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Bank unions plan to march towards Parliament against privatisation

 Feb. 20,2021 ( PTI): Opposing government's privatisation plans, bank unions on Friday staged protest in all the state capitals and plan to march towards Parliament next month if their demands are not met, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget speech earlier this month announced plans to privatise two public sector banks.

About 10 lakh bank employees and officers under the banner of United Forum of Unions consisting of nine unions AIBEA, AIBOC, NCBE, AIBOA, BEFI, INBEF, INBOC, NOBW, NOBO are agitating against government's proposal, AIBEA said in a statement.

The bank unions, after Friday's dharna, will stage protests across the country in the next 15 days. "On 10th March, we will hold a protest demonstration before Parliament during the Budget session," AIBEA said.

Thereafter, 10 lakh employees and officers of the banks will observe two days of continuous strike on 15-16 March, 2021. "If the government proceeds further, we will intensify the agitation and go for prolonged strikes and indefinite strike. We demand of the government to reconsider their decision," AIBEA added.

The union said after India got independence no private sector bank came forward to help the economic development of the country that necessitated the nationalisation of major private sector banks in 1969.

Since then, banks have made great strides and have played a significant role in the country's development and from 8,000 bank branches in 1969, today there are as many as 100,000 bank branches across India, of which many are in rural areas.

AIBEA said from 2010 to 2020, public sector banks have earned a total profit of 14,57,000 crore.

"The only problem facing banks is the bad loans. Most of the bad loans are by the corporates and rich industrialists. Instead of taking action on them, the government wants to privatise and hand over the banks to them," AIBEA General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said.

Throwing light on the condition of private sector banks today, the bank union said many of them have collapsed, last year Yes Bank was in trouble and recently Lakshmi Vilas Bank was acquired by a foreign bank.

"We have seen the problems in ICICI Bank. Hence one cannot accept that private sector banking is very efficient. Only public sector banks give loans to common people, poor people, agriculture, small-scale sector, etc. Private Banks help only the big corporates," AIBEA said.

Moreover, the public sector banks have given permanent jobs to young unemployed, while in private banks, it is only contract jobs. "There will be no reservation in jobs for SC/ST category employees if banks are privatized."

Citing government claims that crores of poor people have opened their accounts in banks under Jan Dhan Yojana as public sector banks with 75 per cent of total branches have opened 40.50 crore of new accounts but the private sector banks with 25 per cent of total branches have opened only 1.25 crore accounts under this scheme.

AIBEA said the banking sector has total deposits worth 146 lakh crore currently, which is hard-earned public savings.

"We cannot allow private hands to play with this huge public savings. Hence privatisation is a bad idea. If the government is serious about economic development, public sector banks should be strengthened. In public interest, in people's interest, in the country's interest, we oppose privatisation of public sector banks," Venkatachalam said.

In 2019, the government had given the controlling stake in IDBI bank to insurance behemoth LIC.

Besides, in 2020, 10 public sector banks were consolidated into six big size banks last fiscal. With this the number of public sector banks in India now stands reduced to 12 from 27 in 2017.