P.M. VIJENDRA RAO writes: The pages of history are known to have the habit of popping up in revised editions, so we see the vengeful re-emergence of the East India Company in its manifold forms.
Before Independence the Indian police, on orders from the foreign boss, acted with hostility against their compatriots. And, what is the scene today?
We have reached a stage when banks and cell-phone operators–both foreign and local–might surpass politicians and realtors as the largest employers of rowdy elements. Since the role of hooligans vastly gains prominence during the elections, they are now having fewer complaints about underemployment.
That a former MP has diversified his business to make forays into the flourishing trade of recovery agency in Bangalore is not a great secret and speaks volumes about his managerial methods to keep his manpower at capacity utilization.
It might somewhat satisfy the harassed that the credit-card business of a particular foreign bank has taken a nosedive because of the intimidatory methods of recovery it employed in able alliance with the ever-willing brown police. But, that is another matter.
A flood of complaints related to operational inefficiency has lately started gushing out of the premises of a leading private sector bank. There were a couple of unbelievably peculiar incidents recently of even demand drafts purchased from this bank being turned down.
Ruffians engaged by this bank went to the office of a chartered accountant-friend of mine to recover the interest that the latter had refused to pay because it was unjustified. Then he was told that if he did not cough up his credit card would be withdrawn.
The threat was acted out because the friend did not budge. The bank next told the cell-phone company (from which he had got connected) to withdraw his post-paid facility after recovering the dues citing the fact that he had ‘defaulted’.
The cell operator sent a bill to the friend asking him to clear it immediately. My friend obliged and decided not to have anything to do with the company henceforth.
But, that was not the end; the toughies were knocking at his doors again, saying that the bank had cleared his dues against the phone charges and he must pay them. Only the fact that he was influential came to his rescue.
There is more to these proliferating private armies. One such extra-legal outfit, hired by a financier, went to the residence of a defaulting client in Mysore to collect the outstanding dues taken for the purchase of a car.
The borrower was not available and his wife decided to pay the pursuers in the same coin. She locked herself in a room and started screaming through the window, seeking neighbours’ help. The neibhours were obliging on seeing whom the recovery team cleared from the scene.
Before the cops could arrive, the wife took the car out of the garage, parked it in front of her house and when they came reported to them that the recovery men had taken the car out and abandoned it when they saw the neighbours rushing to her help.
In the process, they had taken away her jewellery worth about Rs. 1.5 lakh, she groaned. The woman was summoned to the police station; so was the financier, who was detained in the police station for four hours during which time he was asked by the inspector to return the jewellery his agents had taken away forcibly from the complainant.
The accused insisted that it was a false complaint and that the complainant and her husband were notorious in Mysore and that there were complaints against them in the limits of different police stations as they were in the habit of shifting their address frequently to dodge their lenders.
The inspector then took him aside and whispered that even he was aware that the complainant did not enjoy a good reputation and that he did not believe the complaint.
Saying so, he offered to work out a compromise if the complainant paid him Rs. 10,000. Grudgingly, he scaled down to Rs. 5,000 and every one was presumably happy thereafter.
The arrangement between the police and the recovery agency is, I am told, that the latter pays a commission that varies from 20 to 40 per cent of the recovered sum in order that the former does not take complaints of intimidation/coercion/harassment by defaulters seriously.
None too long in the distant future when foreign banks and foreign companies become the hot favourites for our cops to moonlight with, the repetition of history will have been complete.
(If at all this future does not appear close, thanks must be due to the sixty-odd Left MPs that are holding the Nehru legatees back from turning Right).
Hooliganism as a career option for your sons and daughters–yes, crime is not gender-specific; where there are women defaulters there need to be women toughs outside of the police department, too–had never been so rewarding, risk-free and inexpensive.
Fortune favours the brawny, after all. The sheer number of advertisements for sale of recovered cars is enough to tell you that your wards have everything to gain by opting for this new career.
The madness for the jet-age gadgets–cars, bikes, cells, home theatres, microwave ovens and what not – was never more pronounced and perhaps exceeds sexual drive in its potency.
The banks, the financiers and others are providing an outlet for the pent-up, herd craving for possession. The dream merchants from the west are particularly good, given their huge ad spends, at heightening this mass frenzy. The acquisitive urge brooks no delay and gets fuelled by the inviting advertisements.
Today becomes the last day in the life of the consumer. The reality of tomorrow, the day of repayment, ceases to exist. This explains to a significant extent the growing size of the used-car market, for instance.
You are not a creditor if you have not had your shoulder tapped, might well be the adage of the new age.