J&K: Trader Group Slams J&K Bank for Using 'Excessive Force' Against Borrowers
Srinagar: On Tuesday, a traders group in Srinagar accused the Jammu and Kashmir Bank of using “excessive force” against the local traders who borrowed loans from the bank but failed to pay them back on time due to an economic slump.
The body Shahr-e-Khass Traders and Manufacturers Coordination Committee and Federation (SKTCC) said that the bank has been resorting to “harassment and intimidation” to the business community of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (JKL) whilst recovering the loans.
The group’s spokesperson Imtiyaz Malik said that during the past 34 years, the business community was forced to close their business for more than 2500 days due to various reasons, including the unconducive atmosphere since 1989. The business community, he said, also reeled under pressure due to natural calamities like the devastating floods in 2014 and the COVID pandemic post-2019.
The traders said that the J&K Bank, established in 1938 by erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, survived despite economic and political turmoil in the region with the help of the support and goodwill of the local population. “Before the eruption of turmoil in 1989, almost 50 different banks and financial institutions had their presence in the state. In the early '90s, most of these banks either wound up their windows here or curtailed their operations to the maximum,” the group said.
The group lashed out at the change of strategy by the Bank on the appointment of the incumbent Managing Director and Board of Directors that the traders’ group said are “insensitive” about the ground situation prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir for the past 34 years. “They are treating the UT as any other developed state of India and persistently forcing the subordinate staff of taking harsh action against businessmen on the pretext of SOPs,” he added.
“Hundreds of public notices are being published on a daily basis in local dailies to tarnish the image and credibility of defaulters. The action of the Managing Director has forced hundreds of businessmen to make distress sale of their ancestral properties in order to liquidate or make part payment towards their loans,” he said.
The traders said they were forced to call out the bank following a video that surfaced on social media networks in which the banking staff can be seen purportedly forcing a family out of their residence. The locals widely condemned the bank’s action, especially when one of the family members was a 95-year-old woman who struggled during the eviction.
“The J&K Bank exhibited no ethics when they forcefully threw the 95-year-old mother and others out of their residential house in Buchwara, Dalgate, on July 26 to take its possession,” Malik argued.
“The purported video of the old lady narrating her ordeal has shaken all of us, and we hope that it doesn't happen again and so we are urging the Lt. Governor and the administration to intervene in the matter and put a stop to this eviction drive,” he added.
The traders condemned the action and questioned the bank for seizing the collateral security of the enterprise within five months after downgrading the said account as Non-Performing Asset (NPA). The action of J&K Bank, the group said, is also in contrast to the recent statement of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made in Parliament that Banks had been instructed to deal with the issue with sensitivity.
The SKTCC said it has already taken up the issue with the Union Finance Minister and demanded action against the Managing Director for violating the orders of the Finance Ministry and the Supreme Court.
The region’s leading trade body, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), has previously expressed similar concerns over the “strict” bank policies due to which traders faced “mental agony.”
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