Gossip and the real experience
N J Ravi Chander
During my long stint in a public sector bank, I discovered employees being in dread whenever called upon to visit the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Stories of bank officials subjected to ridicule by the premier investigating agency did the rounds.
I got the chance to bump into the CBI only late in my banking career – 2014 to be precise. A semi-urban posting took me to Hosapete in Ballari district, which emerged as the hotspot for one of the country’s biggest mining scams. Several leading politicians and mining barons including Anand Singh and Gali Janardhana Reddy were arrested and made to cool their heels in jail.
The iron-ore affluent district had created many a rag to riches story. Ore mined after paying a minuscule royalty to the government made many of the steel companies uber-rich overnight but stripped Ballari of its wildlife and safe drinking water. An unholy nexus existed between the mining barons and the government. My posting at Hosapete coincided with this phase.
Various law enforcers brought undue pressure on banks which serviced the accounts of the steel barons to produce documents and records at brief notice. The job of liaisoning with the investigating agencies fell on a forex official identified for the purpose. Fishing out records, typing certificates and letters and printing kilos of statements of accounts proved to be a grind.
My predecessors had spoken on the long wait one endured before meeting the investigating officials. The bankers remained on their toes, making frequent trips to the CBI offices in Bengaluru and Chennai, and the Customs office in Vasco to produce proofs of transactions. I had butterflies in my stomach when my turn came to visit the CBI office in Chennai.
An office colleague who had made countless trips to the economic offences wing of the investigating agency made me break into a cold sweat by remarking that facing the CBI was akin to taking strike against a fearsome pace bowler breathing fire and brimstone. I had to lug seven kgs of documents but felt relieved when my other half R Shobha and younger son J R Sunny volunteered to accompany me.
We boarded the Shatabdi Express from Bengaluru and checked into the CBI office the following day, brandishing the documents. The sight of my family members in tow made the employees cast quizzical glances at us. If only they knew we were first-time visitors, curious to have a look inside the CBI office!
The inspector made us feel at home by offering us snacks and beverage. The fear that enveloped me initially after stepping into the office slowly melted away. An employee celebrating his birthday soon appeared with sweets and savouries. We wished the ‘birthday boy’ well but were keen to get our job done and dusted. The CBI official called me in soon, and the maiden encounter went off without a hitch. Perhaps the family’s presence must have made the official soft pedal and rush through his routine!
With time to spare, we got to snatch a couple of hours taking in the sights and sounds of the city before rounding off with a beach visit. We were just in time to catch the train as it departed the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr M G Ramachandran Central Railway Station after dusk for our onward journey.
This maiden visit to the CBI office though brief showed me that its officials are humane after all contrary to popular belief. I continued to shuttle to the offices of the investigating agency and soon became a familiar face. But the incredible feeling I experienced on confronting the CBI officials for the very first time will never come again.
(The author is a retired banker who has taken up writing as a pastime. He writes or the Deccan Herald, The New Indian Express, The Tribune, The Hitavada, The City Tab, The Hans IndiaandKashmir Vision)