Sucheta Dalal
Opaque RBI rewards charge-sheeted official

RBI director, who once scrambled to pay Rs20 lakhs to a hoax caller, was rewarded with promotion to oversee NBFCs!

Putting a lid on officers' scandals is not new to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Last week, Moneylife reported that the blemished track record of Anand Sinha, the deputy govenor designate had been informed to the cabinet secretary and finance minister by an activist.
 
(http://www.moneylife.in/article/72/11085.html) We now discover that a dangerous lack of judgement on an even major issue of indiscretion has been similarly buried. In fact, the case almost reads like a piece of fiction.

On 18 December 2003, the regional director of the RBI posted at Bhopal received a call from someone who claimed to be the then RBI governor, YV Reddy. (Some say he claimed to be a relative in Bhopal, but that will only make the RBI official's actions worse.) The caller told the regional director (RD) that he urgently needed her to arrange Rs20 lakhs for some payments to be made. The money had to be in cash.

The RD immediately called up some of her deputies and rushed around trying to raise cash for the "governor's emergency needs". But Rs 20 lakhs was difficult to raise in a jiffy, even for an officer charged with supervising all banks in the Bhopal region. So she sprang into action and got her junior officers at the RBI and others to withdraw cash, added some of her own money and rustled up Rs9 lakh. The "governor" or his agent was willing to accept the smaller amount raised and asked for the money to be delivered under a bridge in Bhopal. The regional director hopped into an autorickshaw to personally deliver the money. Even later, she did not check back with the governor's office to ask if he had legitimately sought the money. She probably hoped to be quietly rewarded.

In January, the Bhopal police caught the imposter in another case and only then did the pay-off arranged by the RD come to light. The matter was reported to the head office, which immediately sent a team from the vigilance department to conduct an inquiry. A preliminary inquiry found that "the regional director acted in a most unusual manner, and not only did she fail to exercise her judgment, but her conduct was suspicious and required further investigation. It also held that she coerced a number of officers working under her to collect money". She was transferred out of Bhopal and not given any assignment.

When this episode came to the attention of Dr YV Reddy, he was beside himself with anger. The officer and her juniors were charge-sheeted. A former deputy governor correctly wanted her sacked. After all, how can anyone in such a responsible position be so stupid? Wouldn't she at least check if the call had indeed come from the governor? On the flip side, it would suggest that the officer believed that an RBI governor is capable of asking a regional director to gather Rs20 lakh in cash at short notice and have it delivered to strangers under a bridge! That the senior officer acted on it is a strange reflection of what really goes on inside the RBI. It also suggests that someone at the level of a regional director, did not for a moment think that raising private cash cannot be part of her duties and refused to comply.

Subsequently, a departmental inquiry found her guilty of gross misconduct and negligence and she was demoted from the rank of CGM to GM. Her juniors who blindly followed her orders received similar slaps. But the RBI decided not to sack her. Instead, she was posted as vice principal, Bankers Training College, where she remained from June 2004 until the end of 2006.

But at the RBI, even such gross blunders do not end your career if you have godmothers at senior levels. Once the dust over her Bhopal shenanigans had settled down, she was promoted again in 2007 as chief general manager and given a crucially important post in the Department of Banking Supervision. Since 2010, she is chief general manager in charge the Department of Non-Banking Financial Supervision-an extremely important post at the RBI. Her name is Usha Subramaniam. That the central bank can bury a problem as serious as this is yet another reason why we demand that there needs to be more sunshine on RBI's many departments that have nothing to do with deciding the country's monetary policy.

In effect, even an official with no common sense and convenient moral flexibility can easily get away after such a sordid episode. In this case, our sources say that Ms Subramaniam's career was revived by none other than deputy governor Ms Shyamala Gopinath. RBI governor Dr D Subba Rao has currently charged Ms Gopinath with handling as many as 21 departments. Clearly, the RBI governor needs to dig into the RBI files.

We queried the governor whether this episode and the subsequent elevation of a charge-sheeted senior official meets with his approval. He did not reply. Meanwhile, this is yet another issue that Deepak Mehra from the Forum for Financial Fairness in Mumbai is set to take up with the finance ministry.
 

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COMMENTS

k gopalakrishnan

5 years ago

It is surprising that the author digs up the case after so many years. Has she got paid for this job through the distractors of RBI? As an ex collegue from RBI, I know her well. Though at times abrasive, her honesty and integrity is beyond any doubt and especially she is far superior to the author both with regard to intelligence and knowledge of the subject. The author was apparently peeved when she was not taken seriously by Mr. Anand Sinha at the time of Harshad Mehta scam and she wanted him to repay for this and hence her fumings. But what about Ms. Uma. Any one in the know of things as to why the author is peeved at her?( I wish I had seen this news item earlier)

REPLY

amod ansari

In Reply to k gopalakrishnan 5 years ago

what is this personal and personalised garbage you are posting. check what is happening in the country -- telecom scam, citibank scam, realty scams, adarsh scam .... you manage a worms eye view of things by reducing everything to personal issues. And you link it back to a couple of decades of spite. Wow... no wonder India is heading to become a banana republic .. where you simply cannot ask for competence.

Arif Allana

5 years ago

Such cases need to be highlighted in Nationa Newspapers and Channels . If it had been in pvt sector the person concerned would have been immediately sacked

nitpam

5 years ago

Sucheta Madam,it is a request that you should write against those DNBS officials who invested in Limosine and got cheated and there was a news item how these officials could protect the common investors if they get cheated,their efficiency is also questionable and some of these officials have also been promoted and some are on the verge of being protected.Please pose question to Governor of RBI on the said issue,if Uma Subramanins continuing in RBI is questionable then what about those DNBS officers who themselves were the victims of being cheated by limosine?

Kanta

5 years ago

I agree with the views of Nitpam who correctly pointed that she is against the corruption. Why the incidence which took place years back appeared now? It shows that there are some employees involved whose bills etc. are questioned by the madam. I opine that one should investigate further. As far as she is concerned, she is very honest and she never spares the one who does wrong deeds. I am sure that those who are corrupt will never support her.

nitpam

5 years ago

What about those efficient non corrupt officials who progressed in her regime,I think her being harsh on officials who have misused their position in getting their children recruited in foreign banksand private institutions and her compelling the officials to perform their duties, she is definately against those work sheirkers taking fat salary and perks,without performing. She compels officials to deliver the goods,not like many top officials who themselves are corrupt or inefficient and turn a nelsons eye to what other do.There may be few disgruntled elements but she has suitably rewarded them who have discharged their duty and done justice to the salary that they receive.If a probe is conducted by CBI it will be proved that officials have misused their position to get theirr children recruited in Banks and financial institutions I am sure corrupt will never support her.

S Verghese

5 years ago

This was a news item in the Bhopal papers at one time. Nothing happened to Uma, except for the period of inactivity which she gainfully used to upgrade her qualifications on a full pay! Why did this come up only now in your column? The lady has ruined many a career of subordinates in her departments. She took off all her grief by spoiling the reports of promising officers. She came back to power in full force & with a vengence, never felt remorse at the agressive & rude mannerisms while dealing with faculty members at Bankers Training College & inspecting officers in her DBS days.

nitpam

5 years ago

Yes it is true that the incident has occured but not the amount what you have quoted.The other side of the lady should be seen,she is one of the rarest asset to the bank,as DBS chief she has sent chills in spine of the banks under her jurisdiction.She is doing the same with NBFC's at present.You should look into the other side also her honesty,sincerety and expertise banking knowledge.Being a spinster,she has no kith kin like many of top executives to be posted as executives in private sector bank or NBFC's.Her honesty sends shiver to the disgruntled officers who have been resorting to practises of claiming bogus bills or claiming bills not entitled as per rules.She terrifies the corrupt if the ugly incident which has taken is set aside she definately needs to hold the chair which is disputed by you>I canassure you if you investigate the other side of her qualites,you may canvass for her elevation to higherpost.Please make a investigation and one error cannot negatethe other side of qualites.All the Best.

Pantulu

5 years ago

I am really surprised how such things can happen in Reserve Bank. I worked in Public sector also and can confidently say that rules are to be followed even if the requirement is urgent. Have the rules changed as in the case of 2G spectrum? Most of our scams can be traced to not following rules. Is this the effect of so-called liberalisation?

R Balakrishnan

6 years ago

If Manmohan Singh can become a PM, a Rangarajan can become a governor or head the planning commission, at least these are resourceful persons and do not pretend to be intellectually honest. And it is time someone bought a big lock and shut down the RBI. Their battle against inflation is getting to be a joke. And after YV Reddy, the RBI is merely an extension of North Block. So, why waste resources on a RBI if north block is taking 'care' of us?

ramakrishna

6 years ago

This era is like "Yadha Raaja Thadha

Praja" "yadha praja thadha Raja"the qulities rulers have similarly officers,the qulities people have similarly rulers.ultimately people are sufferers

Santhana

6 years ago

Chief General Manager at RBI being so stupid!! Can't imagine. May be the more stupid you are the higher you go!! How they got in at the first place into RBI. Sure she would not have got thro ST/SC quota, only thro God fathers like Ms.Gopinath

REPLY

psb

In Reply to Santhana 5 years ago

It's a simple common sense, the person in question belongs to upper class Tamil Nadu Brahmin community and the person who reviewed her file also belongs to the same community, where is the question of worrying about SC/ST!!!!. The merits do not matter here.

Samar

6 years ago

RBI was given a chance to reply, but I wonder why they kept mum. What do they have to hide?

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