CHENNAI: Banking operations were hit on Tuesday due to the nation-wide strike called by employees of public sector banks to protest the government’s proposed consolidation and to press for other demands. Clearing of cheques, money transfer, cash remittances, and deposits and withdrawals at branches were hit across public sector banks and some old generation private sector banks, as per reports received from various parts of the country.
“I tried to access my locked online banking account from Canada. It was an emergency and I couldn’t reach out to the customer service in India because of the strike,” said C Anjana, who works for a financial service organisation.
However, branches of new generation private banks were functioning as usual. The impact of the strike was seen in major business centres like Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Pune and Jaipur, while some ATMs in small cities went dry, according to reports from various parts of the country.
In Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi, on an average about 40 lakh cheques and instruments worth about ` 20,000 crore are transacted everyday.
The strike was called by all unions under the aegis of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine unions. AIBEA general secretary C H Venkatachalam said government was talking of consolidation, merger of banks at a time when India needed more banking services.
In addition, Rs 2,49,927 crore of bad loans had been written off in the last five years. Mergers would result in closure of bank branches as is happening with SBI after the merger of associate banks, he said, adding that creation of big banks through mergers would also increase risks for lenders.
Other demands of the unions include no write-off policy for non-performing assets (NPAs) of corporate loans, declaring willful default of loans as criminal offence and implementation of recommendations of Parliamentary Committee on Recovery of NPAs, NOBW vice-president Ashwini Rana said. The government should provide overtime for additional work employees did during demonetisation phase, he said. The UFBU, which claims membership of nearly 10 lakh across banks, requested the government for cost reimbursement of demonetisation to banks.