Political propaganda or political interference?
While the J&K Bank is in a fix over Rs 2500 crore worth stressed loans, the Sunday’s statement by the State Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather— calling the issue as “political propaganda”—is only an attempt to hide the misdoings, including the ones carried out allegedly at the behest of the minister. Here is a case in point:
According to informed sources, if anyone has been a ‘darling beneficiary’ after the change of guard at the J&K Bank in October 2010, it is the finance minister’s son. The FinMin, the sources said, strongly influenced the bank authorities to give a boost to the business of his son who was running a call center in a posh area in Srinagar. Abdur Rahim Rather, it is widely alleged, exerted a lot of pressure on the top management of the bank and ordered replacement of the BSNL telephone network in all its branches and offices across Jammu and Kashmir with those from the company that his son was a part of.
“Most of the officers heading various branches and offices conveyed their preference to continue with BSNL connections but the political interference made the Bank management to fall in line,” the sources, privy to the developments, said. In fact, they said, request letters for having the “favourite wireless connection” were forcibly sought from branch and office heads, at least for two such connections.
Insiders said most of the branches were issued two to three connections when they had no requirement for the same.
“However, in order to evade any controversy, it was also directed to keep one BSNL number for fax purposes,” they said.
It has been reliably learnt that over 1000 wireless connections, along with landline-type handset instruments, were procured at a cost of Rs 3300 per connection to benefit Rather’s son. While the SIM, according to sources, was offered free of cost, the cost of instrument was recovered from the bank at Rs 3299 each.
According to bank officials, after learning about the ‘clandestine deal’, two other private cellular companies offered the same package without charging for the instrument. “But the bank rejected the offer,” they said.
“The bank paid over Rs 30 lakh to the finance minister’s son for nothing. On one hand, the bank was getting the package free of cost by other companies and only call charges were to be paid. And then, the bank was already having a robust BSNL telephone network in all branches,” said sources.
Meanwhile, it is also alleged that the bank is running its staff training college in a building in posh Srinagar area where the son of the finance minister was earlier running a call centre. The FinMin’s son, it is alleged, has not cleared the electricity dues amounting to lakhs of rupees before handing over the premises to the J&K Bank.
While reports suggest that the Finance Minister has been has been calling the shots in the Bank at regular intervals to meet his own ends, insiders are now pitching for a thorough probe to get this ‘unwarranted political interference’ exposed in public interest.