Up & down the NPA roller-coaster

Anmol Rattan Narang

Bankers these days remain obsessed with NPAs (non-performing assets). Whatever you may talk to them, they will reply in terms of NPAs, the formidable form as they have taken. 

In March 2010, when I was posted at Srinagar as a chief manager of a bank branch, the NPA mania had begun to engulf bankers. A Sikh gentleman, who was running a business empire in the Valley, had a loan with us, whose outstanding was around Rs 5 crore. The loan was not being serviced for the past two months and was on the verge of becoming an NPA. My bosses in Delhi were after me to ensure that it did not happen. The main reasons for the account not being serviced were the conditions prevalent in the Valley, as also the poor health of the head of the family, who, due to a kidney problem, was admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi. 

Sardarji had two sons, who were helping him in business but he had more trust in the elder one.

When Sardarji got admitted to hospital, I panicked — I admit not because of concerns whether he will survive or not, but for the reason that in the eventuality of his death, my loan account will certainly become NPA, which would affect my future prospects.

One evening, his younger son came to our branch. Due to my anxiety, the very first question that I asked him was about the health of bade Sardarji. He said he was coming directly from the hospital and that his father’s condition was serious, as only 14 per cent of his kidneys were working.

It dampened my spirits. Seeing me tense, my second-in-command entered the cabin and enquired what had happened. I told him that Sardarji’s son had lost all hope and was waiting for his father’s passage to heaven.

My second-in-command became serious. Unlike me, he was more concerned with the divine soul rather than the NPA.

After that, we daily waited for the news of Sardarji’s death, but it did not come. I was transferred from that branch in November 2010.

On joining my new office, I started concentrating on my new assignment and forgot all about the accounts of the Srinagar branch. Time passed by. Six-seven months later, I received a phone call from my erstwhile second-in-command, informing me that Sardarji had passed away. 

On learning, my mind wept, not for the account, but for the soul.

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