The country’s biggest bank State Bank of India is facing the blues of insurgency in Garo Hills region of Meghalaya. Its employees working in the forested and militancy-infested region are dying to get transferred out. They are caught between their obligation to job and right to have a safe and secured life. The government miserably failed to ensure the latter while the bank wants them not to compromise with the job. Recent abduction of two employees of the bank created quite a flutter in the bank’s administration. Although the bank has reopened most of its branches after release of its employee Subodh Kumar Mishra, the authorities are considering merger of some of the ‘non-productive’ branches. Non-productive in the sense that ratio of money deposit is very less in these branches due to a sense of lack of security. Though the SBI came to limelight due to the back-to-back kidnapping, the scene is the same in other few nationalized and commercial banks operating in the region.
Banking is a very important tool for development. History of modern banking is traced to Italy in the 14th century while the first Garo might have heard of a bank not before 20th century. Such is the gap that if Garo Hills hopes to match with Europe one day, there is no option but to accept banks with open arms let alone kidnapping their officials. Without banking, the modern society cannot grow and light of progress cannot reach backward regions like Garo Hills. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said he wanted to see every citizen of the country to have a bank account. Modi’s message, it seems, has not reached the so-called militant groups of the region. They are yet to realise that a bank can make a lot of difference to an area. It can promote entrepreneurship, which is nearly missing in the region except for that of the militant groups. Other than their ‘business’ of kidnapping and demanding ransom and killing in the name of protecting rights of indigenous people, very few things are going right in the region.
The biggest responsibility in bringing progress and peace lies with the government. But, since the government comprises people from the society, it is not free from the influence of the social mindset which is still skeptical of accepting professionals from outside. Still, it is for the government to create the positive atmosphere for professionals, irrespective of their place of origin, to work for betterment of the region.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 27, 2014)