assets (NPAs). Whatever the reality only the Bank authorities know—because at present the Bank does not come under the scope of RTI (right to information) act. 

This bank has risen to banking heights not only because of the government’s patronage and management, but people’s trust and its employee’s hard work once send its shares skyrocketing at stock markets.

Unfortunately, at present, JK Bank is back into troubled waters! The state administration has plans to convert it into public sector undertaking (PSU) with exclusive control of the state government. And bring it under the ambit of the right to information (RTI) act—thus public audit and complete responsibility. A large number of organisations from the socio-political spectrum has raised their voice against this move. Maybe they are right when they say it is a clandestine move towards diluting state’s special status as envisaged in the constitution. But a very humble question to these politicians? Where were they when other vital decisions were taken during their regime to impose certain laws that otherwise were not applicable to the state. However, in no case, I justify that two wrongs make a right. Why did they not get this institution under the existing transparency laws during their tenure so that situation would not have come to a stage where the common man is compelled to raise a finger against a premier financial institution of the state and them as well? There are many more questions that not only the Bank but politicians who are making a hue and cry have to answer.

Interestingly, a majority of small customers of JK Bank are comfortable with the Bank in any shape but certainly, keep a hawkish eye on the working of the Bank. They are also apprehensive about this national financial asset and believe the Bank will flourish when it works and behaves transparently—always open for public audit. Public institutions especially Banks are not the fiefdom of few financial plunderers but saviours of people in need of financial cushion. Governments decision to declare JK Bank as PSU cannot be entirely correct especially its timing and the authority to change its shape, but it is not wrong as well as many red arrows point towards the working and health of the Bank particularly for last more than a year.