This is a rags to riches story – and back again – courtesy the State Bank of India (SBI). Urmila Yadav, who works as a domestic help in Kanpur, recently found she was one of India's richest women when the Rs 2,000 ($32) in her bank account suddenly turned into Rs 95,71,16,98,647 ($1.5 billion).
It eventually turned out to be due to an accounting error, but not before turning Urmila’s world upside down and leaving many red faces at the country’s largest bank.
She had opened a savings account by depositing Rs 2,000 ($32) with the SBI branch in Vikas Nagar as a part of the central government's Jan Dhan Yojana scheme. But two text messages from the bank shocked her: the first said her account had been credited with Rs 9.99 lakh ($15,583), while the second said that Rs 9.97 lakh ($15,552) had been deducted, leaving her a balance of Rs. 2,000 ($32).
"I was constantly asking myself as to how this Rs 10 lakh came and went," Urmila told the Hindustan Times.
But a bigger shock was waiting for her when she rushed to the bank with Lalta Prasad Tiwari, an account holder who had helped Urmila open her account. When the account was checked at the branch, it showed a staggering balance of Rs 95,71,16,98,647.14 ($1.5 billion).
Even the bank officials, who could not easily read or calculate the figure immediately, were reportedly stunned.
V.K. Srivastava, a senior clerk who also officiates as manager, claimed the error was due to a bank process undertaken to freeze a dormant account. Urmila's account had reportedly been dormant as she had not maintained the minimum balance.
According to the bank staff, to communicate to the account holder that he or she could no longer use the account, the bank may have credited a made-up figure and then deducted it.
This theory was not acceptable to some.
"Rules bar banks from crediting and debiting any sum without the consent of the account holder," chartered accountant Abhishek Gupta told the Hindustan Times.
"The bank is responsible for what has happened. What is the point in such a process?" he asked. "It needs to be investigated thoroughly."
No longer a billionaire, Urmila is anxious to know that her actual savings are intact.
"I do not want to contest as to how it happened. My only worry is the Rs 2,000 ($32). That should be safe," said Urmila.
Perhaps to atone for its gaffe, SBI has now activated her account and it is showing the correct balance of Rs 2,000 ($32).