good sign

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Jun 2018 11:36:04

THAT the ICICI Bank has ordered a comprehensive enquiry into allegations involving Mrs. Chanda Kochhar, its own Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, and will go full distance to dig out all facts, is a good news from the Indian banking sector dogged by countless frauds and criminal indulgences by high and mighty in the banking system. The biggest charge against Mrs. Kochhar is that she favoured her husband in a business deal in which countless irregularities were suspected. Since the alleged fraud took place at the highest level, the ICICI Bank authorities have decided to institute a comprehensive enquiry into the wrongdoing.We have reasons to hope that this probe would lead to unearthing of all wrongdoings in this particular deal and also in other cases, not necessarily involving Mrs. Chanda Kochhar but also others.

The internal journey of the probe into the alleged fraud by Mrs. Kochhar has been on a predictable pattern. Initially, as the charges were first aired in the media, the ICICI Bank management almost denied those and asserted that it had faith in its MD and CEO. That candid assertion at the initial stages started getting milder every passing day. Now the situation is clear -- the ICICI Bank management wants a comprehensive enquiry to take place in the alleged fraud so that wrongdoing is nailed and wrongdoers are brought to justice. This was absolutely essential in the light of seriousness of allegations that suggested a direct conflict of interest affecting the bank’s professional good.
Even as the country is still askance about the massive fraud in the Punjab National Bank involving Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and even as newer details are coming to fore every day, the development in the ICICI Bank assumes a special significance. For, in the private sector, the position of the ICICI Bank has always been near the top. The Government and the people have always treated it as an iconic institution. In the same vein, the people also treated Mrs. Chanda Kochhar as an icon in Indian banking. All these glorious details had made it morally as well as legally mandatory for the bank to institute a no-nonsense and comprehensive enquiry into the alleged fraud in which conflict of interest seems to have outshone all other considerations.

In fact, the ICICI Bank example needs to be treated by other banks in public, private and cooperative sectors as an example to be emulated. For, as the whole country now knows, the banking sector is fraught with scandals and frauds of mind-boggling proportions. In the past many years, all those wrongdoings had remained hidden due to an unholy collusion between various factors. However, in the past four years, the Narendra Modi Government put together a mechanism that brought to fore a lot of those frauds and irregularities in banks. In such an atmosphere, it has become absolutely necessary that even a hint of a fraud in any bank is subjected to serious and severe scrutiny. When such a regime begins, Indian banking will start getting purer and better in both, management of people’s faith and management of personal and institutional finances.

Of course, there still could be some political elements that may call such a regime a regime of witch-hunt. But that would tantamount to propaganda and nothing more. It is necessary, therefore, that the banks in all sectors learn a right lesson from the two incidents of wrongdoing in Punjab National Bank and the ICICI Bank, and follow a strict and no-nonsense regime of sparing no one, however high and mighty. When such examples come to people’s notice, they will develop faith in banking. The ICICI Bank case, thus, should act as a trigger to all bankers about how not to conduct their operations. It is this lesson whose message should spread far and wide so that the people are happy that they are dealing with banks with character and integrity.