J&K Bank: A bank with a mission

The Bank is not just a department that deals with money, it’s a socio-economic institution

At present it is is one of the prominent banks in the country with huge deposits and investments and has diversified beyond traditional banking operations

The Jammu and Kashmir Bank founded by late Maharaja Hari Singh in 1938 was a watershed in state’s financial and banking sector. Prior to this state-owned public-private partnership banking initiative, the financial scenario of Jammu and Kashmir was dominated by the exploitative private financial institutions and crude moneylenders. Hari Singh was an autocrat and autocrat is an autocrat by all standards and means. But as an administrator and head of the state, he was a visionary. JK bank was his brainchild to cater to the financial requirements of his much-cherished conception of the sovereign state of Jammu and Kashmir—independent of influential neighboring states. JK banks shaping in the late thirties should not be studied in isolation. state subject law promulgated by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927 was his well-thought strategy for greater and autonomous Jammu and Kashmir and so was the JK bank. Anyways, whatever the late Maharaja’s plans—either to have an independent state for his subjects or to secure the interests of his dynastic rule, one thing is clear that Hari Sing not only conceived an idea of the state-centric loyal banking system but implemented it beyond the autocratic protocol by inviting private investors.

At present JK bank is one of the prominent banks in the country with huge deposits and investments and has diversified beyond traditional banking operations. Its portfolio varies from state banker to corporate banking, insurance and investing in the much-required housing sector. Beyond its primary financial activities, the bank is actively involved in corporate social responsibilities more prominently than other fellow financial institutions and corporate sectors. Many people raise a finger on the lending pattern of JK bank and have much to speculate about its mounting non-performing assets (NPAs). They can be right but we should not deny the active participation of JK bank in several state-centric microfinance products especially tailor-made for the downtrodden and exploited lot. Thus, denying JK bank its rightful place among the socio-economic game-changers in the state will not be fair. Having said that, the bank should accept the fact that it is state’s most preferred bank, both by its people and the government. And while enjoying this monopoly and status of uniqueness JK bank has a huge responsibility to rise to the expectations of not only its investors but the common man as well. JK bank is now almost three-quarters of a century old and has certainly grown beyond its age in all directions. With its wide banking coverage beyond the state borders, the bank is planning to foray into the international financial market with its wide-ranging economic activities. JK bank has not only grown in its monetary activities but has acquired state of the art banking infrastructure and is hiring quality human resource. With its all-round automation during last many years, the bank has revolutionized the banking sector in the state and provides a robust monetarist infrastructure for the business sector and efficient fiscal set-up to the state government as its bankers.

However, with all these attributes and honors to its credit JK bank is supposed to and has to do more in its micro-financing segment to bolster the ever-stretching adverse impact on socio-economic aspects of the state. Instead of widening its operations and increasing impact of its activities in urban areas the bank has to widen its countryside presence with more and more agrarian products to cater to the financial requirements of more than seventy percent of the population. JK Bank has to strengthen its existing vital microfinancing schemes for farmers, artisans, and small-time traders so as to materialize the dream of its founders and well-wishers. A dream of state’s economy devoid of any middlemen, exploiters and fleecing moneylenders! Bank’s existing credit products for horticulture can not only be widened but other cash-crop and agri-business activities like saffron and medicinal and aromatic cultivation and processing can be brought under the ambit of rural microfinance. JK bank can take the cue from Bangladesh Grameen bank— a role model in microfinance world over and formulate credit facilities for the huge agriculture sector. This bank with a patriotic feeling and agenda at the time of its inception without compromising with national banking code and behavior can retain its impression of loyalty towards its own people and devise much more financial products to cater its people on priority. JK bank as envisaged by its pioneers has to be in a mission mode with complete transparency and openness beyond its traditional AGMs and balance sheet formalities.