The story goes back to the year, 1985. I was a junior officer in State Bank of India and was posted as Branch Manager of Maheshpur Raj (in Bihar but now in Jharkhand), a block headquarter. Not much of business potential but banking activities were huge, particularly small deposits and small loans under IRDP, DIR, SEEUY, etc. As that was the oldest Branch in the area, loan accounts were spread over more than 100 villages – large, medium and small. If I am remembering correctly, it was the mid – January and we were busy in recovery of outstanding loans during the harvesting season. However, that happens to be a Saturday, local hat day, entire staff was at the Branch to take care of the customers, mainly the small amounts of recovery. I was also trying to finish the backlog in correspondence during the week.
It was around 4.00 p.m., I heard that the guard of the Branch was telling someone, “Sahab avi milenge nahin, samay bahut pahele khatam ho gaya. Sombar ko milna.” (You cannot meet Sahab now. The business hour is over long back. Please meet o Monday.) The other person told, “dhekiya main Deoghar mein rahata huin aur kal hi chala jayunga. Bm saab se shrif do minit milna hai.” (You see, I am staying in Deohar and I shall go back tomorrow. I shall meet the BM only for two minutes.)
On hearing this, I, without giving the guard any opportunity to speak further, asked him to send the man in my chamber. As he entered, I indicated him to take a seat. He was a young man of hardly 25 years, well built and smart. I asked him to tell me what he had to say. He started, “Sir, my name is Sardar Karnam Singh (name changed). I am a resident of this village. At present, I am working in a studio in Deoghar. I have some expertise in photography and I can also make Sign Board, Banner, Name Plate, etc. My father was an MBBS and he took a loan of Rs. 5000/- from your Branch for opening a chamber by mortgaging half of our residential building almost 10 years ago. But it is our ill luck, he could not do well and died all of a sudden leaving a family comprising me, my mother, three brothers and one sister. My mother is bed ridden, all the brothers are unemployed and my sister has to be married off. Loan was remained unpaid. I am the only bread earner for the family but it is too small to take care of the family needs. I want to open a photo studio in our house as there is no such facility in and around Maheshpur and with the earning, I will not only be able to run my family well but be able to slowly repay my father’s loan. Last year, I applied for a loan for this purpose under Self Educated Employment for Unemployed Youth(SEEUY) but it was not considered by the then BM as my father was a defaulter of the Bank. Sir, if you kindly consider my case, I shall again apply for the loan. I assure you that apart from my loan, I will also start repaying my father’s loan in small amounts.”
After telling all this, as he was eagerly awaiting my response, I told him, “Please give a day’s time and you meet me on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, please write the Sign Board of the Branch, rewrite the Name Plates of the officers and also, counters as all these got defaced.” At this, he stood up and left the premises saying ‘Namaskar’. I was highly impressed with his frankness, boldness and honesty.
Then I called the Cash Officer who, incidentally, hailed from the village, to discuss the matter. He told me, ”I know the person and the entire family very well. The family lives a very hard life. Excepting Karnam, other three brothers do nothing. The eldest one begs from people for their mother’s treatment. Their mother is sick and entire house is on mortgage – half with the Bank and other half with a local money lender. I think, it will certainly be a great help to the entire family if we consider sanctioning a loan to Karnam.”
I told him that one day, I also gave Rs.20/- to an unknown person for the same purpose and as I was not aware of this, I was wondering to find a sardarjee asking for help. We, however, decided to extend full co-operation to Karnam.
On Monday, as I was coming to office, I was really amazed to see the Sign Board of the Branch. It was neatly written by Karnam. He then came to the Branch to complete the other works assigned to him. In the evening, he came to meet me and without wasting time I offered a cup of tea and told him to apply for loan to District Industries Centre.
Almost after two months, along with other applications, we also received Karnam’s application. It took us around 15 days to complete the process and sanction a loan of Rs. 25000/- under the scheme. After completing documentation, we disbursed a portion of Term Loan(TL) to set up the photo studio. He was asked to bring quotations for camera to help disburse the remaining portion of TL but he came back after two day and told, “ Sir, all good cameras are foreign made and no seller is ready to give the quotation in the name of the shop. Please tell me, sir, what shall I do now?” As he was eagerly waiting for my reply, I told him to give me some time and come back next day.
After discussing the issue with my colleagues, we decided to allow him to purchase the camera without quotation and produce the receipt. It happened that way and Karnam started work in full swing involving his two brothers. We, from our side, requested all the nearby branches to give all the works, particularly photograph of beneficiaries under IRDP, to Karnam.
Soon, Karnam, because of his behaviour, quality of work and timely delivery, became very popular in the area and as promised, he started depositing small amounts in his father’s account also. I left the Branch almost one year after Karnam started the activity. During that period, he could deposit more than Rs. 2000/- in that dead account apart from running his account properly.
At that time, telephone connectivity was very weak and as such, contacting someone was difficult. But, almost after five years, Karnam came to Patna for some work and he made it to meet me in Local Head Office, Patna. I was very happy to see him and asked him about his business, his family, etc. He told me,” Sir, by the grace of God and your blessings, business is doing well. I have repaid my father’s loan by entering into a compromise with Bank. I have repaid my SEEUY loan and Bank has sanctioned me a loan of Rs. 2.00 lacs. I have also repaid the outstanding amount of the businessman and our house is now free from him. I have also married off our sister and all my three brothers are some way or other engaged in the business.”
I do not know how is Karnam doing now a days but I am confident he must be doing well with the grace of God as he is a man of character, commitment and creditworthiness. When I think of Karnam, the episode comes alive before me and I silently repeat “Attitude is the sole differentiator.”
I joined SBI as a Probationary Officer in 1981. Since then, I have worked in various capacities as Branch Manager, Regional Manager and Deputy General Manager at different places. My specialised areas are Credit and General Banking.
I also was Chairperson of Reserve Bank of India Working Group on Evaluation of Feasibility of Aadhaar based Biometric Authentication as Additional factor of Authentication for card present transactions and related issues.
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