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Sharad Phadke, the unsung hero who took on the banks through RTI, is dead
Pune-based Phadke fought against banks’ refusal to credit back wrongly debited amount from ATM, running into crores of rupees, till his last breath. His task remains unfinished
Seventy-three-year-old Sharad Phadke has been filing applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, in several banks, after Rs1,000 was wrongly debited from his ATM card in October 2010. Till he breathed his last on 7 November 2014, his fight against non-compliance by the State Bank of India (SBI) and Corporation Bank in crediting back the wrongly debited amount of hundreds of customers during ATM transactions, remains unfinished.
Just like his RTI work that was tenacious and relentless but hardly known to many, his death too was quiet, unknown perhaps beyond his near and dear ones. It was only when I did not receive a reply to my email to him last week, that I sensed something is amiss. For, Mr Phadke’s reply to any email from me would be prompt and to the point. So, I dialled his mobile number with fear in my mind. I felt relieved when a girl, perhaps his granddaughter asked me to hold on. On the line instead came his son, who said his father had passed away on 7 November 2014, peacefully in his sleep.
It was traumatic news for me. Phadke would quietly sit in a corner of his house, with a laptop and a heaps of documents through which he fired salvo after salvo at the banks and Reserve Bank of India (RBI). When all failed, he also went to the High Court in search of truth and justice. For that he would travel beyond Pune and Maharashtra.
His crusade to restore back his Rs1,000 wrongly debited by Bank of India (BoI), which came with added penalty that the latter had to credit to his account for its 65-day delay (the rule is Rs100 per day of delay beyond 12 days of wrongly debiting from any customer’s account), was highlighted by Moneylife. See Banks must pay Rs100 a day penalty for delay in reimbursement for failed ATM transactions.
Similarly, he, along with Moneylife doggedly pursued the issue of mass deletion of voters’ names in Pune constituency, where his own name had been deleted and this writer along with him had conducted file inspection under Section 4 of the RTI Act and procured documents, which proved that his and wife’s names were deleted by cooking up false documents. Read: Missing voters: Pune Police refuses to register Phadke’s complaint as FIR
Mr Phadke continued to pursue the case of bank penalties running into crores of rupees, which were not being credited back to the customers’ accounts. Four months before he died, he has made a complaint against Corporation Bank for non-payment of compensation for delay in refunding the amount for failed ATM transaction, as mandated by RBI. The figure ran to over Rs5 crore, as per information Phadke procured under RTI.
Mr Phadke also conducted a social audit based on the information he got and wrote to the RBI Governor stating that, “Scrutiny reveals that a whopping amount of Rs9.79 crore is not paid by Corporation Bank as compensation for ATM failed transactions during 2010-11 and 2011-12. These transactions have failed at different ATMs of other banks with their own bank.”
“My complaint dated 5 June 2014 relating to customers of Corporation Bank whose transactions have failed ATMs of SBI is pending with Department of Banking Operation, RBI, Mumbai.”
“This is just a sample audit” he wrote. “RTI revelations are indicative of the fact that most Banks in the country are indulging in ditching its account holders as above, presumably with the blessing and connivance of higher management and auditors. This is generic in nature and not a single aberration. I think it is a serious matter for RBI to act decisively and firmly which is substance of good governance…,’’ he had said.
(Posters Note: Late Mr Sharad Phadke's complaint to RBI is attached to this post)
Mr Phadke also pleaded to the RBI to order re-scrutiny of quarterly returns that banks submit on failed transactions to RBI with bank board’s sanction. He also brought to the notice of the central bank that, “RBI’s counterpart has imposed penalty of Rs1.77 crore on Reliance Life Insurance Co Ltd for violation of various IRDA directives/legislations.”
He followed it up by writing to the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BCSBI). He wrote back to me disgusted, stating, Banking Codes appears to be of no use if this is their attitude. Why is this? Why to spend Rs50 for postage and printing? This was Mr Phadke’s reaction to a reply by HS Shetty, vice president, BCSBI, who wrote, “We have to clarify that BCSBI examines the complaint to see whether any systematic issue is involved and if so necessary action would be taken so that such gaps in customer service are rectified to all customers, in general. It is observed that you have already approached Reserve Bank of India, Corporation Bank and State Bank of India. You may follow up the matter with the banks concerned/RBI.”
Indeed sad, that none of the regulatory authorities took up the cause even after this single individual pointed out lapse in ATM failed transaction of over Rs10 crore.
Mr Phadke’s son told me that some RTI replies have been received. This writer would soon visit his home. Moneylife salutes the valuable contribution of Sharad Phadke in working relentlessly on behalf of the bank customers.