India: Minister Jaitley’s Protest Against Bankers’ Arrest Unacceptable – OpEd


Minister Arun Jaitley has protested strongly on the action taken against officials of public sector banks by investigating agencies.

He appears to be unhappy about the officials of Bank of Maharashtra and retired Chairman and Managing Director of Canara Bank being investigated.

Mr. Jaitley is echoing the often repeated threat that the action and arrest of the erring bank officials would make them lose interest in decision making.

The decision making is an essential function of the top managers of the banks and they have to be necessarily accountable for their decisions, as they are handling several crores of rupees of public money.

If they are suspected to have been involved in fraudulent dealings, they need to be investigated and punished severely. After all, they are paid huge salary and other perks and they are not there to sleep over the decisions and avoid functioning effectively.

The argument of Mr. Jaitley that state investigating agencies should not take action against the central government functionaries is absolutely flawed and should be rejected outright. What is wrong if corruption cases are reported to the state government and it acts on the matter?

The argument that even bonafide decisions could be found to be erroneous and therefore , no action should be taken amounts to weaken the investigating agencies. The actions are taken only after establishing that there could be prima facie cases of fraud.

There is absolutely no doubt that several thousands of crores of rupees of loss is incurred by the pubic sector banks due to inefficiency, incompetence and indifference of top managers and the level of corruption that is prevailing and of course political interference.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying his level best to root out corruption in India and has introduced several measures to improve the systems of governance to promote transparency and accountability amongst the officials. Punishing the corrupt bank officials and showing the door to the incompetent and indifferent ones is absolutely necessary to tone up the administration in public sector banks and restore confidence amongst the public about these institutions.

Mr. Jaitley, a senior minister and holding the finance portfolio until recently and now minister without portfolio due to his illness, should not have made statements criticizing the investigating agencies for catching the fraudsters in the banks, whatever level they belong to in the administration hierarchy of the banks.

Every time when an action is taken against senior officials in any public sector institution by the government, a bogey will be raised that such actions would affect the morale of the employees in the organization and make them reluctant to take decisions. This bogey is a veiled threat to the government to desist from taking actions against erring officials.

It is very important that no one in the government, particularly no minister, should stand in the way of Modi government taking actions against errant officials. The country men are looking upto Mr. Modi to root out corruption in India and would completely support Mr. Modi for any action initiated to put fear in the mind of corrupt officials and root out corruption in India.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jaitley gives an impression that he would not want the investigating agencies to act against the errant officials in the banks.

It is not surprising that SBI Chairman has expressed his happiness about Mr. Arun Jaitley’s statement. While bank officials would be happy about Mr. Arun Jaitley’s statement, the anti corruption crusaders in the country cannot be happy with the views of Mr. Jaitley.

One only hopes that the Prime Minister would advise Mr. Jaitley to exercise caution and sense of responsibility and avoid making such injudicious public statements on such sensitive matters, particularly since this create an impression that Prime Minister’s colleagues are not with him in his anti corruption crusade.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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