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"Down Memory Lane" programme as part of Platinum Jubilee Celebrations  The  Programme  in  Bangalore was held on Saturday , 6th March,  2010. The programme organised in Mumbai on 26th Feb was a great success. Please read the speeches of Smt Veena Roye & Shri PP Ramachandran which is reproduced.

 

Speech of Smt Veena Roye,

Treasurer (Retd)

on the occasion of “Down the Memory Lane” programme as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations

held in Bangalore.

 

 

An institution such as the RBI, can appear gigantic, monolithic, cold and formal to the outside world. In the lives of some individuals, however, it has been like a safe harbour, a warm cocoon, a place where careers have been nurtured, friendships formed, lessons learned and lives supported. Mine has been one such life with 40years of association-which will end only when life itself ends.

 

I entered the RBI as a young, novice Grade 2 in 1965 .An officer, Mr.Mark Pai, had somehow been instrumental in encouraging the “convent” girls to join the bank and that was, perhaps, a turning point in the bank’s internal culture. We were the “liberal brigade”, about 20 of us, English speaking, convent educated, from the Cantonment area– and quite naturally, looked upon as “oddities” in office. Infact the zoo monkeys perhaps feel a bit like this. We actually had people peeping through windows at us as we worked the long hours. Slowly the barriers broke, gently the inhibitions and the stiff traditionalism gave way to a friendly integration - even some office romances and a couple of weddings.

 

I have traversed the RBI ladder slowly and painstakingly, learning every inch of the way as I travelled the years from Grade 2 to my final signing off as Treasurer. I was the first lady Treasurer in RBI south of the Vindhyas and it remains one of the high points of my life.

It has been a momentous journey, where some of the rungs of the ladder, came as pleasant surprises- the move to Deputy Treasurer, in my case, was certainly one such moment, where 11 others were superceded. The dignity of work and the bonds of lasting respect and friendships – these are my life’s takeaway from RBI apart,offcourse, from the material sustenance of salary, pension, health care and all the other amenities with which the organization has parented and mentored me.

I am what I am largely due to RBI ,and my life can easily be considered as an ode of gratitude to this very organization.

Thank you RBI, may you continue to touch many, many more lives as you touched the life of Veena Roye.

 

                                       

 Down Memory Lane

 

                                      P.P.Ramachandran

 

                                    When I joined the R B I on December 4, 1956 the Governor was Sir.Benegal Rama Rau- the second Indian Governor. Forty years later when I retired on October 31, 1996 the Governor was Dr C.Rangarajan, who was the 19th Governor. Thus I had worked under 17 Governors. An item I cherish is my rare collection of all the card calendars issued by R B I from 1956 to 1996.I have ensured that my collection includes the very latest 2009 –in all 54 calendars.  2010, I believe is yet to be released. Another prized possession is the first computerized pay-slip for the month of March 1957. I enjoyed a basic salary of Rs 110/- and drew allowances of Rs 57/- totalling Rs. 167/-. With a deduction of Rs 11/- towards P.F I had the princely take-home pay of Rs 156/-.

 

                                     Before I begin, I want to share my joy with you that during the Platinum Jubilee Year I have published my reviews of 11 books by RBI Executives. The books reviewed are the latest works of Drs.Reddy, Rangarajan,  Rakesh Mohan,  V.V.Bhatt,  D.R.Khatkhate, Sarvashri A.G.Chandavarkar, V.G.Pendharkar and a book of tribute to  S.L.N.Simha. To make a “ Round Dozen ” I have submitted my review of the latest R B I publication —“Perspectives on Central Banking—Governors Speak”—which will appear next week. I got appreciative letters for my reviews from Governor Subbarao, Drs,Reddy,Rangarajan, Rakesh Mohan and Narayana Murthy. The twelfth book “Governors Speak” was sent to me by Governor Subbarao.

 

                                ************                                 

                                                In this trip down memory lane I shall recount some historical events of these four decades, to some of which I am privy, some I learnt from reliable seniors. My first set of anecdotes relate to Governors, a Deputy Governor—my second set with the Economic Department and the last two to dear friends.

 

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                                        He was denied admission by the durwan. He was dressed in a flat white dhothi, white full shirt, and a black alpaca coat (generally worn by lawyers).He had a luxuriant tuft in which flowers were tucked in. He was in simple chappals and carried an old black box. No doubt the durwan barred entry to this man as he thought he was some salesman. When he told the durwan that he had come from Madras for an interview for Officer’s post in RBI the durwan allowed him. This was the maiden entry of R.Janakiraman to the majestic old main building. On the interview board were three Deputy Governors, Venkatappiah, Sundaresan and Ramnath. All were in western attire---- one sporting even a bow tie. They were amused to see this candidate. However, they were impressed when they learnt that he held a post-graduate degree in Geography and displayed a score of gold medals he had amassed during his academic career. The Board asked him a number of questions which he answered with ease. Then one of the D.G’s told him RBI has a dress code “You will have to remove your shikha or tuft and have a crop.. Will you do it?” “Certainly not” answered the candidate. “Why?” asked an aghast D.G. “Since you have not offered me a firm job, I am apt to lose my favourite tuft and also not got the job”. They had a hearty laugh and asked him to join the RBI then and there. R.J rose to the level of D.G. He recounted this story at his send off.

 

                                     ****************

                                    I had the privilege of bring the liason                                                                                                 officer of Governor Shri.R.N.Malhotra, when he came for the Central Board meeting in Trivandrum. He desired to visit the ancestral house of his wife. I was assigned the task of taking him there. As Governor he was accorded status of a State Governor and resided in the Raj Bhavan. I took him from there at 8 a.m. We were in an Ambassador car with a police jeep ahead of us blaring a siren.  The van behind us carried half a dozen policemen. We reached Anna Malhotra’s house; the Governor spent some time talking (through me) to some old relatives. As we were about to depart Governor’s brother-in-law barged in  and asked me to request  the Governor to get a job for his son. I duly transmitted the request. Malhotra  frowned and asked me to tell him “ To go to hell”.. What I told him in Malayalam was “there are several worlds for your son”. Governor appeared happy at my long sentence and we drove back to Raj Bhavan.

 

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                                 This story relates to the visit, in February 1958, to R B I of the Managing Director of the I M F—the noted Swedish banker Per Jacobsson. When he was leaving for Delhi, Governor H.V.R.Iengar and Shri V.G.Pendharkar went to the airport to see him off. Jacobsson was tall and quite a hefty person. As he walked towards the plane, an Air-India Boeing 707, Governor Iengar asked Pendharkar how much he thought Jacobsson weighed. Pendharkar said , about 175 pounds. Iengar said, NO, he was much more than that. And just when Jacobsson entered the plane one of its tyres blew, as if to protest the heavy weight thrust upon it without warning, Iengar said, “My God ! Look what has happened. Even the plane has sunk under his weight!”.

                                       *********************

                                                                                          

                

                     Now I  turn to my life in the Economic Department.

 

                                     The year is 1956—over half a century ago. I joined the R B I and was posted to the  D R S—the Department of Research and Statistics—the ancestor of today’s D E A P—affectionately called the Department of Rest and Sleep!. It comprised a number of Divisions and I got posted to the Administration Division and in-charge of the Leave Desk. One morning a peon came running to me and said, “Narasimham Sab Bulatha Hai”. And I went to his cabin, knocked and then entered. He was barely visible behind a huge desk full of papers, file boards and a pile of books. I greeted him and introduced myself. He smiled a boyish smile and asked, “Mr Ramachandran, I wonder whether you can tell me the casual leave to my credit.” Without batting an eye-lid I shot back, “You need not wonder! If you give me a couple of minutes I shall enlighten you.” Narasimham laughed loudly and said, “Young man, it is just a phrase!. That was my first lesson in English from the then Deputy Director, M.Narasimham who went on to become RBI’s Secretary and Governor. He asked me to read the London Economist and the E P W—both of which I religiously read even today.

 

                             ***********************

 

                               I moved from Administration to the Division of Monetary Research headed by Shri. P.V.Ranganathan. He was always immaculately attired in white trouser and shirt and colourful tie and coat. He was noted for his temper and tantrums. Stories about him are legion but I shall restrict myself to one. He had joined the Bank as a Research Superintendent. Fresh from Madras, understandably of Hindi and Marathi he was innocent. One evening as closing time approached he decided to sit for some time to clear some urgent work and instructed his peon not to keep his papers in the cupboard.That worthy, not having followed his instruction in English began keeping his papers in the cupboard. Ranganathan got wild and shouted at him. “You fool. I told you not to keep my papers in!” No sooner was this sentence uttered than was heard the loud sound of a hand slapping a face. The peon moved out of the hall, en route cut his face with a blade and complained to Administration that he was beaten by Ranganathan and he was bleeding. After first aid, the Administrative Officer conducted an enquiry and learnt  from whoever was present that they  only heard the sound of a slap but as to who slapped whom they had no idea. The peon got the benefit of doubt and Ranganathan was warned to be more careful and the case was closed !.

 

                              **************

 

                                            There was another Director who was famous for his bouts of anger and torrential tirade. He summoned his Deputy Director at 12. 30 p.m and instructed him to prepare a note on revising the Bank Rate. And he added “The note must be on my desk by 2 p.m”. Quite a forbidding task. But the Deputy was up to any emergency, worked hard, followed  his boss’s instruction. The Director returned at 2 p.m and was happy to see a file board with a note. He called his Deputy, asked him to sit down and began reading loudly the note. “Good. Very good .Well argued”, he said. As he reached the last page he found another note of similar dimension lurking below. “What is this?” he bellowed. The Deputy answered calmly, “Sir, you had not instructed me whether there should be a rise in Bank rate or a fall. The second note argues for a fall of one per cent!”

                                   ******************

                                 One of the highly respected officials of the Economic Department was Dr T.K.Velayudham, son of a humble station master in Andhra .TKV held the Chair in Monetary Economics established by RBI in the Bombay University. When he was my Deputy Director, he took part in world –wide essay competition conducted by Banker’s Magazine, London. He bagged the first prize .The next year also the coveted first prize was captured by him. When the magazine announced a competition for the third year in succession they wrote a letter to him requesting him not to participate and leave the prize for others. He retired as Principal of B.T.C.

 

                                 *************************

 

                                         We had an Economic Assistant who always wore suits and matching ties. His Officer was the emblem of simplicity—trouser and half bush-shirt. Once our Director wanted something immediately about cement prices and had contacted Nani Palkhiwala. The latter had instructed him to send his representatives. So the Officer and Assistant went to the Office of ACC. They were taken to the chamber of Palkhiwala who gave details required. The Officer had brought a pad and pencil in which he was noting some points. Palkhiwala noticed this and told the be-suited Assistant, “If you want anything more I shall give you happily. Only send your stenographer. You need not waste your valuable time”. The duo were appropriately shocked, especially the Officer.

 

                                     ******************

                                    To come down from high executive levels I had two close friends—Shri Shirali and Shri.Gopalan.I knew of Shirali’s profound knowledge of Marxism and Marxist literature. Among people he admired were S.A.Dange, Asok Mitra and Ranadive.  Shirali  was the subject of many stories in the Department we worked  in-- most of them of a comic type—the recounting of which he himself would enjoy. He would get angry with lightning speed and go at the throat of his opponent but with equal speed he would make up and the two-some would be found with hands on each other’s shoulders. I had taken Shirali and got stitched for him anew pair of trousers from Joe-Martyn, the best tailor in Fort. The next day, it was the anniversary of his father. Shirali had taken permission to come

late to Office. Though the ceremonies began early, it was taking along time and worried about office, Shirali who was in his dhothi in traditional fashion put on the new trousers and ran to the office. He found that he could not sit in the train and also movement had become tough! He cursed me for choosing Joe-Martyn. Reaching office somehow, he was aghast to learn in the bathroom that he had not removed his dhothi before wearing his new trousers!.

                                       *********************

                                  R.S.Gopalan had a ready wit always. He bubbled with effervescence of vintage champagne and it was unthinkable not to laugh when Gopalan was around. During his last days he fell inside a moving bus, cracked his hip bone and was compelled to wear a belt always. He told me, “They say, people died with their boots on .In my case they will say, “Gopalan died with his belt on”. In a few days he passed away. For long years he worked in Economic Department Library. There were two assistants in that library, Shri.Shah and Shri.Singh .An associate from the library, who had resigned  and gone abroad came on a holiday  and visited the library. The first question he asked was, “Are Shah and Singh still in the library?,” Gopalan’s prompt response--“Mr. Sadhwani, Once upon a time Shah and Singh were features of the library. Now they are fixtures.”

                                       One sad concluding note is that except Shri.M.Narasimham and myself ---all the characters in my anecdotes have departed. I have rich memories of my forty years service in RBI and love to recall some of these happy moments. I can recount more delightful stories about RBI  but will reserve these for the RBI Centenary Celebrations.I request CGM Shri Vijaya Bhaskar to kindly make a note and invite me.

.

P.P.Ramachandran--26-02-2010   

 

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Informative Article published in "The Hindu" during SBI Strike

PENSION SCHEME was introduced during the period of East India Company, when it established Presidency banks in Bengal, Bombay and Madras in the 1800's. When these banks were amalgamated into Imperial Bank of India in 1921 through a special Act by the British rulers, the Imperial Bank of India Pension & Guarantee Fund was constituted for the purpose of payment of pension to their employees on their retirement.

In 1955, when Imperial Bank of India was transformed into State Bank of India by a special Act a similar Pension Fund was constituted with a corpus. Under its Rules and Regulations, of the Pension Fund, every month 10 per cent of the salary of each employee was apportioned by the bank towards the corpus. This corpus, over the years, had swelled by March 2005 to Rs. 7,500 crore. The pension payable to employees after retirement and the family pension paid is debited to the pension fund.

The fund is administered by trustees as per the terms and conditions of a Trust Deed. As per Section 50 of the State Bank of India Act, any regulation in connection with the establishment and maintenance of the fund for the benefit of the employees has to be framed with prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Government.

Quite in contrast to the situation obtaining in State Bank of India, a pension scheme was for the first time introduced in the banking industry in 1993 in lieu of Contributory Provident Fund with retrospective effect from January 1, 1986. The Contributory Provident Fund was taken as corpus in respect of public sector banks other than State Bank of India.

In view of the operation of a distinctly defined pension scheme in vogue in State Bank of India for over 100 years, a specific clause was incorporated in the industry wide settlement on wage revision and other service conditions including pension that the scheme introduced for payment of pension and family pension shall not bind SBI employees and that improvements in the pension scheme obtaining in SBI could be discussed and settled by the bank with its recognised federations. Similarly, when subsequent industry level settlements on wage revision and other service conditions including pension and family pension (VII & VIII) were entered into between the Indian Banks Association and the Workmen and Officers' organisations, SBI and its employees were excluded from their purview in regard to pension.

 

Periodic revisions

The above terms of the industry level settlements were to the full knowledge of the banking department in the Finance Ministry.

In such a context, neither the SBI management nor the recognised federations of workmen staff and the officers of the bank were precluded or debarred from negotiating with the management for adequate improvements in the pension scheme and family pension commensurate with the periodical revision in wages and other service conditions once in five years. Accordingly, every time there was an upward revision in wages of employees and officers, negotiations were initiated with the management on pension and family Pension and the consensus arrived at was put up to the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India for prior approval before amendment of the related pension rules.

It would be relevant to mention that even before the industry level settlement for payment of pension at 50 per cent of the last drawn pay, employees in Imperial Bank of India and subsequently in SBI were paid more than 50 per cent of the last drawn pay as pension as per the formula stipulated in the Pension Rules of Imperial Bank of India Pension Fund and subsequently of the SBI Pension Fund.

It was in 1983-84, when retired senior officers were deprived of 50 per cent of the last drawn pay as pension, the Imperial Bank of India Pensioners Association, Delhi, approached the Supreme Court for immediate redress of grievances consequent on which SBI had to amend the rules raising the ceiling on pension to Rs. 1,600, which worked out to 50 per cent of the last drawn pay of such senior officers. Again with the upward revision in wages, the pension ceiling in SBI had to be increased to Rs. 2,400 which also worked out to 50 per cent of the last drawn pay at the material time. This was also done at the intervention of the Supreme Court in 1987.

Recommendations ignored

Subsequently, when another industry level settlement, namely, Fifth Bipartite, came into force, negotiations within SBI for upward revision in pension and family pension were held but recommendations put up by the management were not considered by the Finance Ministry by misusing the powers vested in its as per Section 50 of the State Bank of India Act.

A repeat action was performed by the Finance Ministry since 1997 without considering the relevant factors and the statutory obligations coupled with the commitment given to the bank employees resulting in the pension ceiling remaining static at Rs. 4,250 for over nine years while the ceiling in the banking industry was raised 3-4 times commensurate with the periodical upward revision in wages of bank employees.

Main demands

It is claimed, according to media reports, that the Finance Ministry is apprehensive of wide ramifications in the industry if the demands of SBI employees are conceded.

The demands, in simple terms are : 50 per cent of last drawn pay as pension on a par with RBI, public sector banks and other government services, upward revision in family pension on a par with other sectors and commutation formula on a par with other sectors, D.A. neutralisation on a par with RBI and public sector banks.

The above demands are not in any way over and above the industry level settlement in regard to pension. Hence the Ministry's apprehensions are totally baseless.

It is relevant to point out that even all the above demands can be fully met from the interest of over Rs. 700 crore earned on the corpus of the State Bank of India Pension Fund and not a single paisa needs to be spent from the corpus or from the State's exchequer. While this is the situation, why should the Finance Ministry and the Finance Minister refuse to clear the recommendations put up by the SBI management duly endorsed by the RBI and the Indian Banks' Association? It is a mystery as to why they are not able to give the reasons for not clearing the proposals pending with them all these years, especially when the proposals for review of pension ceiling and other connected demands are not in any way beyond what has been granted at the industry level.

Keeping in view the pronouncements of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the famous D. S. Nakara v Union of India, the Chairman of the Fifth Pay Commission, Justice Rathnavel Pandian gave radical recommendations for improving the outmoded pension scheme for government employees which enabled the government pensioners to live with decency, independence and at a standard equivalent to the pre-retirement level. As such, why is the Finance Ministry hesitant to uphold and implement the principles laid down by the Constitution Bench of the highest court of the land? It is time the Finance Ministry pondered over the gravity of the situation and took remedial action.

V. GANESAN

Former General Secretary, State Banks' staff union, Chennai circle.

 

 

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