DEEPAWALI – THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS.

Deepawali, the festival of lights is celebrated on a moonless dark night in the month of October or November every year in the whole world and especially in the Indian subcontinent by the Hindus, Sikhs, and people from all other religions who contribute to the celebrations in one way or the other. The festival has become more of a good business proposition than purely a spiritual activity. It is related to the return of Lord Ram, Sita Ji, and Laxman back to their home in Ayodhya from an exile of fourteen years during which period Lord Ram passed through different phases of life and established a proper code of conduct for all of us by creating self-examples and discipline of life(BURNING THE EVIL: DUSSEHRA). He himself underwent various difficulties and faced the challenges of life with maturity and with utmost wisdom thus setting examples for us as to how to face various problems and aspects of life in a balanced manner.

We learn a lot from the examples set by Lord Rama about our obligations to the society, family members including father, mother, stepmother, brothers, wife, friends, teachers(Guru), friends, supporters, disciples, true followers, opponents, and the learned persons.

His priority towards Mata Shabri who was a very poor lady from a lower caste, over the most learned and famous Rishis including the great Matang Rishi who were proud of their knowledge and wisdom, is a true example of the love of a Master towards his disciple. Out of this love, he ignored the feast arranged by the Rishis and chose to eat the wild berries collected by Mata Shabri from the forest and each one of which she had tasted to check the sweetness.

After winning the war against Ravana who was hurt and was about to die in the battlefield; Lord Rama directed his brother Laxman who was an angry young man to go to Ravana and approach him respectfully for a piece of advice based on his knowledge and wisdom because Ravana was highly intellectual and a learned person.

By this act, Lord Ram taught us that we should not be biased even against our foes and appreciate their good qualities.

He made Laxman shun his anger, pride of winning the war and hatred if any towards the defeated enemy. He taught everyone to eliminate only the evil and appreciate the virtues even that of an enemy.

During those fourteen years of exile, he faced all the good and bad events of his life with courage, faith, complete humbleness and with a balanced and positive approach. After successful completion of his exile, he returned to Ayodhya where he was greeted with lights, dances, fireworks and that day of victory and Homecoming is still celebrated in the form of Deepawali.

No one likes to remain in the darkness. Everyone wants to be in the light. One philosopher describes darkness as the absence of light. There is never an absence of light in this world. Sun gives us light during the day and the moon appears before the sun disappears and so the stars. The light is always there as The God never blinks. The problem is with our own attitude. We turn our back to the light and focus only on the darkness so remain deprived of its shine.

How desperately we long for the light but search it outwardly whereas God has kept the same within all of us. Being extroverts we can’t get in touch with this divine lamp to which some call Akhand jyot, some call it Noor-e-Haq or Sham-e-Allahi or by various other names. This lamp is within everyone. All we need is to be introverts and focus our attention within ourselves instead of allowing it to scatter it outside. The longing for this light is not only the domain of any particular religion. Every religion has appreciated this and has always been in search of this Divine light. Our various festivals and traditions are connected with the appearance of the sources of light such as fire,  stars, the moon, and the sun.  This is actually the light within which Lord Ram was greeted on his homecoming. This is the same light which Hazrat Moosa encountered at Koh-e Toor. This is the same light which we symbolize on the Shab-e- Raat or on a Christmas tree during the Christmas celebrations. All we need is to have a true Guru, a perfect Master, a Kamil Murshid and learn from Him the technique of becoming an introvert and focus our attention inwards and follow a simple and chaste lifestyle in order to achieve salvation.

We the humans too have been exiled like Lord Ram for a fixed time period i:e our lifespan, for having disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. This period of exile is granted to us as a chance to purify our soul, pay for the mistakes and liberate ourselves from the shackles of wishes, anger, greed, attachment to worldly objects, and the ego/ pride. If we succeed, we will find our way back home and would be greeted with the lights which will remove all darkness from our life and liberate us from the unending cycle of birth and death thus leading us to attain Moksha, Mukti, or Najaat.

May this Diwali show us the way to the light within; the light that liberates; the light that removes all the darkness from our lives, thoughts, and the behaviors.

Wishing a very Happy Diwali to all the Readers….

BANKS AND THE POLLUTION

Pollution is a big monster which has engulfed the whole world especially the developing and the underdeveloped countries. The reason being that such countries need to develop factories, industry, infrastructure, mining, technology, defence, agriculture and education etc. Except for services and education, all other sectors of the economy create pollution in one way or the other. Factories, industries, and technology create smoke dust, dangerous gases, heat and noise which all add to the pollution level all around. Infrastructure creates noise, dust, and electronic pollution. Development in defence is the mother of all types of pollution in the air, on the ground and in the sea. On the micro level, all of us contribute to the addition in pollution in many ways.

Banks are the agents of development and no economy can survive or develop without a sound banking system. while they are contributing to the development of nations, they are by default contributing to the creation of pollution. Creation of pollution can’t be segregated for elimination from the development, however, it can be reduced by going green wherever possible. But we can’t have a green defense, ammunition, missiles, warplanes. Likewise, we can’t dream of green industrial wastage, green effluents, and green noise, smoke, and e- wastage. These need to be properly managed and treated before being disposed of.

Pollution as such is a compulsory evil which needs to be managed in a proper manner and kept at a tolerable level: a total elimination is impossible.

There are mainly two bodies which are entrusted with the job of managing pollution and cleanliness. Urban and rural local bodies such as municipal committees/corporations and the pollution control boards. However, the green tribunals are also doing a wonderful job by enforcing applicable laws for the safety of the environment and ecology. Municipal bodies lack planning, adequate funds, and trained manpower. The very urgent and necessary job of cleaning and garbage management is being done in a very casual manner. Municipal garbage from drains is removed and stocked in lanes, dumped on the roads in open where animals, birds, and flies feast to their will and is ultimately transported to dumping yards which are either within the dwelling areas or are very close to them. The small and the big drains remain choked thereby creating harmful gases and spreading of foul smell laced with dangerous bacteria. The effluent in the drains is allowed untreated into the rivers and canals with impunity. It appears as if all the concerned are in a deep slumber although they like other citizens are equally affected by the pollution so created.

The plight of the municipal field workers is pitiable. They are not properly trained to handle such a risky job which in addition to affecting their health has sometimes resulted in their deaths due to exposures to hazardous and toxic gases while cleaning the gutters. Their very tedious, dangerous, and risky job which ordinarily no one will like to do unless one has the compelling circumstances of poverty, is not properly appreciated and suitably compensated. The need of the hour is to provide adequate training to these menial laborers and their job to be properly compensated and appreciated. They need to be provided with all the necessary items required for their safety such as helmets, long gumboots, rubber gloves, and pollution masks. Unless they are not adequately trained, compensated, provided with necessary safety items, they can’t be held accountable for any lax in the performance of their duty. A very casual approach at the administrative level is bound to induce a work culture of casual nature.

The pollution control boards have the prime responsibility of controlling the pollution but the level of pollution all around speaks volumes about the failure of their efforts to control the same. The history is witness to the fact that whenever any control was exercised on any activity, it went out of control. We had exchange control, gold control, and also the birth control but all these controls failed to achieve the desired results and ultimately their nomenclature was changed. Exchange control was changed to Foreign exchange management act (FEMA). Gold control act too has been repealed and now it is from control to seamless trade. Birth control is now Family planning. Control seems to be a crude word. Pollution control boards are therefore desired to be renamed as pollution management boards which should be made accountable for the proper management of pollution.

The present position of these boards is not appreciable and seems to be lacking in action, performance, and governance. Factories and industries are existing in the middle of towns, cities, and the metros, making hell for the life of the residents. Diesel generator sets at almost all commercial complexes as well as at Pvt. residences are contributing a lot to the already existing pollution. Municipal waste is dumped in the lanes and on the roads. Even the greenest agriculture/horticulture sector is not behind in contributing their share of pollution by burning huge quantity of stubble in the fields and pruned branches and dry leaves of the trees. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers and spraying of poisonous pesticides is adding to the pollution in the air and on the earth thereby disturbing the balance of nature ( SAVE THE EARTH ). Toxic effluents from factories and households are allowed freely to flow to the so-called sacred rivers.

And above all, we the citizens do clean our houses but unmindfully throw the garbage on the lanes and roads sometimes just in front of our houses. We always expect others to respect the law and do things for us. Who will come to our rescue if we are bent upon digging our own graves and make this wonderful planet a hell for our coming generations? The coming generations will curse us if we all, responsible for this mess, didn’t mend our styles of working and ensure the health of the Earth and that of humanity as a whole.

Construction of unplanned or wrongly planned concrete jungles after destroying the natural green cover without caring a bit for the ecology and environment is being allowed which also is a major cause for the pollution. Who will stop this or mend the wrongs already done? Are the concerned authorities waiting for someone to come from the heavens to set things right for us? Nature has already started showing its anger(NATURE’s EQUILIBRIUM) and reaction in the form of storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These early warnings are signs of the Doomsday. We all have to respect nature and try our best to save our beautiful planet.

Banks although not directly creating pollution, but are aiding the creation of the same in a big way. They can play a vital role directly and indirectly in managing pollution in a big way. There is hardly any activity which is not in one way or the other dependant on the banks. Banks should strictly ensure that the activity they are financing will not pollute the air, water or the land in any manner. They should ensure that the factories and the big complexes have proper sewage treatment plants (STP) in proper working order as well as arrangements for the proper treatment and disposal of the garbage, effluents, and the emissions. Installments of finance can be withheld until these facilities are not created. Banks should ensure that such add ups are in proper working order by physically inspecting them during their periodical inspection of the inventories and the plant, machinery, and other assets financed by them.

Banks do ensure that the unit proposed to be financed has adequate space/land available but have failed to ensure that the proposed loanee for a vehicle loan has adequate parking space at his place of residence or elsewhere excepting the lanes and the roads. The lanes and the roads appear as car bazars with hardly any space left for movement of vehicles or for the people to walk. Banks have a great role in the creation of congestion in the lanes and on the roads thus slowing down the movement of traffic and creation of a lot of pollution. One may have to visit the bank ten times to get a loan sanctioned for the purchase of a buffalo, but the car loan is sanctioned, disbursed, and even the car is got delivered within less than an hour. We see attractive advertisements of the banks in the newspapers about the facility of quick sanction and disbursement of the loan for the vehicle and other electronic items at much cheaper rates and at no margin or very nominal margin. Has anyone seen such an advertisement for a loan for the purchase of a cow, buffalo, or a horse which provide livelihood and create no pollution? Banks also need to promote with the similar zeal the sectors which are eco-friendly and provide more job opportunities to the people.

Banks need to promote those sectors which are going green by setting a self-example of going green themselves. To start with they can get all their main buildings run on green solar energy by harnessing the same on their rooftops and growing more green plants, grass, and flowers in the open spaces. This would set an example for others to follow. They should promote the use of green manure in agriculture and horticulture by helping the farmers to convert animals dung into vermicompost and the converting the other field wastage, leaves, pruned branches of trees into the green manure by the available techniques which are cheap and easy to use. This needs to be done in a mission mode as this can change the life of people in terms of quality as well as financially. They can do this as well as help farmers in the management of stubble by diverting their CSR funds for this noble cause. Banks are agents of development, let them now prove that they are agents of change also. With the type of dedication, commitment, and zeal with which the bankers have been working, it is expected that they can do this very effectively.

BURNING THE EVIL: DUSSEHRA

Dussehra is celebrated in the Indian subcontinent with much fanfare every year after the culmination of nine Navratras. Hindus observe fast during these nine Navratras and worship Goddess Durga in order to purify their souls and burn all evils on the tenth day i:e Dussehra by burning the effigy of Ten-headed  Ravana – The king of Lanka and who despite being so learned and having so much wisdom and intellect couldn’t control the evil in his mind. Overpowered by the evil thought he committed the heinous crime of kidnapping Sita, the wife of Lord Rama, knowing it well that Lord Rama was powerful enough to defeat him and rescue Sita. Despite all the wisdom and intellect at his command, he committed an immortal sin for which he was never forgiven and we still burn his effigy every year.

Burning of the effigy is symbolic. People nowadays do burn effigies of living leaders or people of high position as a protest against their actions which don’t suit them, but the burning of the effigy of Ravana signifies the victory of Good over the Evil. Does this actually burn the evil? Where is the evil, and Does it vanish by burning it every year? The evil tirelessly follows the good and it grows like the weed. Unless we de-weed it regularly every day rather every moment, it will overshadow the good crop. Symbolism will not do any good to us. We need to cleanse our mind and soul and condition them in such a way that they always remain positive.

Ramayana the Great epic teaches us the various aspects of perfect life and duties towards others. Lord Rama is also called Maryada Purshotam,  A person with Maryada i:e proper code of dignity and decorum. Lord Rama personally practiced perfect discipline in life and set examples for the conduct with parents, brothers, wife, society, followers, associates, master(Guru), and the enemies, without the slightest care for self-ego, pride, esteem, and hardships.

Dussehra signifies the constant fight with evil which grows faster than weed in our mind and we need to burn it rather uproot it moment by moment before it overshadows our intellect and makes us Ravana.

Ravana signifies Evil, Sita signifies a Pure soul and Lord Rama signifies The true spirit and a Perfect Master. India signifies the upper region i:e the abode of The Lord and Lanka signifies the earth. The pure soul descended to this world and got entrapped by the mind and its evil designs(Ravana). Having full faith in her Master, Sita remembers and prays her Lord for help; twho then invades Lanka and rescues the pure soul(Sita).

We the enslaved souls need to trust a Perfect Master/ Lord and pray before Him for help with full faith and trust. He will listen to our prayers if we are sincere and have complete trust in Him ; He will burn all evils from our mind and liberate us from this world of delusion. So, we need to understand the core of this symbolism and resort to its actual practice sincerely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPINESS

Everyone in this world wants to be happy forever and for attaining happiness they resort to various practices and ways of life. Happiness is a state of mind, an aim, an essence, and in fact fragrance of the life itself. Who would not like this fragrance?. Happiness can’t be achieved in isolation as it depends upon various states of our mind functions such as level of satisfaction, stability, peace, and attitude. All these attributes or mind functions may vary from person to person and hence the level of happiness also differs from person to person despite having similar circumstances.

We do search for happiness in the possessions of wealth little realizing that even the wealthiest of all in the world are more worried than the paupers. We hope to get happiness out of high authority at our command and once we get it we realize that the authority gives more pain than the pleasures. The higher you go, you will not feel cozier, instead, you will feel cooler. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’, is an old saying and is very true. Did the great kings or rulers had sound sleep? They were always in constant fear of being dethroned or invaded.

Happiness is therefore neither in wealth, nor in power, nor in high authority or more of possessions, because with every incremental increase in all these worldly things, a corresponding dose of fear of losing them is added to our store of worries.

To attain happiness we seem to be knocking at the wrong doors and treading a slippery path. We, therefore, need to change our attitude and way of life

Since happiness depends on our state of mind so we need to condition our mind and try to keep it stable. We need to learn from those who are happier than us and explore the causes of their happiness. We could hardly find anyone completely happy. Everyone is in search of complete happiness and he tries to derive this from different sources but each source itself is temporary and anything of temporary nature can’t provide a permanent solution for permanent happiness. The only person happier than anyone seems to be a child especially an infant. He has no worries. He gives a smile the moment anyone makes an eye contact with him. When in a mood he will not bother for anyone. He will cry when hungry and will never hide or suppress his feelings. As a child, he will be happier and more satisfied with a candy or a chocolate as his wishes and wants are limited whereas we would fail to derive the similar amount of happiness even if big fortunes are bestowed upon us.

We, on the other hand, have a lot of worries many of which we unnecessarily keep firmly attached to our mind. We are too miser in passing a smile and are biased while sharing the same. We bother too much for everything little realizing that many of them are not within our control and we are worried for them as a matter of habit. We are not open-minded and suppress our feelings. We are never contended with whatever we get and always try to have more. Our wants far exceed( LIFE ) our capacity to fulfill them thus making us unhappy. Hate, prejudice, biases, greed, fear, and feelings of insecurity and the absence of someone who could support us through thick and thin are the main causes of our worries and unhappiness. We do need someone to whom we can look for help. No one will help us without a purpose or a cost. Nothing comes free in this world then how can we expect help or support free of cost or free of an obligation?

The only ONE to whom we can trust for help and support is the CREATOR ie. our UNIVERSAL FATHER. We need to completely surrender before HIS will like a child surrenders before his mother. We must have complete faith in HIM as he will give us whatever is good for us. He will never give us anything which is not to our benefit. Pleasure or pain both come from his will, then why to worry. We should possess a helping attitude COMPASSION. towards everyone without any prejudice as it gives us a lot of satisfaction and happiness.

If there is only happiness in life throughout, we will lose its value and life would become monotonous. Some moments of worries or distress make us understand the values of happiness in a better way. So, do enjoy life with full faith in the CREATOR and always keep a positive mental attitude by avoiding every negative thought. Try to inculcate the attitude of expecting less and giving more as it will keep us more satisfied and happy. We should always think of and focus more on the good things in our life rather than paying more attention to a few worries which come in our lives in a normal routine. If we sincerely count and list out good and bad things in our life we will find that the Creator has given a lot of good things in comparison to the bad things which are very few. Since we pay more heed to and remain constantly focused on the bad things because of our negative mental attitude, so we remain unhappy. On the contrary, if we focus more on positive things in life which outnumber negative ones and ignore these negative ones, we will be happier.

BANKS; LEVEL FINANCING

Banks are the true agents of development of any economy. They have played a vital role in the overall development of economies world over. Although overall development did happen but the spread of the same is not even all along, which has resulted in uneven income in different sectors and areas. The distribution of credit, therefore, needs to be rationalized in such a manner that the benefits of the same reach out to all across the areas as well as sectors and activities.

Banks have always shied away from lending in rural and undeveloped or underdeveloped areas and sectors despite a lot of directions from the regulators as well as from the state. This is due to the fear of losing money because of the nonviability of the proposed units and schemes in these areas. Lack of proper infrastructure in rural and underdeveloped areas is mainly responsible for the poor growth of the economy in these areas. The prime reason for poor lending in such areas is lack of infrastructure which makes the projects and schemes less viable and hence does not attract bank’s attention.

Now that lot of infrastructure has reached the rural and less developed areas. There are better power availability and better road connectivity, transport, and markets in the rural areas though not as better as in the cities but there is a great push to provide more and improve the existing facilities in these areas. Banks too have opened their units in these areas. The only problem is that banks are mobilizing resources from these areas and passing on the main part of the same for investment in other areas or to their controlling offices for deployment elsewhere. The required purpose of opening branches in such areas, therefore, gets defeated by siphoning out the resources from underprivileged areas to the better-privileged areas thereby further widening the gap of development in different areas. In order to ensure the equal level of development across all the regions, the norms for the calculation of credit-deposit (CD) ratio need to be redrawn/modified. Following suggestive measure may be of help to plug the loopholes in the system:

  1. To start with block should be considered as a unit.  For the calculation of CD ratio, all branches of different banks operating in a block be made to meet the mandatory CD ratio of 60% individually. Only that part of credit which has been utilized within the limits of the block should be taken for the calculation of CD ratio for the block. These ratios should be monitored at the Block level. The block-wise unit size may be carried over to Panchayat level after some time.
  2. Branches of a bank who in order to meet the requirements of CD ratio exceed the limits of the block and deploy funds in other blocks, or for the units in urban areas or industrial areas in other blocks. All such branches of banks should be imposed with a penalty of 1% on the interest earned on the amount of loan allowed in areas beyond their block and 2% on the interest of the part of finance in urban or an industrial area in other blocks.
  3. In order to encourage branches in the metro, urban, and semi-urban areas to fund units in rural and underdeveloped areas an incentive of 2% be offered provided 80% employment in such units is given to the locals of the block in which such financing is done.
  4. Foreign banks who have branches in metros only should also be made to contribute to the development of underdeveloped areas and sectors as per the rules of engagement with them. The Incentives proposed above may also be provided to such banks also.
  5. The amount of penalty and incentives stated above to be routed through a special fund which may be called ‘ Level Development Fund’ (LDF). This fund may be maintained by the coordinator of the State level bankers committee of the concerned state. Any shortfall at any time in this fund to be made good by the concerned state govt. The incentive to be provided or penalty to be imposed be calculated quarterly basis on the figures of 15th of the last month of each quarter in order to avoid artificial fluctuations on account of any window dressing to which the banks generally resort to in order to show better figures in the balance sheets on the  closing date of the respective quarter.
  6. In the case of consortium financing, the amount financed by the respective member banks of the consortium will be treated as financing in the block in which the unit so financed is located and not the block in which the financing branch is working and the penalty would accordingly be levied.  The location of the unit is to be considered and not the location of the controlling or administrative office of the unit.
  7. In case of income or commission earned out of nonfund based business such as a letter of credit or guarantees of any type, the penalty and incentive of 1 or 2% as the case may be, will be imposed under the similar circumstances of exceeding or entering in the jurisdiction of the block as discussed above.
  8. Penalty once charged is to be nonrefundable and no claim of any type to be entertained on any pretext such as the account becoming an NPA for any reasons.
  9. Any shortfall in the amount required to meet the mandatory requirement of meeting 60% CD ratio by any branch of a bank in a block to be kept in RIDF with NABARD at the prescribed rates.
  10. Branches of the banks in any block may divert funds after meeting the mandatory CD ratio of 60% in the block in which they are functioning for deployment anywhere as per their choice. However, in case they exceed CD ratio for financing within the block where they are functioning, they shall be given an incentive on the interest on the additional amount at 1%.

The CD ratio should be ensured to be maintained at the mandatory level by each branch of a bank block-wise, and by the respective banks district-wise, region wise, and state-wise. Inter-region and inter-state financing to be excluded for the purpose of calculating respective CD ratios. Suitable penalty as proposed above to be imposed on such lending. This would discourage flight of resources from the concerned areas to the other areas and ensure a level development of all areas and sectors.

In the present as well as during the future times the lucrative market for financing is in the rural areas as there is a lot of money and market in that sector.

DEVELOPMENT: A PERSPECTIVE

Development is happening in every field around the world for making the life more comfortable for the humans. There is no end to the development as there always remains something more to be achieved. It appears that man wants to achieve complete perfection beyond which there is no further scope for any development.

In order to achieve perfection and complete satisfaction, he is restlessly toiling day and night and running after a mirage; an illusion of satisfaction. This directionless effort is, in fact, making him more and more dissatisfied thus making him wander in the wilderness.

If we just compare the development made during the last few decades, we find that lot of infrastructure such as highways, roads, airways, waterways, railways along with utilities have been developed. More houses, buildings, transport, industry, huge projects are being added to take care of the increasing human population. A lot of development has happened in the agriculture and food industry, power sector, defense, space, energy, education, and health sectors.

Despite all development, we have not been able to eliminate the miseries of this world. Still, people in some part of the world are dying of malnutrition, hunger, and lack of Medicare although there is no shortage of food, medicines, and doctors in this world. We don’t lack resources, we lack compassion and will to help others( COMPASSION ) . We live in very narrow contours of compassion and don’t share our possessions with those who are in need, although every religion of the world teaches us to help the needy.

Unplanned and excessive mining, construction of huge tunnels and roads, railway tracks, over the ground as well as under the ground have definitely disturbed the environment, ecology, and so, the balance of nature. Our planet has an abundance capacity to bear the load and shocks of development but that capacity is not unlimited. It does have a limit, and once we exceed the limit, there is bound to be some reaction and which has started happening.

Mankind is the only race which leaves no stone unturned to pollute the overground, underground, and in the atmosphere resources which in fact are beneficial for him, little realizing that the earth and the atmosphere also have the life which needs nourishment for their sustenance ( SAVE THE EARTH ). Disturbance and destruction beyond a point are bound to compel the earth to react. Why are we blind to these reactions which have started giving their signals in the form of change in weather, unprecedented floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, volcano eruptions, wind and snow storms. Have not we seen mighty mountains crumbling like mounds of sand? The breaking of mountains can cause a temporary blockage of the rivers thus creating huge reservoirs of water and which can create havoc once these temporary blockages give in to the hydraulic pressure created by the stored water. We are unmindfuly polluting the rivers, oceans, and other water bodies which are a lifeline for the entire life on this planet.

Cruelty against nature is bound to produce negative results. We do need crops, plants, water, and trees for a living but we have to keep a balance between the development and destruction of the planet and the atmosphere(  NATURE’s EQUILIBRIUM  ). In the ancient times and even at present, in some leading religions of the world, rivers, lakes, oceans and some trees are considered to be holly and are worshiped. People used to throw coins as an offering in these water bodies. The coins used to be made of copper, silver, or gold and all these metals purify water. Watering the plants was considered as Punya( Sacred deed, virtue ). The purpose of these religious beliefs was to keep water bodies clean and pollution free. Cutting certain trees such as Peepal (Banyan), plants, even their branches was considered a sin. All this was to save and protect the environment and ecology. The love and fear of God were always kept in mind while dealing with the people and the environment. Although all days are alike yet certain days of the week were fixed to be considered as more holy and sacred for special prayers. Only pious deeds were done on these designated days. The purpose was to not let the minds of people lose sight of prayers, good deeds, and to remain connected with the lord for ensuring a blissful living.

In the name of development, we have polluted the atmosphere and made the earth a fragile planet, which is not prepared to bear more disturbance and load. The human’s population is increasing whereas the number of trees is on the decrease. With more roads, buildings, houses, and other infrastructure, the area under green cover is decreasing thus making it difficult to meet the required level of oxygen in the air. It is perhaps due to this factor that the man who considers himself as the most intelligent of all species, is trying to discover life and good environment on other planets in the universe by making huge sacrifices of resources which otherwise can be utilized for making this world as a heaven.

Perhaps we have not understood the true meaning of development. Development should ensure good health for all, a tension free life, contentment, respect, elimination of bias towards anyone, good morals, and a heart full of compassion. All these will make us true human beings and deserve to be called the ‘Top of the creation’. Otherwise, we are as good or as bad as other creatures. Have we achieved this by the way we are making development? More roads, more transport has resulted in more pollution and more accidents. There are more medicines and more qualified doctors yet there are more dangerous and fatal diseases. The number of cancer, heart attacks, and other killer diseases is on the rise. Nations have become rich and strong and have accumulated heavy stocks of weapons of mass destruction. Of what use is this development? This so-called development has changed our perceptions and ways of thinking and beliefs. Corruptions, drinking, telling lies for personal gains, cheating, adultery etc. were considered as the biggest sins but with the development, these sins are considered as a way of modern life and are recognized by the society with esteem.  Real development is an evolution of a better life. We the humans are believed to have evolved from lower species to higher species through a very long period and that is the real development.

We need to divert this direction of development towards a better life, character building and values of life. The lifeline of the human race needs to be protected. All life on this earth to be respected and protected by eliminating pollution of any type. Saving the environment is not the sole responsibility of the state. Everyone has to contribute his bit to this noble cause. Trees should not be cut unless it is extremely unavoidable. We should plant five trees against the cutting of one tree. Everyone must plant at least two trees every year in order to make good the loss already done to the environment. We have to ensure peaceful coexistence between men, animal, and the environment. That will be the development in the real sense.

 

 

BANKS: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Banks at present are under tremendous stress because of ever-rising nonperforming assets (NPAs) and huge frauds which have taken a big toll on their profits, thus resulting into deterioration in their balance sheets as well as the brand image in the eyes of the public. Under these testing times, Banks are facing huge challenges which need to be faced with courage, maturity, dedication, hard work and tact. The challenges at present are enumerated as under:-

  1. The health of the Banks:-  The mounting NPAs, losses due to big frauds and continuous increase in operating expenses due to periodic increase in various types of variable costs such as salary, fuel, rent, and boarding lodging expenses are a big challenge for the banks to meet. These are a serious threat to the overall health of the banks. Concerned with this trend The Indian Banks Association (IBA) has offered a shockingly meager increase of only 2% to the bankers during the negotiations for the revision of their salary. This may be a cruel joke with the bankers but it speaks volumes about the health of the banks.
  2. Keeping the flock together:- Under the stress on resources, the workers get demoralized and start losing interest in the institution. Some may try to change job or search for the greener pastures. Only a team with high moral and a deep sense of belonging (A SENSE OF BELONGING)can keep the institution strong. This challenge needs a good and inspiring leadership at the top who could keep the flock together by providing guidance, hope, and good future to the stakeholders.
  3. Maintaining a sustainable growth:- With the graphs showing downwards trends, it is becoming difficult to manage growth in face of the tough national and international competition. All high-value proposals of multinational companies are taken by foreign banks who provide them credit at very cheaper rates because their cost of funds is very low. They can afford to give loans at thinner spreads and still make handsome profits because of high volumes and low cost of transactions. Because of reduced interests on deposits, the depositors are not attracted towards banks as in some cases, the net interest income after payment of income tax doesn’t cover the cost of inflation. Added to this is the fear in minds of the depositors about the introduction of a new law about bail-in in the banking sector, which though has been put on the back burners but people still have a fear in mind that the ghost may reappear at any time. They ponzy schemes and the crypto currencies like the Bitcoins have taken a big toll on the deposits of the banks. In view of stress on resources,  the banks are unable to fund large proposals.
  4. In-cumbersome procedures:-The age-old procedures of processing proposals with a lot of paperwork especially for the small traders and businesses and other small loans, discourage the perspective loanees from coming forward. Although some progress has been made in simplifying the procedure yet a lot needs to be done in order to attract customers.
  5. Comparatively Smaller unit size and strength of Banks:- Barring very few banks like State bank of India, the size, strength, capital base, and technological exposure of our banks is no match with the foreign banks. With the globalization and the world becoming a global village, our banks have to compete with the foreign banks. This is not possible unless we match their strength as well as the cost of operations.
  6. Diminishing of the physical interface:- With the introduction of technology in the banks, there is less interface with the customers as most of the transactions are done through the internet, mobile, or online banking, as is done in the foreign countries. Our culture, traditions, and behavior are different from theirs. Face to face interaction has an element of emotion to which we are used to, and the absence of which creates dryness in the relationship. With the increased size of business as well as the number of customers, it may be difficult to keep interface contact with them.
  7. Replacing the outdated technological infrastructure:- In order to match the competitors, the technological infrastructure needs to be updated or replaced with the more sophisticated and efficient one. This may not be economically feasible for the weak banks but in the face of competition and to ensure sustainable growth it becomes imperative to go for it. To stay in the market, an appreciable increase in the volume of business can only take care of the cost factor involved in the upgrading of electronic infrastructure. Only big volumes can reduce the cost of the transaction. The recent case of heavy costs incurred by banks while replacing the currency note holding trays of lakhs of ATMs, when the Govt. introduced new currency notes in place of old notes of different denominations is a live example of updating technology under compulsion in order to stay active in the market.
  8. Strengthening of internal controls:- In view of the rising NPAs and incidences of frauds, the strengthening of internal controls (DEFECTS IN BANK AUDITS AND INSPECTIONS) at any cost has become very urgent. The recovery of NPAs and strengthening of internal controls, management audit, effective inspections and audits of all operational activities, and forensic audits may add costs to the already burdened banks but there is no escape and must be activated in a mission mode in order to regain the public confidence.
  9. Skill building and succession planning:- Advance training in specialized fields and skill upgrading of staff is need of the hour. Gone are the days when banking was every body’s job and bankers used to be a jack of all trades but masters of none. Now with a lot of advancement in the banking field, new innovative ideas are the order of the day in order to beat the competition and the challenges. Value addition to banking products with fine packing and branding which may suit the tastes, requirements, and choices of the customers have to be tailored in order to stay ahead in the competitive atmosphere. A robust and sustainable succession planning must be done at least for the next two decades and which may be reviewed and upgraded periodically.
  10. Setting up an advisory for the clients and brand building:- The Brand building is a long and continuous process. Successful leaders have built successful Brands which have resulted in heavy returns for their businesses. A product can be easily copied by anyone but a brand can’t be copied. Banks need to attract more clients by providing them with the products suitable to their requirements and choice. The markets and businesses now are not protected against competition from across the international borders especially after the signing of the world trade agreement. Now only the strongest,  the fittest, and those who can afford to adopt a change can survive; others are bound to vanish from the scene. Under such circumstances, banks are bound to suffer losses as their products are exposed to greater risks. This is one of the reasons for a spurt in the level of NPAs of banks in the last few years.                                                                                                                                           THIS IS A BIG CHALLENGE FOR THE BANKS AND FOR MEETING THE SAME BANKS NEED TO PROVIDE EXPERT ADVICE TO THEIR CLIENTS AND FIND SOLUTIONS FOR THEIR SURVIVAL. BANKS NEED TO ESTABLISH ADVISORY WITH EXPERTS WHO COULD PROVIDE SOLUTIONS TO THEIR CLIENTS FOR SURVIVAL. The upcoming of big Malls, online shopping through big international giants like AMAZON, ALIBABA, FLIPKART, SNAPDEAL etc have adversely affected the retail market in the country. In order to compete with these big sharks, the retailers have to come up with a matching model of business in the market. Banks have to come up with new innovative models for their clients in their own interests.
  11. Retaining the existing clients:- In view of the tough competition in the sector, banks have a big challenge ahead in retaining the existing clients not speak of adding more to their kitty. The clients have various options and opportunities available to them, so the banks need to ensure that none of the good clients slips out of their grip. Gone are the days when there used to be a customer loyalty and attachment with their banks. Now the customers change banks more often than their vehicles. A regular contact with the customer/ holding customer meets by higher executives whose words and decisions matter need to be organized in order to create more confidence and bonding with the customers. Good leaders are good listeners and people love to be listened to. Promoting and advertising of banks products is very necessary. One of the cheapest ways to promote and advertise banks products is to feed their salient features as caller tunes into thousands of the mobile phones of staff members. In addition to products, the caller tune can be made to contain a mission or a brand promoting song. 

Good leaders have the tact and the wisdom to convert their weaknesses into their strengths and challenges into opportunities. All that is required is a strong will, dedication, a deep sense of belonging to the institution, and a good team of dedicated staff.

OPPORTUNITIES:- While there are big challenges, there exist equal opportunities also. Some of the opportunities available to banks are…..

  1. Big market and big population:- The size of the market is fast increasing and in order to meet the requirements of the second largest population of the world, which is increasing by 20 million souls every year, ample opportunities are becoming available  to the banks to finance in all sectors, may it be agriculture, horticulture and allied, industry and manufacturing, trade and services, infrastructure, mining, shipping, transport, power, tourism and so on. In addition to this, banks have the opportunities to go for business beyond the international boundaries as the entire world is open to them for doing business. All that is required is strength and will.
  2.  The country still not fully developed:- The country is still not fully developed and there is a lot of scope for investment in almost all sectors of the economy. Still, we are calling for FDI in various fields for economic development. Banks need to enlarge their capital and size to substitute the FDI. There is no dearth of opportunities, banks need to redraw their working models suiting the economic activity and matching the foreign banks.
  3.  Advisory services:- With the advent of an open economy, there is a need to change business models in almost all sectors. Banks can provide services for providing training to clients in order to take up new business models and earn some fees and attract customers. This is already being done on a small scale by banks and govt. like some awareness programs for artisans, farmers, and agriculturists etc. EDP(entrepreneurship development programs) are conducted by EDI in the country where banks can participate and attract young budding entrepreneurs.

Money blocked in NPAs and loss assets:- There is a lot of money blocked in NPAs and loss assets on account of money lost in frauds and for which banks have already made provisions out of their incomes. These block of funds are in a way HARD AND A LITTLE TOUGH MINES of reserves for the banks. Any recovery from these heads adds to the income and overall health of the banks. These reserves must be tapped by effective recovery techniques (Management of NPAs -Some recovery techniques.) and maximum effort needs to be made to address further slippage to this category. (Bank’s NPAs. Causes and Remedies.)

Rod and reward:- Banks must not spare the rod wherever required and should not become a miser while promoting the talent and rewarding the performers.

Challenges make one more strong. Challenges provide an opportunity to face hard situations and increase one’s self-confidence. They provide an opportunity to prove your will and strength. A nation becomes strong only when it faces challenges and so are the banks. Banks have to take these challenges in the right perspective which ultimately will change their fate.