lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Saturday, July 01, 2006


This time I went prepared.

I went with a grudge and a determination to play hardball and get my rights; indeed, I went looking for a scrap, a scene, a dogfight and a tantrum. No cliché barred.

I went to see the manager of the State Bank of India about my mutilated and soiled notes his staff had refused to exchange a fortnight before.

I had with me the printouts of the Reserve Bank of India guidelines that I researched online, a printout of the letter I received from RBI in reply to my query, and a copy of the letter I drafted invoking the Right to Information Act. I'd spent some time online getting these, and I have greensatya to thank for the format of the request letter.

(For those who came in late, I had earlier tried to exchange mutilated and soiled currency at my branch of State Bank of India, and was told I had to repair them first. I wrote about it here, and here.)

So I went to see the manager. I said I wanted to register a complaint and a query, and asked for the branch's complaint register. He asked me what my problem was. I told him about my attempt to exchange my mutilated currency and what his staff told me I had to do.

I asked the manager if he could show me where it was written, that persons seeking to exchange bad currency notes had to paste bits of paper on the torn portions. I said I wanted to see the Reserve Bank of India's guidelines or directives to banks about this matter.

He patiently explained that this repair adds life to the currency note. "We don't send them piece by piece to RBI, you see. They have to stacked in bundles of hundreds, and the notes need to be in some good repair before they can be handled," he said.

I said that I would still like to see some written directives where it is stated clearly that people seeking to exchange notes have to do the repair. And if it was the case, why doesn’t the bank provide glue and paper and scissors? And a counter to carry out this project?

"We are not the Post Office to provide glue and counters," was the frosty reply. He added that they received cash and accepted deposits and had counters for that purpose, but none for amateur currency repairs.

I thought of mentioning that I received a letter from RBI that stated, while hedging about guidelines, that they will send circulars asking banks to provide glue and paper; but decided to ask a few more questions before I did that. I asked why they didn't have notices prominently displaying this requirement for the public to know the procedure. After all, they only had a notice saying that this bank accepted and exchanged soiled or mutilated notes, by the order of Reserve Bank of India.

You can go to RBI and try to exchange your notes, you will find the procedure is the same, I was told brusquely.

Like a broken record, I asked again to see written rules and regulations. And added that I would like to register a complaint so that my request, my question, and my complaint are all on record. I asked for their complaints register again.

Well, the manager was a busy man. A gopher came in with papers to sign and there were a few phone calls. I sat and waited. More signatures, more files to dispose of, more ignoring the pesky troublemaker. I sat and waited.

He looked up and asked me if I had an account at that branch. I informed him that we had several, not to mention deposits and locker facilities. He called for somebody to come in and see him.

The same gent who explained how I had to do cut and paste repair work on the bank notes the last time came in. He saw me and started spluttering. He waxed eloquent on how he informed me about procedures, regulations and guidelines and the state of repair of the notes before they can be exchanged.

The manager cut him short and said, "Exchange the lady's notes for her."

I was invited to go to the cash counter and as I complied, I wondered if I should tell the manager of the ammunition I hadn't deployed yet: the guidelines I collected, and the Right to Information request I was going to present him with. (Though the RBI letter was of no use other than to contradict him.) I decided not to bother.

I watched that gent do the cut and paste repair job on my mutilated currency with great satisfaction, though.



Blogger greensatya said...

It is admirable that you didn't get bogged down by the arrogant attitude of the bank staff and brought them to task.

I wish all of us start doing this to bring about a lasting change.

2:39 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

This must be the first recorded instance of a bank employee actually carrying out his managers' instructions. Usually, the managers are terrified of their staff.

3:15 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

This goes to prove that they don't have explicit guidelines about it, but it is their preferred policy so they can harass the public.

Not everybody has the tenacity to see it through, after all. Congrats, Lali.

5:30 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Greensatya- What can I say? I went equipped for a battle and found I didn't have to fire a shot. I just had to announce my intentions.

True, more of us should be doing this kind of aggressive demanding of rights.

Frankly, if the RBI had a clause that said we have to repair notes, I'd write in and ask why, too. Yet they only have notices saying various banks will exchange bad currency, nothing about the prior requirements. Unstated insider policies are just not on, in institutions like RBI and banks.

Thanks once again for the RTI form letter.

10:02 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Raj- The exception that proves the rule, maybe?

You exaggerate, though. The manager surely has a say in rating the employees' performance? And that would mean they'd defer to the manager once in a while? Like when they have to humour a pesky customer?

10:08 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- Thanks. I hate to think that they intentionally set out to harass the public. Maybe they just dislike the cut and paste part of the job and prefer to delegate it. :D

10:10 pm  
Anonymous badari narayanan said...

Surprised by these procedures. Here in Chennai, banks simply replace notes over the counter without any bother.

10:49 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Badari- Not all cities, or bank branches are that efficient, I am afraid. Count your blessings. :D

2:23 pm  

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