Sunday, November 19, 2006


Payback: SBI starts ‘hall of shame’

Chennai, Nov. 18: The State Bank of India, grappling with a balance sheet marred by mounting bad debts, has launched a controversial initiative to force borrowers to pay up: it is publishing their photographs and addresses in newspapers in eye-catching advertisements that brand them “dishonest”.

The bank has chosen to head the large advertisements printed in popular Tamil dailies with the words “Naanayam thavariya kadanthaarargal”, meaning dishonest. The announcements carry photographs of the defaulters along with their home and office addresses as well as the details of the money borrowed and outstanding loans.

The long list of defaulters includes a senior orthopaedic surgeon in a city government hospital, a college administrator, businessmen, and several middle-level officers of the state and Central governments. A lady assistant in the state commercial tax department featured in the photo gallery for a measly Rs 17,516 outstanding from the Rs 60,000 she had borrowed from SBI’s Saligramam branch in Chennai.

Such stunning condemnation in the mass media has predictably caused uproar, with several customers blaming the bank for sullying their public image “just for some paltry sums outstanding, though the millionaire borrowers are being treated with kid gloves”. Some have gone to court seeking damages for “lost reputation”.

“I am shattered by this advertisement carrying my photograph,” said Ms Menaka Sigamani, headmistress of a Chennai Corporation school. “How could they publicly insult me in this fashion, branding me as naanayam thavariya kadanthaarar when I had promised to pay up? They let go of millionaires defaulting in repaying crores of rupees, but humiliate small people like me. This is unfair. Besides, they have charged me huge amounts as interest and penal interest.


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