Banks to remain closed today after unions call strike

Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi: Banks will remain closed on March 16 after the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) called for a strike in protest against the privatisation of public sector banks.

Customers will be inconvenienced to get services such as cash withdrawals, deposits, cheque clearances, remittance services. Government transactions related to treasury as well as business transactions will also be impacted. However, internal banking will remain unscathed.

The UFBU consists of 10 lakh bank employees and officers working in various banks across the country.

UFBU, an umbrella body of nine unions, had given a strike call for March 15 and 16. Members of UFBU include All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE), All India Bank Officers' Association (AIBOA) and Bank Employees Confederation of India (BEFI). Others are the Indian National Bank Employees Federation (INBEF), Indian National Bank Officers Congress (INBOC), National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW) and National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO).

Unions on Monday said nearly 10 lakh staffers across the country have participated in the strike, terming it a "success".

The operations of 3,399 public sector bank branches, 2,000-odd private bank branches, 634 Kerala Gramin bank branches and 200 administrative offices and clearing departments in the state were completely disrupted on Monday (the first day of the strike), the leaders of the outfit said.

The protesting employees held demonstrations and dharnas. The centre-state trade unions and farmers' outfits too have pledged complete support to the strike.

Lending indirect support to the strike, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said that it would be a "colossal mistake to sell the banks to industrial houses."

Rajan, currently a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said that it will be politically infeasible to sell any decent-sized bank to foreign banks. Though he feels that some of India's private banks may be in a position to acquire a public sector bank and turn them around, he was not certain if they would have the appetite.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the privatisation of Public Sector Banks while presenting the 2021-22 Budget last month as part of the ambitious disinvestment effort to mobilise Rs 1.75 lakh crore.

The government has already privatised IDBI Bank by selling its majority stake in the lender to LIC in 2019, and has merged 14 public sector banks in the last four years.

The government may amendment two laws later this year in order to execute the privatisation plan. The laws to be amended are the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1970 and the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1980 for privatisation.

(With PTI inputs)

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