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India 360: Banks under fire for suicide cases

Sep 28, 2007 11:54 AM IST India India

10 days ago CNN-IBN had brought you the story of 38-year-old Prakash Sarvankar who committed suicide after alleged harassment by ICICI bank loan recovery agents. Now the bank has given his family a compensation of Rs 15 lakh. The heat is turning on banks on misconduct of their recovery agents. The RBI backed Banking Codes and Standards Board of India OR BCSBI has stepped in after the recent alleged suicide. BCSBI has shot off a letter to ICICI bank asking if it had done adequate due diligence before appointing the collection agency whether it had a written contract with the agency binding it to the 'Code of Banks' commitment to customers" and what action it has taken against the agency. Sources say the bank has in its reply assured due diligence while appointing Collection agents. It has also said none of those arrested are employees of ICICI Bank and it has stopped dealing with the accused agency. On a special discussion on CNN-IBN’s show India 360 Smitha Nair and Yogita Limaye discussed the issue with Vinod Chand, General Secretary, Credit Consumers Association of India. Given the fact that the bank has sort of preempted any move giving Rs 15 lakh to the victim’s family as a ‘good will gesture’ does it weaken your case or the RBI case itself? Answering the question Chand said, “It does not weaken anybody’s case on the other hand it makes the case stronger. By giving this ex-gratia payment the bank is actually acknowledging that it has violated the code of conduct. And this is not the final compensation it’s just an ex-gratia payment. The bank is just trying to hide. Today when they gave this letter assuring giving all these assurances they didn’t have the guts to face the camera. They were not willing to come on record. They said they are not authorized to face the camera.” What really are defaulters’ right if he is being harassed by a bank? “The RBI has mentioned very clear cut guidelines and the Supreme Court forced RBI to lay down these guidelines. The guidelines clearly state that the person cannot be approached outside his normal working hours at his place of work and only during normal hours at his residence and no attempt should be made to harass the customer or harass the loan taker in anyway including talking to the neighbour etc. the RBI has said you talk to the person who has taken the loan other than that you don’t talk to anyone and not even his family, “ Chand added. Will it not help everybody’s case better if banks really share credit history data across the board. Chand opined, “Yes definitely it will help but the civil which has been instituted is actually for the benefit of these banks only. If you are having one home loan no bank will give you second home loan but if you are having one credit card every bank will line up to give you another credit card. What due diligence are they doing? Why are they not evaluating people properly?"