Bank nationalisation day brings out fire in belly of employees

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New Delhi, Jul 20 (UNI) It was mass mobilisation of employees as they got together to mark the 39th Anniversary of Bank Nationalisation, giving a clarion call to the government to desist from mindless privatisation of financial institutions, curbing the social mandate of the Public Sector Banks and prevent unhampered entry of foreign banks into the country.

Saturday saw mass rallies and seminars as well as other assemblies all over the country where the employees highlighted the strengths and achievements of the Public Sector Banks.

They said the most notable achievement of bank nationalisation has been priority sector lending by the PSBs, an avowed goal and a lofty ideal which would never have been met had the Banks not been brought under the fold of the Public Sector.

The PSBs earmark 40 per cent of their total lending for areas such as loans to Small and Medium Enterprises, tiny sector, agriculture and poverty alleviation programmes.

Financial inclusion has indeed become an integral part of their lending.

The private sector, motivated by the sheer greed of profit, only pays a lip service to these goals, speakers at a workshop said here.

They were of the view that despite the clutches imposed on the Public Sector Banks, they have not done as poorly as sometimes projected by the spokespersons of the private and foreign banks.

The key speakers at the seminar organised at the Constitution Club included Mr S Sudhakur Reddy, Member of Parliament and Chairman-Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Prof Asmi Raza, Associate Professor of Economics, Delhi University.

The representatives of the employees who spoke at the event included Mr Rama Nand, General Secretary Delhi State Bank Employees Federation and Mr S S Sishodhia, General Secretary (Delhi State) All India Bank Officers' Association.

Mr Rama Nand represented the workers and Mr Sishodhia the officers.

The speakers recalled the saga of the Bank Nationalisation.

In a swift move, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had nationalised 14 Banks on July 19, 1969.

The banking scene in the country at the time of independence was dominated by foreign banks which were mostly financing foreign trade to suit the colonial rule.

By the 1960s, the Indian banking industry had become a tool to facilitate the development of the Indian economy. At the same time, it emerged as a large employer.

A political debate ensued in the country about the possibility to nationalising the banking industry. These were the years when the political climate of the day was that of a socialist pattern of society where the commanding heights would be in the domain of the Public Sector.

Mrs Gandhi at an annual conference of Congress meeting expressed the intention of the governemnt to nationalise the major banks. The ideas had their germination in a paper entitled 'Stray thoughts on Bank Nationalisation'.

The paper was received with enthusiasm by the general public.

Thereafter, her move came as a surprise and a rude shock to the business community as the government nationalised from midnight of July 19,1969 the 14 largest Commercial Banks.

The route adopted was that of an Ordinance, which evoked huge hue and cry from the big business and the syndicate led by Mr Morarji Desai, known to be a staunch rightist.

Mr Jayaprakash Narayan, a national leader who led a mass movement to dethrone Mrs Gandhi after the judgement of the Allahabad High Court, described the step as a ''masterstroke of political sagacity.'' An ailing Mr Narayan was arrested during the Emergency imposed by Mrs Gandhi.

Within two weeks of the issue of the Ordinance, Parliament passed the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertaking) Bill, and it received the Presidential approval on August 9, 1969.

A second wave of nationalisation followed in 1980 with a further nationalisation of six more commercial banks. The stated reason for the nationalisation was to give the government greater control over credit delivery.

Until the 1990s, the Nationalised Banks grew at a pace of around four per cent, closer to the average growth rate of the Indian economy.

Mr Sishodhia articulated the agenda of Nationalised banks as the demand of the employees.

This included stopping privatisation of banks, putting an end to attempts to carry out mergers and undertake consolidation, larger quantum of loans to the agriculture sector, exercising caution for loans to activities relating to speculation and trading on food grains and recovery of huge bad loans to the Corporate Sector.

They also said the rate of interest on farm credit should be four per cent from the present level of seven per cent, the interest on saving deposits should be hiked, there was need to revitalise the Cooperative Banks, it was borne of a necessity to merge Regional Rural Banks (RRB) with sponsor banks and the government ought to do a better job of controlling prices.

Mr Sishodhia charged that the bank policies were detrimental to the objectives for which the Banks were nationalised.

''People's money should be for people's welfare and national savings for national development and not for Corporate loot and profiteering,'' Mr Sishodhia remarked.

The day was observed as 'Save Public Sector Banks Day'.

UNI MP-GS SG KN1149

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