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Banking services hit across the country

On an average, about two crore cheques/instruments worth about Rs 16,500 crore are held up for clearance.

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New Delhi: Banking services, including cheque clearances, cash transactions, loans and other dealings, across the country were hit on Monday as lakhs of bank employees began their two-day strike against the privatisation of two public sector banks.

All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) has claimed that the strike on the first day was a ‘total success’. AIBEA General Secretary Ch Venkatachalam told UNI that as per the reports from various States, banking operations have been affected and paralysed.

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On an average, about two crore cheques/instruments worth about Rs 16,500 crore are held up for clearance.

The top Union leader said the government treasury operations have also been affected.

However, branches of private sector lenders like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank functioned normally as they were not part of the strike.

The strike call was given by United Forum of Bank Union (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions, in the wake of the Union Government’s announcement to privatise two Public Sector Banks as part of the Centre’s disinvestment plan.

Banks were already closed on March 13 (second Saturday) and March 14 (Sunday) leading to four-day break in regular banking operations.

Nearly 40,000 bank employees in Bihar went on strike and demonstrated outside their banks against the centre’s privatisation proposal.

Joint convenor of UFBU-Bihar B Prasad said the bank employees after protesting outside their bank branches also demonstrated near Biscomaun Bhawan in the state capital.

Meanwhile the CPI (ML) extended its support to the strike and joined the agitation. They also assured to get a proposal passed by the Bihar Assembly against the centres proposal for privatisation.

In Himachal Pradesh, over 10,000 employees of the state did not join their duties.

Employees of all banks gathered outside the deputy commissioner office here and staged a Dharna led by representatives of UFBU at 1100hrs in the state.

UFBU state president Narendra Chauhan said unions are also protesting over the mergers of public sectors banks and down scaling public bank networks by privatization of banks.

The Unions are also opposing that waiving of the NPA and other liabilities of corporate houses on the cost of ruining the balance sheet of the public sectors banks.

He said that employees of all the 21 state-run commercial banks, regional rural banks, 13 old generation private banks and six foreign banks participated in the protest.

In Hamirpur, normal banking business in all parts of the district was paralysed. In Goa, hundreds of bank employees staged a protest.

Speaking to reporters, United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) General Secretary A M Pereira said that the UFBU strongly opposed the announcements made in the central government’s budget regarding reform measures like like privatization of IDBI Bank and two Public Sector Banks, disinvestment in LIC, privatization of one General Insurance company, allowing Foreing Direct Investment (FDI) in insurance sector upto 74 per cent, aggressive disinvestment and sale of public sector undertakings. Terming the government’s announcement to privatise public sector banks totally unwarranted and unfortunate, he said need of the hour was to strengthen the public sector banks.

In Punjab, Phagwara, Phillaur, Nakodar, Shahkot sub divisions and Nurmahal sub-tehsil were affected as public sector bank employees observed strike.

The services were severely hit in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley.

Meanwhile, customers alleged that some ATMs have already dried up as the cash was not refilled with banks remaining closed on Saturday and Sunday as well.

Banking operations in Puducherry were affected as over 3,000 employees partook in the agitation and held a demonstration.

In Karnataka, services were crippled and customers faced a harrowing time. Most of the ATMs had ‘No Cash’ boards adding to the woes of customers.

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