New Delhi, Aug 20 (UNI) Banking services, except the State Bank of India and the seven associate banks, were paralysed today in response to a strike call given by Left-backed trade unions on the issue of liberalised economic policies of the UPA government and spiralling prices.
''It is one of the most successful strikes in recent past with most officers and workmen in all centres throughout the country striking work,'' All India Bank Officers Association General Secretary S S Shisodia told UNI.
The State Bank of India and the seven associate banks had gone on strike on Monday to protest the government's decision to merge State Bank of Saurashtra with the parent bank.
''It is for this reason that the employees of the largest bank of the country and the associated banks refrained from joining the strike,'' All Infia Bank Officers Union General Secretary T N Goel said.
The strike by banks was part of the general strike relating to various sectors to protest against the government's economic policies.
Demonstrations and protest march charecterised the bankmen's strike. For instance, a rally was held in the capital, which began from Jeevan Bharti Building in Connaught Place to Jantar Mantar, which has become known as an assembly point for protesting groups.
At Jantar Mantar, Left leaders like Mr Gurudas Dasgupta of the All India Trade Union Congress and Mr M K Pandhe, President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) addressed the agitating employees.
Similar processions were held in other cities of the country.
Banks wore a deserted look and many of the customers who were not aware of the strike call turned back a disappointed lot.
The unions which gave a call for the strike included the All India Bank Employees Association, All India Bank Officers Association and Bank Employees Federation of India.
These banking unions laid out their own agenda for joining the strike, apart from what the Left trade unions have been demanding.
The unions are against mergers of Public Sector Banks (PSBs), outsourcing of bank work, liberalising norms of Foreign Direct Investment in the sector and moves to de-licence branch expansion.
The sectors which were a part of the general strike included insurance, telecom and airlines.
The trade unions which supported the general strike include All India Trade Union Congress, CITU, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India Central Council of Trade Union, Trade Union Coordination Centre and All India United Trade Union Centre.
In the past few months, bank unions have repeatedly gone on strike on the same issues and talks between the Finance Ministry and the Unions have not melted the ice.
The bank unions want strengthening of the social agenda mandate given to the PSBs.
This includes banking the unbanked sectors, reducing the interest rates to farm loans from seven per cent to four per cent, merger of Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) with sponsor banks, curbing credit for speculative and stock market operations and hiking institutional credit to the rural and retail cultivators sector.
They also want a stiffer policy on recovery of whopping non-performing assets of PSBs.
At the heart of the matter of the general strike, however, are the political undertones to paint the UPA government as being an 'anti-worker' and 'anti-people'.
The Left, which fell apart from the UPA government, has its own agenda in view of the elections to the state assemblies later this year and the general elections next year.
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