Six years after he was sacked as CEO, Drabu returns to J&K Bank as Minister

A red carpet return: Dr Haseeb Drabu re-entered J&K Bank after six years (KL Image: Meraj Bhat)

by Tasavur Mushtaq

KL News Network

SRINAGAR

Hanging drapes, fresh flowers, flexi boards and a two layered red carpet decorated the main entrance and lawn of J&K Bank’s Corporate Headquarters Saturday morning. Buzzing with activity since early morning, the lower and middle rung executives were giving final touch to the preparations. It was launch of calendar for year 2017.

Around 10:30 am, the Bank’s top management was lined up on the two sides of the carpet with flower bouquets waiting for the guest to come. The bone-chilling cold lacked an impact.  At 11 am arrived, the Minister for finance, labour, culture & employment Dr Haseeb A Drabu.

A former Chairman and CEO of the Bank, Drabu entered first time after the day he was asked to put in papers in August 2010 by Omar Abdullah led coalition government. That continues to be the only instance in the history of the J&K Bank in which a CEO was literally pushed to put in his papers.

As he walked past the executives of the bank, he shared a smile and a concern: “you all have grown old.” He later told the same thing in his speech and hinted at the problem as well.

A nostalgic Dr Drabu reiterated that he belongs to J&K Bank and in his address used ‘we’ rather than ‘you’.

The entry was well planned and a grand affair.

Drabu exit and entry had one thing in common – the summer unrest. But, his aides say his exit in 2010 was a hush hush one.

Parvez Ahmad, greeting his one time mentor Dr Haseeb Drabu with a bouquet of red Roses, and Gloria (KL Image: Meraj Bhat)

Going down the memory lane, they say, it was amidst the summer turmoil of 2010 when all of a sudden NDTV ticker started running on a post-iftaar evening that J&K Bank’s Chairman and CEO, Dr Haseeb A Drabu resigns on the government’s instance.

A shock and surprise for the staff, general public and investors, Dr Drabu they say was “cool, composed and laughing away the whole things while smoking.”

As the news spread, his few journalist friends and personal staff converged at his M6 residence at Gupkar to stay with him for most of the night.

A two liner resignation typed by his close aide was submitted to the Board members, who the informed sources said, were already seated and waiting for Dr Drabu. “What surprised me was the stoic silence of Bank’s two Executive Directors who were part of Board constituted and elevated by Drabu,” said a close aide. The last time he spoke to Board was detailed “how strong the bank was while he was leaving and asked them to not let the fundamentals slip.”

The resignation was accepted and in the meantime Bank officers union suggested that “we will lock down all the branches and offices in solidarity and against the government decision”. But Drabu strongly reacted saying, “this will harm the institution and institutions should always be given priority over individuals.”

Away from the Board room, his staff was busy packing his library, an enormous collection of books, while an ex-president, the lone bank colleague apart from his Executive Assistant, looked on, according to an insider.

When news and business channels sought his reaction, Drabu maintained: “Since the government owns the bank, it has asked me to resign without offering reasons, to which it has a right.” He avoided assuming reasons and guessing around thinking it will hurt the bank, his aides said.

Down the stairs, as he left his chamber, all the CHQ staff had assembled voluntarily in the auditorium and requested him for his “final address” to the staff.

Drabu’s voice resonated in the same auditorium, six later later (KL Image: Meraj Bhat)

“He spoke to staff very clearly and told them chairmen come and go and no chairman has done any good to the bank,” one senior official remembers Drabu saying. “It has always been the people behind the counters who have taken the bank to the heights where it was irrespective of who sat in the Chairman’s Chair.”

Drabu talked about the emotional equity that people in J&K had in the bank and he said it was central to financial institution’s strength. He said how the bank survived on blessings of widows, orphans, marginalised and the destitute. “My exit would not make a big difference,” Dranbu said. “Yi Chu Dasgeeri bank, Ath Kar Raech Dastgeer Paanai.”

After his brief speech was over, there was a standing ovation from the whole staff. Then the bankers serving the corporate headquarters, lined up on both sides to the exit gate. He was perhaps the only Chairman who decided to talk to the staff, even though he was asked to resign. Even those who completed their tenure avoided the “last” speech.

A day later, Drabu silently drove to the airport with his lone PSO – who now protects the incumbent chairman, an aide and his childhood friend, to take off for Mumbai. Then he was in self imposed exile for four years.

Why have I grown old: Drabu seemingly asking a young banker (KL Image: Meraj Bhat)

Saturday morning refreshed the memories when Drabu addressed the staff again in the same auditorium. Last time, he left the bank because of his “rough times”. Now, he had to admit that the bank was facing “rough times” and hinted it could be linked to the fast greying of the bankers who were young in 2010. This time, he was talking not as the chairman of the bank but as an owner, in his capacity as Finance Minister.

Talking about many things, Drabu was surprised to see old faces of people whom he worked with as young men. He continued to give the hope which he had given in 2010. Dealing with crisis of mounting bad assets, Dr Drabu complimented the staff while including him as one of the member of J&K Bank that “we are the best fire fighters in the world.”

Drabu assured bank of every possible help as promoter and reassured the staff of rising again. Later talking to Kashmir Life, his close aide said that he was worried to see the ‘few sad faces in the audience’.

Sharing dais with incumbent vice-chancellor of Kashmir University Professor Khursheed Iqbal Andrabi and former Vice-Chancellor of IUST Dr Sidiq Wahid, Drabu sounded more an economist than a politician. He had flown from Jammu to attend the launch function and left around 1pm to be back in summer capital.’

While entering the bank premises, a middle rung official whispered in ear of other executive, “Kith paeth draw, ti kith paeth aaw (How he left and (now) how he came back.” Fate is a funny thing. It picks up where it has left and then goes round and round to complete the circle.

 

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