The State Bank Of India’s Lal Darwaza branch, where Mahatma Gandhi maintained his account, has no records of his finances.
The Lal Darwaza branch of the SBI very proudly decorates its wall with a picture of Gandhiji along with his SBI account number. But if you ask the officials about the details of the bank account, they won’t have much to say. The branch maintains a Heritage Gallery wherein it houses old currency notes and coins, ledger books dating back to 1884, tokens issued to customers and other things.
But it has little details of Gandhiji’s account. The reason, officials say, they were either washed away in floods or misplaced. An official in the Lal Darwaza branch says, “This building was established in 1862. It has been renovated several times since then. It’s difficult to find the records.”
He, however, was able to throw light on how the bank came to know about his account number. “It is said that Gandhiji once wrote a letter from Sabarmati Ashram to the Imperial Bank of India, Ahmedabad, asking the bank to transfer some amount of money for donation.”
The bank doesn’t have the original letter. “The original letter must be at the main Heritage Gallery of SBI in Kolkata,” he said. Abhik Ray, a former Deputy General Manager of SBI associated with the history project of the bank, says, “That bank account (number 11109) had money collected as donations for Lalaji Memorial Fund. Gandhiji was one of the signatories.”
He said that there were two letters written by Gandhiji from Sabarmati Ashram. The first letter was to the Imperial Bank of India, Ahmedabad on June 1, 1928 in which Gandhiji asked the agents to pay a small amount to an authorised person to receive the amount. “He had enclosed only a receipt. His account number was not mentioned anywhere,” Ray added.
The second letter was written to G DBirla on February 27, 1929 in which Gandhiji enclosed a cheque for Rs 3223 drawn on account number 11109 being the available balance of donations collected from Lalaji Memorial Fund at Karachi. The original letters are not with SBI, Lal Darwaza branch.
“They are in the collected writings of Gandhiji. I have never seen the originals.” Ray said. Prof Ashwin Chauhan of Gujarat Vidyapith too said that Gandhiji’s bank records might have been destroyed in the floods of 1927 or 1928. The SBI thus has no financial records of Mahatma Gandhi. Sabarmati Ashram officials say that they had tried locating the original documents but could not.
Published by Ahmedabad Mirror (Times Group) on May 7, 2013.