The head of a state-owned bank could lose her job for identifying defaulters, reports Kunal Majumder
THE SCRIPT is typical masala Bollywood. A state-owned bank is saddled with a Rs 300 crore debt. Among its several defaulters is Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan. And every day the chief executive, who has turned the sick bank around and dared to expose the wrongdoers, enters her office expecting not clients, but her transfer order. Not bouquets, but brickbats.
Khan of course is not the only heavyweight defaulter. According to the Amanath Cooperative Bank’s balance sheet, which its CEO Shahar Bano published in leading newspapers last year, there are Ziaulla Sharief of India Builders and Irfan Razack of the Prestige Group giving him company. Together the two owe the Islamic bank Rs 159 crore in outstanding debts.
After Bano brought the matter to the notice of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, and explained to them the legal proceedings she had initiated to nail the alleged cheats, she got no thanks. Instead, she was told that her transfer order was lying in the office of Karnataka’s Minister for Cooperatives Laxman Savadi and could be with her any moment.
Bano is so disgusted that she refuses to speak to anyone — especially the media. Yet she is not without support. The bank’s employees’ union has backed her, and its members allege that the powerful Khan used his proximity to Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to push Bano out of the bank. “Rahman has looted the bank that was meant to help poor Muslims,” says Hussain, secretary of the Amanath Cooperative Bank Employees’ Union. “She is being targeted because she is honest.” Khan, involved with the management of the bank for close to three decades, has taken the line that all high-profile defaulters take: Bano, he says, is being used by his opponents to tarnish his political image.
Insiders say that though initial enquiries in 2002 found Khan to be the main culprit, the evil nexus put paid to all the efforts to nail him and his cohorts. A Corps of Detectives (COD) probe ordered by the state government exonerated him, finding convenient scapegoats in a former manager and a couple of other junior officials. And nobody has bothered to verify Khan’s allegation that former director Amanulla Khan was responsible for the bank’s current plight.
Rubbishing this claim, Hussain says Ziaulla Sharief, who headed the bank between 2003 and December 2007 — the year the RBI appointed an administrator to oversee its day-to-day activities — misused his position to help his wife and Khan’s son. “Sharief has sold a property owned by the bank to a trust headed by his wife,” he alleges.
Another player in this ugly drama is Mumtaz Ali Khan, Minister of Haj, Wakf and Minority Welfare — at whose instance the 2003 probe was ordered, leading to Rahman Khan’s ouster from the bank’s board of directors.
The damage done is so extensive that despite the sustained efforts of people like Bano the bank, which posted a profit of Rs 4.04 crore in the last fiscal, has been able to recover only Rs 47 crore from its well-heeled defaulters. All with deep pockets, thanks to the systematic fleecing down the years. •