PNB to play National Anthem at AGMs: It is shareholder’s suggestion, this shouldn't be an issue, says lender

Every annual general meeting (AGM) and extra general body meeting (EGM) of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) will begin with the singing of the National Anthem. This is a new tradition or ritual that the over Rs 14,000 cr scam-hit bank has decided to adopt since its last AGM.

A suggestion was made to this effect to the bank by one of its shareholders at its last AGM. The bank’s non-executive chairman Sunil Mehta approved it.

On being asked whether the move wasn’t dictatorial in nature, bank sources replied saying, "What is the issue if the National Anthem is sung. Aren’t we Indians? Why should it be an issue.”

The bank has a ritual that it has been following for many years where a recorded Hindi song, Hum ko man ki shakti dena (Give us mental strength),  sung by Vani Jairam in the film Guddi is played every day at 9.55 am. Each branch of the PNB has this song played out before the bank opens for commercial transactions at 10 am.

From a song for staff members to one for shareholders, there is ‘nothing wrong’ with singing patriotic songs, said the source.

 PNB to play National Anthem at AGMs: It is shareholder’s suggestion, this shouldnt be an issue, says lender

Representational image. AFP

“The PNB was started by freedom fighters,” the source said. The idea for the bank was first mooted by Rai Mool Raj of Arya Samaj who wanted Indians to have a bank of their own. He felt keenly "that the Indian capital was being used to run English banks and companies, the profits accruing from which went entirely to the Britishers whilst Indians had to contend themselves with a small interest on their own capital", according to PNB.

“By singing the National Anthem we are showing our loyalty to the nation. Anyways, we did not ask for it. It was a shareholder’s suggestion,” said the source.

Rohini Salian, former public prosecutor, was of the view that every Indian should feel proud to sing the National Anthem. “Shareholders should not have an issue. Isn’t a shareholder an Indian too,” she asked. “But having said that, I wonder how singing the song will infuse the patriotic spirit,” she said.

In February 2018, the public sector bank came into the limelight for a fraud at its Brady House branch in Mumbai involving certain accounts under 'gems and jewellery' sector through apparent connivance between Nirav Modi and few employees of the bank. The bank’s total liability works out to Rs 14,356.84 crore on account of the fraud.

The bank had posted a largest-ever quarterly loss of Rs 13,416.91 crore for January-March period, mainly on account of high provisioning for bad loans.

Given the loss staring at the bank, making it compulsory for its shareholders to sing the National Anthem at the AGMs is an ‘unnecessary imposition’, said Shriram Subramanian, Founder and MD, InGovern Research Services, a corporate governance advisory firm.

“This is out of relevance and context. There is no need for a corporate to do it,” he said. On being pointed out that it was a suggestion by a shareholder which prompted the bank to accept it, Subramanian said: Will the PNB management incorporate all shareholders suggestions? This is not the management’s role to do these stunts,” he said.

The National Anthem was sung at the end in the last AGM. However, from henceforth it will be sung at the beginning of the AGM, said sources at PNB.

Updated Date: Dec 26, 2018 16:34:16 IST