As a child, for a long time, I used to think banks printed money, and you went and got some whenever the need arose. Then, when simple interest/compound interest happened in school, someone explained banks to me, how they offered to keep your money, and paid you interest to use it. I used to think it was pretty decent of the banks to pay me interest to use my money, and yet, still have it there when I needed it.
I also learned that you could not print money at will. And there was a government mint that did that. In those days, banks invited you to open accounts. Staff was limited. They almost knew all the customers. I still have one such account courtesy my late mother, who, some old timers at the bank, now retired , still remember. For her ability to call a spade a spade where banking functions were concerned, and for insisting on certain clear documentation in passbooks.
Today, banks behave as if it is all their money, and they are doing a favor by allowing us to withdraw cash. They charge you for chequebooks, for using your own money, even though the computers now do the calculations and reconciliation. Sadly, I find them wanting, where integrity of the data is concerned.
I am told that my pension account must exist on a single name. I can have a nominee. The bank decrees who it can be be. That, is an intrusion into my personal space. And one day, when I ask for a new chequebook on that account, I get one , with the name of the spouse (still in service) on each chequebook leaf.
It takes me 3 people, and 3 repetitions of the problem, and a week, to rectify this. Why their static/master data should show my name as my spouse's on a single name account, has no explanation. There is simply no data checking and verification. Or possibly, no protocol on who can see and change what data. Or possibly careless implementation of hitherto strict rules. As I leave , I am told I must pay postage for the correct chequebook again. Some banks have no grace at all.
For several months one has been seeing a certain , non trivial sum being credited to one's account on the 15th of a month, and debited the next day. When this happens a lot , I ask. (In retrospect , it might have been a great idea to study this and actually withdraw sums before they could debit. That would have woken up the folks. But then I do not accept what is not mine).
I am told the CD for monthly transactions comes from the head office, and I should check there. I go there . Turns out, the CD is received from the municipal authorities, and pertains to monthly salaries. A perusal of the data (how it was perused, is a subject for another blog post) , with the same "amount " and date indicates, that someone has a similar account number to mine. (This account which is now mine has existed since 1950, with no problems.).
The manager has no explanation, but a lot of jargon. It seems they "reverse" transactions when something like this happens. I am alarmed that someone else other than me can debit things . Then it turns out that the person whose salary is being credited and debited into my account is actually an account holder at an extension counter elsewhere , of this branch. The manager has simply allocated certain numbers from 1 to n to this extension branch. And unfortunately, not indicated that it is an account at the extension counter, with an appropriate code, different from that of his branch.
There has been no training in codification of accounts, the various types of concatenated data that make up the key . I ask if they have a users manual for the software in use (they claim that they do not), and the matter is resolved by changing the account number of the municipal person appropriately. I cannot but help wonder if some of my credits have been posted against this person's account instead.
I check my statements. I promise them that I will be writing to the head office. They need a refresher course in codification of maybe a newer software version that highlights such discrepancies and ambiguities.
I have spent 2 days and several hours a day solving this, and some of the old timers who now sit in FD section on the ground floor, have seen me going around, fairly agitated. One of them stops me on the way out. Asks me if I am my mother's daughter. I reply in the affirmative , and he says , "You are just like your mother. She too never tolerated shoddy work" .....:-)
I guess although my name is now different, similarities exist. In more than looks.
It isn't always computers. Sometimes it is people. Sometime in the late 80's , it was required to send a large sum by telegraphic transfer. Petrol was then Rs 3.50 a litre, Rs 1000 was a huge amount. The telegraphic transfer amount , several times more, was related to a government housing loan.
They said it would reach the next day and charged me for it. It took 21 days. When I asked the bank to pay me interest for "using" this amount for 21 days, when it should have reached overnight, the manager gave me a superior look , and rudely asked why I was making such a fuss. As if the amount was huge. I expect banks to treat a ten rupee interest with the same respect as a 10 lakh rupees interest.
And I had to tell him that (a) in 21 days, even I would have reached the destination, walking backwards with eyes closed, with the amount in a bag, and returned with a receipt, and (b) Anything above four zeroes after a digit had me going into a dead faint.
Maybe he was used to dealing in lakhs and crores****. As a customer, I am too small, and can be brushed off. Hundreds were too small for him. Nevertheless, I mentioned about banks making a living off peoples' deposits, with nothing really of their own to start with. Someone clearly had great fun with numbers for 21 days. He didn't like that.
Today, crores is the buzzword. One hears of scams in banks. In crores. Scams elsewhere, by those close to centres of power. In crores. Scams by those who idolize the wrong folks. In crores. Scams by shameless greedy types siphoning of stuff meant for those with nothing. All in thousands of crores.
Many more stories about banking. For some other time.
I just saw this news about an individual offering Rs 1500 crores to develop the pilgrim town of Pandharpur. Something that needs to be done. Something like simple amenities like toilets and washrooms for the Warkaris that converge in thousands as they come to the grand finale of their pilgrimage, each year. Something, that regrettably, has still not been done by our government. Busy as they are erecting statues in the Arabian Sea..
As is my habit, not being on backslapping terms with crores, I start counting the zeros.
Till now, thanks to newspapers, I have basically associated such amounts with scams. I mean I've heard of double digit crores spent on posh bungalows ,weddings and such stuff. But the irony is, thanks to the massive scams unearthed, one conversely thinks, any person associated with such amounts to be a scamster.
It is such a telling fact about what we have become as people, that a donor of a big sum like this, is automatically suspected as a scamster, unless proved otherwise.....
*** 1 crore = 10 million , 1 lakh - one hundred thousand