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Taking Offence

Taking Offence

For a nation that has come to believe that financial frauds are a thing of the past, the manner in which two rogue employees and a famed jeweller pulled off India’s biggest bank scam puts to rest all such contentions.  

While the scam exposes the biggest flaws in the Indian banking system, loopholes allow such massive defrauds to happen and apparently many go unnoticed as well. But what could be more paradoxical than the fact that a bank that allowed Rs. 11,400 crore to be siphoned off from its coffers won two Vigilance Excellence Awards in last four years. While international banks tightened supervision and corporate governance after the subprime credit crisis in 2008, most Indian banks appear to have remained laggards, and seemingly that has made it much more easier for them to fall prey to the guiles of scamsters.

In view of the number of bank employees being implicated in the great grand PNB scam, it is time there has been a re-think on their policies. Instead of KYC (Know Your Customers), the term used to refer to the bank and anti-money laundering regulations which governs these activities, insisted upon as a part of the its client verification process; the banks need to focus first on KYE (Know Your Employees) as a strict HR guideline for employment.

Interestingly, Ravi Subramanian’s novel, In the Name of God, has suddenly bounced a couple of notches higher in the bestseller list after it was published eight months back. Probably, the apparent turnaround in its fortunes was affected because of a renewed interest in its antagonist who goes by the name of Nirav Choksi. Incidentally, the two main jewellers in the current PNB fraud story are Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. Purely coincidental, or as members of the ilk wouldn’t hesitate to aver, imaginations flying high?

And just days after the PNB fraud came to light, another state-run bank has reported a million dollar scam. Rotomac pens owner, Vikram Kothari, is accused of fleeing with loans of more than Rs. 800 crore from various public sector banks in the country. With the intensity of the fraudulent schemes only increasing with every ‘outing’, India has never been short of scams. But apart from the India Against Corruption crusade that actually revved up the interest of the general masses, there have never been any movements by concerned citizenry to oppose anti-people agendas of the government.

‘Intolerance’ in this context continues to be the most misunderstood term in the country today. Initially it was thought of as the political response of the Modi-dispensation to the moods of the masses which has shown no reservations in expressing its displeasure over the promises of the achche din that just don’t seem to materialize. The unwillingness to accept views and beliefs contrary to the ruling front’s stand has manifested itself in a typical exhibition of chauvinism where the refusal to respect public opinion has characterized the Modi-raj.

For a nation well accustomed to religious intolerance as that catalyst galvanizing communal hatred between various communities, it is not too difficult to perceive the brand of bigotry advanced by Modi & Co as a factor that could further undermine the unity of the country. But have the countrymen fared any better than the political leaders they accuse of taking the country back to the era of emergency!

If the recent trend of protests is any indication of the quixotic impulsiveness of the masses, over the last few years India has been fully transformed into an offended society. The arrival of the internet has further hastened the metamorphosis with people desirous of bringing about a social change taking their activism to a new level. However the new corps of protestors appears to actually ignore the context of the material at hand to give an entirely different colour to the agitation.

The tumult over the screening of ‘Padmaavat’ amply demonstrates the knee-jerk reactions that exemplify such acts of ‘intolerance’. When the movie hit the theaters, it turned out that the film actually valorized the deeds of the Rajputs. The latest target of outrage is a clip from the video of a song from a Malayalam film which has gone viral! Proving to be a perfect Valentine’s Day material, the clip featuring a senior school boy and girl looking at each other at a gathering has been shared extensively on social media.

Taking offence to a Mappila song that has been sung for years in festivals and celebrations in Kerala, what possibly can come of the display of outrage against it except for the fanning of communal tension in the state which is already overburdened by the politics of killings in the wake of the CPI-BJP rivalry which has consumed it! The practice of trying to ‘figure out’ how best one ‘can be offended’ as soon as some piece of news grabs headlines in the country lies at the root of the tumults that has been scathing the expanse. More often than not these antics remain simply opportunistic attempts to garner attention.

In this perspective, it would not be wrong to say that it took Rs. 11000 crore and some to shift the attention of the public towards the nation’s fiscal shrink from a girl’s mischievous wink. Who can forget Pramod Muthalik and his Sriram Sene goons enforcing strict moral codes on youngsters who they accused of showing a distinct inclination to embrace western mores, by attacking a pub in Mangalore way back in 2009! The incorrigible character continues to remain in bold print for his efforts at gaining a political identity.

Unfortunately, no counter-groups come out and retaliate against such nefarious organizations. On the contrary, leaders of these controversial fringe groups go on to share centre stage with leaders of national parties, eventually shining as stars in the galaxy for them. Rather than condemning outright the frivolous things people indulge in to gain popularity, the media too has contributed to this climate of intolerance by giving extensive coverage to such incidents of moral, social and cultural policing.

No wonder, it is being insinuated that news anchors and fringe groups are our new ‘censors’. Not that thoughts about such moves happening in connivance with the ‘share holders’ to raise their ‘stock value’ has not crossed one’s mind. India is a story of activism gone awry for all the right reasons. Who in their right sense would want sections of the people to fight over our legacies of customs and traditions, when there are umpteen other issues that demand their immediate attention!  It is time we realized that we can think for ourselves without being goaded on by the farcical displays of parochialism put on by an insensitive few.

(Published on 26th February 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 09)