Even while the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) protests increased interference and supervision by the Financial Stability & Development Council (FSDC), there may be some serious trouble brewing in its own cadres which could focus much-needed attention to its internal functioning. As India’s monetary authority and banking regulator, RBI enjoys a special status and is not subject to any external audit. This allows it to write in a slew of special privileges for its officials, not to mention lavish expenditure on frequent off-site meetings at luxury resorts. In recent years, there have been even more goodies, because India’s position as a growing economic power and major world market has meant more invitations to global conferences and committees and junkets. A recent flashpoint is a decision to apparently hire 200 officers on a contract basis. Thanks to a standoff with the officers’ union (AIRBEA), RBI has not held promotional exams that allow those in the clerical cadre a chance to upgrade themselves to the officers’ cadre depriving some deserving candidates of career enhancement.
Interestingly, RBI already has excess ‘officers’ because of another unusual policy that allows it to promote more people than there are vacancies, if they clear the promotion exams. By its own admission, 3,607 employees have passed such exams in the past three years against only 1,330 vacancies, with the result that it has excess officers.
Being an officer carries prestige and lots of perks. One of these is a hefty petrol allowance, which requires only a ‘bogus’ declaration, according to a source. Every officer gets 150 litres of petrol a month if he lives within 2 kilometres of the workplace and 250 litres if he lives beyond. Another is an allowance for domestic help for house-cleaning. Both these allowances have been raised significantly, in a recent wage settlement. Other quirky perks include fruit bags (in addition to subsidised lunch) and unlimited mineral water at work and at home (don’t RBI officers use water purifiers?) as also unlimited overtime for drivers. — Sucheta Dalal