Nirav Modi cheated banks. Now banks know how it feels

For 70 years, banks have treated the average citizen with little respect.

 |  BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES  |  4-minute read |   13-09-2018
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Germans have a word for it. Schadenfreude. Pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune. When Nirav Modi ran away with thousands of crores from Punjab National Bank, I had this oddly satisfying feeling of Schadenfreude: A member of the public defrauded the institutionalised fraud that banks have become for members of the public.

I do have a personal grudge. PNB owes me just a little over Rs 30,000. It makes no attempts to pay that money to me. It's a bank. I have to attempt every time. I have travelled to its branch office, called and emailed, but it always comes to naught. It's a pain when the bank owes you money. And it's death if you owe money to the bank. Please consider the reverse.

If I owed PNB the same money, I would have been sent legal notices threatening ruin. My credit rating would go for a toss, crippling my case for a loan in the future. They would intimidate me and the bank would spend lakhs on legal fees to extract a few thousands from me. Because it can. A financial giant versus an average citizen, the battle has to be asymmetric and one-sided.

So, when a TV panelist shouts that Nirav Modi has run away with our money, I know they believe we are all too dumb to not believe the propaganda. The fact is Nirav Modi has run away with a bank's (or banks') money. When they talk about sending Vijay Mallya to jail, I do think of the Kingfisher Airlines employees who were not paid for months before the airline collapsed. But not an ounce of sympathy for the banks that gave him the thousands of crores.

nirav-story_02151803_091318041035.jpgThe first, and last, laugh: No point getting het-up. The fact is, Nirav Modi has run away with a bank's (or banks') money. (Photo Credit: PTI)

Mostly because banks have no empathy. They will intimidate, shame and hound farmers to death over loans that are a tiny fraction of the loans that the powerful take and forget to return. The more resourceful among them fight protracted legal battles and force the banks to settle and surrender. All this, while sauntering in and out of their mansions to fly in their private machines. Nothing happens to them or their accountants who cook the books tender and juicy.

Minor crooks like Mallya and Modi-Choksi try and flee from the clutches of the laughable long arms of law. They can buy emigration ease, purchase those who give chase and blow smoke into the eyes of the media that films the farce to remind the average citizen that it is his money that the crooks have swindled. The average citizen gets agitated, believing it is his or her money. What she doesn't know is that all this is a lie.

mallya-story_091318041143.jpgPeople like Mallya try and flee from the clutches of the laughable 'long arms of law'. (Photo Credit: PTI)

I do not believe that the money in the banks are our money, that I have some personal stake in this money trail. Do you notice that during every agitation, the public sets fire to public property? Insisting that it is all ours obviously doesn't suffice. We don't feel a building or bus is ours just because we have been told so. The public has no sense of ownership. They have always felt like servants of the system – not owners. Just observe how public banks have been treating the public, unless you are extremely rich or a crook.

The biggest trick governments pull off is to make people believe it belongs to them. The fact is, for 70 years, the banks have mistreated the people, exploited the poor and sucked up to the rich. So, when Raghuram Rajan said the Mudra Yojana would worsen the NPA crisis, I couldn't help but smile. Finally, the lakh loans are going to give the crore ones a run for their money. Some inclusive Yojana, finally! Thank you, Mr Modi, for the Prime Minister Equaliser Yojana where Mahesh from Ultadanga gets his share in the Great Indian NPA Festival with Nirav Modi of Mumbai. No parity, but the public has a foot in, at least.

I hope Mudra Yojana debtors are treated with the same kid gloves banks use in case of big industrialists. As for my money, I hope to retrieve it from the faceless, nameless entity that treats me like a faceless, nameless closed account. I will make another call, I will get another reference number and if I am lucky, a promise. If the bank collapses before it sends the money, I will consider it a sacrifice in a good cause. But I know banks don't fail. The government will extort taxes from the salaried citizen to save the bank from its own greed and crony capitalists. Do Germans have a word for that?

Also read: A failure of due process: How Mehul Choksi-Nirav Modi planned the great escape


Kamlesh Singh Kamlesh Singh @kamleshksingh

Journalism student. Ed honcho at the India Today Group Mediaplex. God's Loyal Opposition. Useful Warning: Tweets may hurt religious sentiments.

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