PNB fraud case: Banks make commoners pay for small amounts but turn blind eye to big scams

It would be safe to submit that for the layman the huge numbers of the money swiped from the Punjab National Bank and the skulduggery involved are mystifying. For most of us banks are hostile and intimidating self-righteous institutions designed to destroy our comfort zones.

A Punjab National Bank branch. AFP

A Punjab National Bank branch. AFP

To us figures like Rs 114 billion and Rs 11,000 crore being swindled mean absolutely nothing. These are the same banks that call us at 0600 hours to say that our credit card payment in overdue by one day and if we do not pay they will destroy us and our families. At this very moment there are roughly 30 million credit card owners in the country with one in four having defaulted and waking up every morning in the red. Nearly three times that number are debit cards.

These plastic cuffs have been liberally handed over to customers through slick and sinister bank advertising packaged as the sun in their lives but in actuality are the chains of financial enslavement.

All these banks tell you how much they love you and how every waking moment they are thinking of your comfort, your interest, your peace of mind. And you want to cry because it is like when they wake up in the morning bankers all over the world brush their teeth and reiterate their commitment to global peace and harmony and march out to their offices ready to do battle for us poor customers.

The change in the tone and attitude of the bank and the virulent threat by its officers be it a loan or a credit card debt is dramatic and traumatic. The fact that in the US prisoners are now manning call centres you can guess how rough the trade is. Suddenly, we the people, are the enemy. As these call centres and collection agents amplify the rudeness and the shaming for a momentary delay and promise your extinction the Modis and Choksis are cheerfully shovelling stacks of the stuff in broad daylight.

Another factor which emerges every time the smelly stuff hits the fan vis-a-vis bank scams is that the public never gets an explanation why due diligence was not carried out. So beautifully confused and obfuscated is the issue made that public capacity for absorption simply dries up. Again, for us to get a lakh or two as a loan we are made to go through torturous procedures that may soon include polygraphs and blood tests.

Documents, checks, certificates, collaterals, a dozen ‘come tomorrows’ and Hitchcockian suspense over the grant. But this jeweller managed to swipe more than the GDP of most nations and no one noticed. It struck none of those suits in this bank that the first crore had gone and now the second and the third. And the hundredth and the thousandth.

We are not bankers but if we lose or misplace a Rs 1,000 note we know it’s missing.

Oh wait a minute they were occupied chasing Mr Kumar the home loan man’s monthly EMI of Rs 30,000, late by a day.

Observe how this story will unfold. It follow a well trodden path. Banks are a tight knit fraternity. They will close ranks. Gradually, the media will be led away from focusing on the guilty parties in the bank and the disappearance of the money. It's nestled in various nests never to be recovered.

With the use of smoke and mirrors their spin doctors will get us all excited about Interpol finding out where Modi is (some place of luxury from where he cannot be extradited) and then Choksi at some airport and the issue will go into the Agatha Christie phase as the powers that be congratulate themselves on utterly meaningless discoveries.

Gradually the elements referring to the swindle will enter the list of other such, massive acts of fiscal treachery and Modi will break bread with other Indians in foreign climes who played the banking system.

He will make honourable statements of intent and these will be dutifully front paged.

What we wish to know is why the banks get played and more importantly, get away so easily.


Updated Date: Feb 17, 2018 17:48 PM

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