India’s banking system is failing the common you and me


India lost the finals of ICC Champion’s trophy; a cricket tournament that many believe is a mini World Cup. I loved cricket once. I loved it to such an extent that I would rather watch Sachin, Ganguly, and Dravid bat than study for my exams. However, later in my life I fell in love with fisheries sciences and began spending more time reading books and giving less importance to sports that others played. The same education took me from shore-to-shore and I got to see a whole new world with my own eyes. In the year 2012, I received an international scholarship from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for a PhD programme in Canada. I was excited. However, there was a catch – to obtain the scholarship I had to furnish a bank guarantee of $10,000 U.S. in favour of ICAR. This would mean that I was required to deposit $10,000 in a bank and sign a legal bond saying that if I failed to finish my PhD the entire sum would be transferred from my account to ICAR. My father had just switched his business from electronic repair to selling bags and we did not have that much money. I also needed money to obtain passport, VISA, study permit, English language proficiency certificate, warm clothes, and a even more money to pay for my room rent and tuition fees because I would be receiving money from ICAR only after one month (I also had to eat, so needed money to buy groceries). I was worried about loosing the opportunity but my parents felt guilty of not being able to provide me enough for my education. I could have probably lived without a foreign degree but my father would have never. I decided to go from bank to bank and ask them for loan against whatever we had. My mother was ready to sell her gold but we did not even have enough of that. We owned a house on a large patch of land that was clearly worth more than ten times the money we needed.

I took all the documents to show to the banks that we owned the house and we were willing to obtain a loan of only $10,000 against it. Every bank refused. It was the month of June – peak summers – and I walked, to every bank, far and near, begging for money. Even though we owned the house, I was made to feel as if I was begging like a peasant from a Premchand’s novel. Most banks thought it was too risky to put our house against the loan and they did not want the hassle of auctioning it in the event of my failure to meet the necessary requirements of the bond. Every bank wanted a 100% cash deposit that I did not have. A bank officer even said that there is no guarantee that I would finish my PhD degree, and that I might jusg fail one of the exams. I showed him all the gold medals I had received for being University topper in my bachelor’s and master’s degree to which he said that I might just die and not finish the degree. I cried within. I really did not want my parents to be thrown out of their home. That would be too much for them to tolerate after bearing my death.

After being turned away by all the banks, my father did what he would have never done – he asked his elder brother to loan us the money. My father knew that by doing this his brother would never miss an opportunity to make us realise that he ‘owned’ us and we were worthless. But he was ready to do that for my sake. Within a day the money was transferred to my account by my uncle. Now, all the banks were more than happy to prepare a bank guarantee for me. Some banks even wanted me to open a foreign currency account with them. I receive calls from such bank even now but I still have a plain savings bank account. I save a lot from my scholarship and when I look back I realise that had the banks allowed us a loan, I would have paid it back to them with interest in 18 months. But, the banks would have not wanted that. They want, in all the cases, to earn money. Pure bloodsuckers. Today I hate to even look at the banks.

So, when India was playing the ICC Champion’s trophy I was still not following the game; however, I was intrigued by the presence of Vijay Mallya in the cricket stadium in England. Vijay had taken millions of money as loans from banks, defaulted on all of them, and fled India to escape being incarcerated. On one hand I am amused to see how people think that Vijay Mallya has audacity to challenge the banks, on the other hand I am angered to see that banks had trust on a businessman and lent him millions but each of those banks refused to loan me just $10,000 against something that was far more valuable. As I said before, I am not interested in cricket but I have still not forgotten the humiliation I received from the banks.

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