Friday, November 29, 2013


                                                                                          - MILAN K SINHA
The heartening news of elevation of a woman career banker, 57 year old Arundhati Bhattacharya, to the highest post in the largest bank (SBI) of the country finally came a few weeks back. The country has other three woman chairpersons in PSU Banks - Vijayalakshmi R. Iyer of Bank of India (BOI), Shubhalaksmi Panse of Allahabad Bank and Archana Bhargava of united Bank of India(UBI). Interestingly, SBI and BOI chairpersons are functioning from the commercial capital of the country, Mumbai - the western part whereas; Allahabad Bank and UBI chairpersons are controlling their banks from historical city Kolkata, situated in eastern part of the country. It hardly needs any reiteration that in private banking space, women have been occupying top positions – Chanda Kochhar in ICICI Bank, Shikha Sharma in Axis Bank, Naina Lal Kidwai in HSBC, to name only three, for quite some time.

In fact, during the long intervening period since nationalisation in 1969 to date, banks of all sorts have witnessed more changes than expected and have tried to keep pace with these changes- may it be huge technological upgradation from totally manual to technologically advanced CBS (Core Banking Solution) system or income recognition or provision for bad debts or capital adequacy or induction and elevation of woman employees in growing numbers, to name a few. All the reforms and transformation have been primarily aimed at serving the growing number of customers having changing needs and requirements in this dynamic financial market.

Be it so, it would be appropriate to look at the things from the perspective of an ordinary bank customer. Isn't it? And more importantly, what needs to be done not only to serve the customers but also to satisfy them. 
Its common knowledge, whenever a person enters the premises of a bank, a minimum expectation accompanies him. He looks around to find out where his expectation is going to be fulfilled. Here, the front line bank staff having fast response time and eagerness to attend to his job with a smile leave the first indelible impression on the mind of the customer. We know, courtesy always pays and often pays handsomely. Acting and performing the job in consonance with the feeling of extending the same courtesy that one expects and at times demands from the staff of any other organization where he is himself a customer makes all the difference. To say, the staff wins half the battle if he begins putting himself in customer's place. Offering an opportunity to the customer to form the impression that he is being served grudgingly is just short of asking him to move out of the bank. Instead, a cheerful greeting puts the customer at ease, and consequently fosters a sense of goodwill besides bringing good business for the bank.

 Moreover, in order to serve a customer well, one must listen well to find out what actually are his problems. The level of banking service has been as good as one's understanding of customers' need, requirements and his immediate expectation. Notwithstanding, a situation may confront the staff where it is not possible to satisfy the customer at that moment for valid cogent reasons, but he should not say 'YES' only to please the customer momentarily. Here, the banker should act by following the valuable advice of Gandhiji, "A 'NO' uttered from the deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'YES' merely to please or worse to avoid trouble". Yes, it is a great art to say 'NO' and still keep the customer not dissatisfied.

As a matter of fact, any successful bank will have to have ever growing loyal customers to whom it keeps adding value and consolidate the on-going relationship. But, it’s not an easy task to add loyal customers to its fold on a regular basis. Yes, to achieve this most sought after goal, it is of utmost importance to let all its personnel understand well that the transaction effected by a customer is not an one-off-interface, but is the beginning of a long term relationship. That’s why all banks talk loudly of relationship banking. But, we know well that only talking will not lead us to achieve the set target. For practicing relationship banking in real sense of the term, banks must act proactively on ‘3R’ principle of  Recognizing, Respecting and Rewarding its   customers as it has been a sure and certain way not only for sustaining business growth, both top line as well as  bottom line, but also for  image and brand  building exercise of a bank. Interestingly, this strategy of ‘3R’ relationship banking always makes customers feel special and also prompt them to act as bank’s goodwill ambassador which help the bank immensely in any competitive market whatsoever.

With increased social responsibility as well in the wake of government policy of pushing financial inclusion in a big way, it is hoped that banks, more particularly PSU banks would be able to keep itself well equipped with all necessary inputs including nicely trained courteous and computer savvy workforce with more number of women employees at all levels on an ongoing basis so as to ensure delivery of its products and services in a far better manner in days to come. 

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                      Will meet again with Open Mind. All the Best.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


                                                                      - MILAN K SINHA
bhartiya mahila bank

The country’s first all-women 'Bharatiya Mahila Bank', headed by a woman - Usha Ananthasubramanian, came into existence on 19th November, coinciding with the 96th birthday of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi.

Inaugurating the first of its seven branches at a glittering function in Mumbai - the commercial capital of India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the point that much more was needed to be done for women empowerment and also for ensuring their safety. He said, ‘It is an acknowledged fact that access to finance and banking not only helps to empower women, but also broadens the social base of development'.

It is interesting to note that ‘Bharatiya Mahila Bank' is the first public sector bank which has been created. As we know, all other public sector banks of the country have been founded first by individuals and nationalized afterwards by the central government. This is a unique bank which will predominantly cater to the needs and requirements of women. With headquarters in Delhi, the bank plans to have 25 branches in different parts of the country by the end of this financial year and 75 branches each year thereafter.
Undoubtedly, it is a novel and pioneering initiative in Indian banking space which has been witness to variety of changes during the long intervening period since nationalisation of banks in 1969 to date.

So far as women representation in Indian banks is concerned, although it registered improvement to some extent during last few years, yet the gender mismatch is still noticeably high, particularly in Govt. run banks. As per a report, the percentage of female workforce in PSU banks is as low as 17% even after 44 long years of nationalisation of 14 major banks with an aim to make this most important financial sector an agent of social change in the country. If we see this figure of 17% in the light of government policies and pronouncements regarding women empowerment vis-à-vis availability of large number of well-educated woman population across the country, the real issue can be analysed and accordingly addressed on priority.

Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see women occupying top positions both in public as well as private sector banks in growing numbers. Presently, we have as many as four women career bankers as the head of four state-run banks namely, State Bank of India, Bank of India, United Bank of India, and Allahabad Bank. Many women are also working in very senior positions such as executive directors and general managers in PSU banks. Yes, the number of woman work force in private banks are much higher- it's more than 30% of total employees in ICICI Bank with Chanda Kochhar as its Managing Director and CEO.

It is hoped that more number of woman will make their way to occupy positions at all levels not only in banking sector but also in other financial sectors in coming days.

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                           Will meet again with Open Mind. All the Best.
# Published in Patna on 19.11.13

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


                                                                       -By Milan K Sinha

"My image is that of Hindutva but I'll tell you my real thinking. I have said in my state: pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya (toilets first, temples later)," – Narendra Modi

“More than 1.1 billion people in the world practice open defecation. The largest number of these people are in India, followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria” - A UNICEF & WHO Report

"No matter how many temples we go to, we are not going to get salvation. We need to give priority to toilets and cleanliness," -Jairam Ramesh
Surprisingly, however, in our country the poor state of sanitation and lack of toilet facilities have been primarily a matter of political discussion and academic deliberations at different levels. If it is not true, why 60% people of India defecate in the open even after more than 60 years   of planning process; a state like Bihar which has been registering an average state GDP growth of more than 10% for the last seven years, is still known as a state where about 67 percent of rural population does not have access to basic sanitation facilities.

The next few minutes would take you through   some revealing facts about the basic sanitation scenario still prevailing in this second most populous country - a country having a GDP size of two trillion dollar and whose GDP growth rate has been better than that of many well off countries at least during last one decade.

It is interesting to note that “Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan"  - Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was launched way back in 1999-2000 which aimed at motivating rural households to build toilets and encouraging their use to finally achieve an ODF (Open Defecation Free) environment and also make the rural people realize the need for good sanitation practices. The main strategy for implementation of this nation-wide program has been ‘community led’ and ‘people centred’.

But, even after more than a decade, the sordid fact remains. India is termed as the world's capital of open defecation. 53% Indian population lack sanitation facilities, where as it is only 7% in case of Bangladesh and Brazil. More than 60% of households in Uttrakhand, Orissa, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are without toilets. Only 28,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs) are declared as "Nirmal Gram" under TSC   program out of 2.4 lac GPs in the country.   

Yes, it is on record that even Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, termed it as a matter of shame and sorrow, anguish and anger while asserting, ‘Gandhiji gave ‘Quit India’ call in Sevagram for freedom struggle and today I appeal to all of you to make villages open defecation free because it’s an issue of country’s pride.’ And, in all probability, as a follow up action, the union minister initiated few commendable measures including spearheading an emotive and eye catching awareness campaign where in one can see the Bollywood blockbuster film 'Dirty Picture’ and ‘Kahaani’ fame actress, Vidya Balan in a nicely shot social advertisement stressing the need of having a toilet for each family in rural India.

It is, undoubtedly praiseworthy that few states have taken encouraging initiatives in this direction. Sikkim is one of them and it has earned the honor of becoming the first state in the country which is Open-Defecation Free. Kerala and Himachal Pradesh will soon be in that bracket.

Notwithstanding few such sporadic measures being taken at the level of central government and by  few states, albeit belatedly,  no one can deny the fact that the impact of deplorable  state of sanitation over the decades has been  many and multi-dimensional on health  and hygiene of common Indians and also on the country's much talked about stories of 'economic prosperity'.
It has been a painful reality that inadequate  supply of clean and drinkable water together with lack of toilet and urinal facilities in schools are major cause of poor attendance and health problems of the children. As far as adolescent girls are concerned, they tend to drop out of the school due to these reasons. Generally speaking, women and girls, particularly in villages find it very embarrassing and insulting for not having the facility of a toilet at home as they have no other option but to defecate in the open only after sunset, that too at the cost of their health and personal safety.

It is a common knowledge that defecation in open is fraught with high risk of microbial contamination of water which is a major cause of diarrhea and other intestinal infections among the children. Health problems pertaining to  a large section of population due to the aforesaid reasons has a multidimensional impact on our economy in terms of productivity losses, increased expenses  in the name of  providing medical treatment by the government besides having damaging effect on the Shining/Rising India image internationally. If one calculates the net financial loss to the exchequer for not having the basic sanitation facilities, it would be an astounding figure.

Everyone knows for sure, where there is will, there is a way, and so is the cardinal truth that where there is a malady, there must have a remedy. And the remedy of this malady is not far- fetched either. It can very well be in place by initiating and/or accelerating few time bound action plans. State Governments have to   incorporate it on their top agenda items for implementation and Central government to provide adequate financial support in this regard. All Gram Panchayats (GPs) have to identify the needy households and ensure provision of toilet  within the stipulated  time period of maximum two years by availing the required support from the local government authorities. In order to lend active moral support to this top priority government sponsored program, mass awareness campaign is required to be undertaken  effectively on an ongoing basis by all GPs  and other elected bodies  among the affected masses particularly the poor and illiterates. Yes, media has a great role to play in this regard. It must focus its full attention on this vital issue   and report the progress and also the anomaly, if any, being adopted by local implementing machinery regularly.

Our millions of disadvantaged countrymen don’t demand Malls & Museums, Airports & Aircrafts; they demand only basic necessities of a human life. So, the time has come for the civil society, especially women organizations, to come forward in a decisive manner to compel all political parties to unanimously agree to list this item (provision of a toilet for every household) on top of their political agenda along with Food, Clothing & Shelter. Would our political masters be able to act genuinely in this regard to be called really people’s representative, only their action tell in next couple of months.

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                                 Will meet again with Open Mind. All the Best.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


                                                                    -MILAN K SINHA

Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children".

This year too, on the eve of Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday on 14th November, Children's Day will be  celebrated; routine functions to be held on this day where all kinds of promises for the welfare of our children will be  made (and  possibly forgotten too as usual) by the ruling political class and their followers- the officials of related departments. Some schools and some NGOs too will organize functions on this occasion and reiterate their concern for the children which is to be covered by newspapers as per the available space for such normal routine activities.

Ironically however, in our country it doesn't make a news if poor and destitute children are found working in roadside tea shops, hotels, dhabas or selling gutkha, cigarettes etc. in running trains/buses or doing household jobs for high ups of our society in their Gareebkhanas (read luxury homes) or picking up waste foods outside the wedding premises or begging in front of a temple, mosque etc. May be because this can mar the country’s make belief global image of one of the fastest growing economies of the world for which everyone in the government is busy improving the prospects of GDP growth by hook or by crook. No doubt, all distressing facts related to our children will be seen later on by them, if time permits.

Notwithstanding the thoughts and actions of power that be with regard to future of country's large children population, it would not be out of place to know about  the present status of two major issues seriously impacting children's wellbeing - education and health.

There is no denying the fact that education of our children is very necessary for cultural, social and economic development of diverse sections of society like ours. Keeping this in view, two major initiatives namely Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 were taken during last one decade. The aim of SSA has been  to bridge social, regional and gender gaps, with the active participation of the community in the management of schools, while RTE Act  which actually came into force  from 1st April,2010 provides for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years.
Both SSA and RTE Act put lots of emphasis on universalization of education at the elementary level. As a result, enrollment rate in schools improved to a reasonable extent. So, the protagonists of government policies may very well claim that education has been on the Centre stage of our national politics for some years now. But when we take a look on the ground realities in totality, we encounter with the following facts:

Our literacy percentage is only 74%. Kerala being highest with 94% and Bihar being lowest with 63%.School dropout percentage is still more than 40%.The drop out percentage is even worse than that of Bangladesh and Vietnam - countries that got independence more than two decades later.

We spend less than 2% of our national budget on education for the children who constitute 25% of our total population.The dropout percentage is higher among tribal, economically weaker sections of society etc., the main reasons being: prevalence of child labour as means to supplement parents' income, poor management of Mid-Day Meal Scheme, lack of adequate infrastructural facilities in schools etc.

In spite of constitutional provisions regarding Right to Education and government's repeated declaration and promises for providing basic education to all children, our performance on this count is still dismally poor.

It hardly needs reiteration that how important it is for the country's real development to have a healthy population, more particularly of women and children. We talk and promise so much on the issue of child and woman welfare and do roll out so many plans and strategies. But malnutrition and under-nutrition have not stopped taking its toll in our country.

So far as child nutrition and overall health is concerned, it hardly needs reiteration that how important it is for the country's real development to have a healthy population. Can we think of a strong India without healthy and strong citizens, present and future? Undoubtedly, many programs including ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) are being implemented across the country, the pace and effectiveness needs to be substantially improved in order to address the following shameful and equally painful facts:

One in every three malnourished children in the world live in India.8.8 lac children die every year, more than 100 deaths per hour in India.The IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) in many states is still more than 50 per thousand for children up to the age of 5 years where as it should be at least below 30 per thousand. About 50% of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition.26% of the world's childhood vaccine preventable deaths take place in the country.Anemia affects 74% of children under the age of three.As high as 44% children under five years are underweight.

Malnutrition in early childhood has serious long term consequences because it impedes development of vital life organs.

These are few revealing facts which raise many nagging questions to be replied by the ruling establishment at the Centre as well as in states and union territories in this sixty three year old sovereign republic along with thousands of NGOs reportedly working for the welfare of these less fortunate children.

If anybody can even estimate, if not calculate the amount which has been expended on such show off celebrations on children's day last year and years before, we can have the figure running in hundreds of millions. Can a country which lobby for international borrowings for funding welfare programs for disadvantaged section of society, afford to waste public money like this?

Can't we stop all such unnecessary and avoidable expenses drawn from public exchequer to make the same fund available instead for addressing effectively the serious child related problems mentioned here-in-above? This may be one small tribute to Chacha Nehru in real sense and also to his political mentor Mahatma Gandhi who on one occasion said, "If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against all ills in the society, we shall have to begin with the children."

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                           Will meet again with Open Mind. All the Best.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


                                                                     - MILAN K SINHA
Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time - Rabindranath Tagore


As per newspaper reports, CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) found that schools were assigning too many projects in each subject to individual students which compelled students to do these projects at home. In a letter sent to schools, CBSE said, "Artificial subject boundaries impede contextualized learning and deprive students of exploring the interconnectedness of different forms of knowledge. Moreover the transfer of knowledge from one subject to other can most effectively be demonstrated and strengthened through multidisciplinary projects".

In the name of modern and progressive education system in the country, the stress of children at their impressionable age is becoming heavy which, experts feel, if not checked and corrected, would be disastrous in coming years.

Four to six hours quality teaching at school is more than enough for the mental development of any child in this age of information and technological boom. In fact, in most of our schools, the teachers are not adequately qualified, what to talk of properly trained. Many private schools have become the commercial establishments making money by exploiting the guardians to the extent possible. And on top of this, the inhumane act of loading projects to be completed at home thereby keeping the children stressed further, sometimes beyond redemption for inexplicable reasons.

If an independent survey is conducted to look into the facilities available for sports and other extra-curricular activities to students in the schools and if at all available, how much time the students are engaged in such activities on a regular basis, it can very well be observed that our children at large are compelled to be away from extra-curricular activities which is so essential for the healthy growth of a child.

This is an open fact that extracurricular activities are great learning as well as self-fulfilling experience in itself. It greatly helps develop many leadership qualities - from time management to relationship building to discovering one's own latent potential and inherent strengths and what not, which are the vital prerequisites for all round upbringing - emotionally, socially, morally, intellectually and physically, of our children.

CBSE authorities should take into account these facts while preparing the course curriculum as well as guidelines for school administration to ensure grooming our own children as strong, sensible and responsible citizens of the country.

As always, I'm keen to know what do you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post comments to share your views and experiences.

         Will meet again with Open MindAll the Best.

# Published in Patna
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