Strengths of a state come from a dynamic impact of many things mostly from the institutions it is occupied or run by. A free and vast space without being occupied by vibrant institutions will yield too little for the inhabitants and so a responsible state cultivates institutions and nurtures their independent and responsible approach. On this mini part of this great planet the common experience regarding the institutions run by the state is not satisfactory and the one institute which survived decades of political turmoil and different preferences of the successive governments in a suspicious atmosphere created by the unstable conditions is undoubtedly the J&K Bank. Not ignoring the fact that it enjoys monopoly in many areas, yet if we can assess how it survived to maintain its independent nature without losing any of its assets ever, then due credit goes to its brilliant management. It is the top executive level of the Bank which has to resist the external influences after proper calculations and this Bank has surely done it in its best interests. Being realistic in approach, we can never be exactly mathematical so minor things which sometimes throw an impression that this institution has been hijacked is something which is natural for any entity in its survival. When stake holders are many then any one with major stakes may try to influence the things in its own way but still the autonomy this Bank has maintained and retained because of its performances is worth praise.
Such performances are an outcome of a long experience of either the institute itself or because of the folk of professionals it has been managed by. Here in the case of J&K Bank it can’t be only one of the two factors but it has to be a blend of both. Because on one hand the economy of the state of J&K is tourism and agriculture driven (now horticulture driven) and on the other hand each square yard of J&K has a dimension of instability associated with it. Mistrust is running deep in political lithosphere and it is on the same crust this Bank had to develop its roots. It not only maintained a strong grip on the ground but with the passage of time it bore fruits and now it has gardens of its own. All the major and minor centres of business activities throughout J&K have been occupied by this Bank in its ambitious expansion through its big and small Business Units as well as Khidmat Centres and now it has the potential to survive even without being favored by the state itself. Such brilliant results can easily be attributed to its managerial and operational cohesiveness.
In the recent controversy of giving this Bank a PSU status, the J&K Bank Employees Association President Mr. Madni was truly confidant in claiming that it can repay all the shares of the Government to free this Bank from any external influence which may jeopardize its survival. Such confidence in the claims of a responsible executive of the Bank is something seriously inspiring. This rarely happens in the history of institutions. The controversy that arose was going to take away from this Bank all that it had gained in its history but the resistance shown by the Bank (in its unofficial capacity) is something unique. Normally institutions flow and become rubble under the influence of such situations but here this Bank again survived. The one common impression was that all the employees of the Bank had synchronized their demands. This too is rare.
Employing thousands of professionals from time to time and properly advertising its image in unique styles and presentations and giving always an ethnic touch to its services, flavoring its services with local preferences has made this Bank apna bank (my own bank) in the whole of J&K. One of the best examples of such a thing are Khidmat Centres. This name Khidmat Centre in its actual existence is an entrepreneurship engaging local professionals (highly educated) but the choosing of the name itself speaks of the brilliance of this Bank. When in 2009 and 2010 the IT infrastructure in the state was in its nascent stage, it successfully branded Khidmat Centres and these centres became huge advertising centres for this Bank. The Central Government and the State together, were responsible for developing further IT infrastructure for these Khidmat Centres because hundreds of services were promised to the Khidmat Centre professionals before engaging them. Later on neither the Centre nor the State came to the rescue of Khidmat Centres and here again the Bank in its domain provided a number of services to these Khidmat Centres which made their survival possible. And later as the Bank had to engage Business Correspondents as per RBI guidelines, it preferred to choose these Khidmat Centres for the role. It was again a very brilliant decision because the advantages were many. The Khidmat Centres were already having a well experienced human resource and up to date IT infrastructure, so under the PMJDY programme of the central government, this Bank outperformed all other Banks. It has so successfully placed Khidmat Centres that it becomes a difficult choice for any customer to choose the services of any other Bank because even if a Bank Branch is closed (Bank holiday), ATM is malfunctioning and even if there is curfew; the Khidmat Centre is there-available all the time. Now having served for years and having experience and good educational backgrounds, it is very much expected under the present chairman Mr. Parvez Ahmad who knows the depths of banking, financial services, financial inclusion and who has fabulously lead the initiatives of Corporate Social Responsibility, the Bank may soon absorb the Khidmat Centres permanently so that the elements of insecurity are taken out from the livelihood of the professionals associated with these Khidmat Centres. This is what speaks volumes about this Bank.
So when all around in a state a sense of belongingness permeates regarding any institution whether Government of Otherwise, it is bound to bring returns for any institute which successfully manages to do this. In J&K this Bank has managed to create this feeling of apnapan (belongingness) which has made it the most preferred Bank in the state. From Government sector the similar feeling can be gauged regarding EDI (Entrepreneurship Development Institute). The general feeling in the educated public is that this institute is not corrupt, it is run by professionals who properly guide/train the people. It is a common impression that it properly evaluates the proposals, surveys the Business Units which are established under its schemes and has respect for the entrepreneurial initiatives. Its director M. I. Parry (I have never met him personally except once, one and a half year ago, in a public gathering where I posed him a tough question and it was not any interaction) is regarded a brilliant administrator by the EDI staff as well as the people who have been financed by the EDI. So institutions which manage to create spaces in the hearts and minds of the people through their brilliant leadership, proper management of the resources and with a regard for their people will be loved by their people and that love makes them more and more strong. When Public becomes the assets of any institution, its shares never devalue because people themselves are the value.
Bilal Zargar- State President, J&K Khidmat Centres Association.