• Shamsher singh

Losing A Heritage Sikh Institution Punjab & Sind Bank To Nationalisation

Newspaper headlines declared the appointment of Sri Swaroop Kumar Saha as the new MD and CEO of Punjab & Sind Bank.

Reading the headline, I recalled how the bank was established by dedicated and sincere Sikh thinkers Bhai Vir Singh, Sir Sundar Singh Majithia and Sardar Tirlochan Singh, so that the regions of Sindh and undivided Panjab could enjoy banking services. The bank was established on June 24, 1908. It suffered due to partition but worked hard to extend services across the country.

Under the leadership of Sardar Inderjit Singh, the bank started registering progress and made profits. A commendable job that Sardar Inderjit did was employing educated Sikh youth with unshorn hair and beard.

The Sikh community came together to make the bank a success. Bank’s branches were opened in Sikh organisations, gurdwaras, Sikh schools and colleges. Besides, Sikhs opened bank accounts in the institute and placed money in Fixed Deposits. Every year, the bank started rolling out calendars illustrating Sikh history, which won accolades from the Sikh community. Many Sikhs deposited funds in the bank just to avail the calendar. With the sustained efforts of Sardar Singh, Punjab & Sind Bank published innumerable books about Sikh history in Panjabi, English and Hindi. They bought books from Sikh writers and hired famous illustrators to exhibit illustrations about Sikh history and culture. The bank kept progressing and was able to open branches in every city of the country. Later, the bank was transmuted into a ‘national bank’ on April 15, 1980. This decision was met with solid disagreement and opposition by Sikhs. Ultimately, the Sikh leaders reached a ‘conditioned’ agreement with the central government. The condition was that the bank’s head, i.e. its chairman cum managing director would always be a Sikh. As per the promise, after Sardar Inderjit Singh, many Sikh officials, after internal promotions, operated as the head of the financial institute. Some of them were Sardar Surinder Singh Kohli, Sir Gujral, etc. Sometimes, Sikh officials from other banks were appointed as the head of Punjab & Sind Bank. Sometimes, Sikh IAS officials were appointed as heads, for example Sr. KS Brar and Sr. RP Singh. The mention of some of the Sikh officials is to flag that after nationalisation, the central government kept its promise of only appointing Sikh officials as the bank’s head – for many years. However, after nationalisation, Sikh youth did not find employment in the banks, unlike earlier times. The recruitment was subsequently done by Banking Recruitment Board, due to which, non-Sikh and non-Panjabi candidates filled most of the job posts. Sikh leaders also went astray. Seeing the Sikh leaders off the mark and in hibernation mode, the central government took the opportunity and started appointing non-Sikh EDs (executive directors). Seeing no protest from the Sikh leaders, the central government regularly started appointing non-Sikhs as the heads of the bank. But Sikh leaders paid no heed. As of March 31, 2020, there were 1526 branches of the bank and 25 zonal offices. But there are only countable Sikh youngsters in the branches of Punjab & Sind Bank across the country. There is rarely any Sikh manager.

The Punjabi language has already been erased from this bank Will the Sikh leaders take responsibility for the loss of jobs of Sikh youth from this esteemed and noted Sikh organisation ?

This is an economic massacre of Sikhs.This is the next phase of after Chandigarh , the Tribune.

Translation of the Panjabi essay by Prof. Bhupinderpal Singh Bakhshi Translated by Manpreet Kaur