New Delhi: An audio clip of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman referring to the State Bank of India (SBI) as a “heartless bank” has gone viral.
The audio clip appears to be from an event in Guwahati on February 27 where an irate Sitharaman can be heard criticising SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar, accusing him of being responsible for all the failures of the bank in extending loans, especially to the tea garden workers.
In the audio, Sitharaman is heard getting upset over tea garden workers facing some problems with SBI accounts and loans. "Don't tell me you are the largest bank. You are a heartless bank. SLBCs don't function like this,” she is heard as saying.
“Yeh nahin chalega,” she appears to be saying twice targeting the SBI Chairman.
"Sarkar kar rahi, Pradhan mantra ji bol rahe hain ke bagan mein kaam karne wale workers... You should have approached the department, made the department talk to RBI,” Sitharaman said.
She added, "I am sorry to be sounding so harsh. I will see what I can do with RBI. SLBCs don't function like this.
“But nothing makes up for your inefficiency... Let me be very blunt on this... There shall not be a hiatus (for tea garden workers)."
Sitharaman goes on to say: "It's your inefficiency which cost it... Make sure everything is done so that there is no break.”
The Finance Minister then accosted the SBI Chairman, seeking answers on a solution. "Tell me a game plan. What is the timeline?" she asked.
When Kumar said it could be done in a short time, Sitharaman asked, "What is short?"
To this, Kumar responded that it can be done in a week.
This enraged Sitharaman further, who accused Kumar of timing her out and issued a warning. “Don't time me out sir. SBI Chairman, you will meet me in Delhi. This is an utter omission of job. I hold you completely responsible for a failure. I will have a detailed talk with you," she told Kumar.
"You may be a senior officer... I am sorry... You let me down, you let the government of India down, you let Assam government down," Sitharaman adds.
"Get the accounts going... Not one tea garden worker will suffer," she directed the SBI chief.
Meanwhile, the All India Bank Officers Confederation condemned the Finance Minister’s behaviour. “Through this communique, we once again convey our deep anguish and resentment to the Union Finance Minister for treating the Chairman of State Bank of India in such an unfair manner," a statement said.
"We are of the view that representatives of the people should abstain from indulging in such misdemeanour with any top level executive of the public sector banks. We also demand an immediate investigation in the matter of recording of the Financial Outreach Programme Enclave at Guwahati and misuse of social media by certain miscreants," it added.
News18 could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio clip.
(With IANS inputs)