Even as the J&K Bank has been consistently showing improvement in its asset management with the NPA that had reached Rs20,000 crores in October 2016 having been brought down to roughly Rs 6000 crores, which by all standards is no mean an achievement, came the dampener in the shape of November 22nd 2018 SAC decision! The ill-advised and ill conceived decision has been taken posthaste and has met with expected resistance from people at large. Bringing the JK Bank simultaneously under the purview of RTI, CVC Guidelines and state legislature which tantamount to rendering it in to a Public Sector Undertaking. Contrary to the avowed objective of the decision of circumventing chances for undesirable interference in to its working, the SAC decision makes it more vulnerable to interference by every Tom, Dick and Harry. The justification offered by an official spokesman on 24rth November following the public outcry over the controversial SAC decision, “Extension of RTI Act and CVC guidelines is only aimed at promoting Good Governance and transparency in the functioning of the Bank, as this premiere financial institution has often been questioned on both these counts by the general public,” is not at all convincing for the general public who view the J&K Finance Department’s proposal, approved by SAC, as fraught with grave risks for the institution. And their apprehensions are not misplaced as some political parties have been publicly demanding complete takeover of the bank by the Union Government. Yes there have been complaints regarding recruitment or some contracts allotted in the past but that does not mean that the bank is enveloped in an irretrievable situation. Instead it has shown improvement in its financial health as is evident from the results of the great effort put in by the bank yielding 67% reduction in NPA in just two years period. The bank is uniquely placed in that it is the only bank in India that is subjected to audit by Accountant General and its annual reports are yearly placed before the state legislature. The SAC, doesn’t have a representative character even though the Governor enjoys some powers under the state constitution. Conventionally most of the governors have avoided taking controversial decisions of the ilk. The bank has been a backbone to the state economy in that this is the only financial institution that has maintained the desirable Credit-Deposit Ratio all through its history. And it has helped the state government from time to time in tiding over cash crunch faced by it. The SAC must respect the popular demand for revocation of its decision rendering it in to a PSU.
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