Bharat Bandh: Banking, insurance operations affected by strike

Chennai/New Delhi/Kolkata, Sep 2: Banking and insurance services were hit on Wednesday as lakhs of bank and insurance employees across the country struck work in protest against the anti-trade union and worker policies of the BJP-led central government.

"Clearing of cheques totalling around Rs.370,000 crore were affected across the country due to the strike. The total number of instruments were around six crore," C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA), told IANS. [Bharat Bandh Updates]

bharat bandh

According to him, around 500,000 bankers - workers and officers - from across the country participated in the strike. Around 75,000 branches did not function.

"The strike in West Bengal was a total success with 100 percent of employees joining it. The response from both public sector and private sector banks was overwhelming and all banking operations were hit today," Pradip Biswas, general secretary, Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), told IANS.

"Some of our workers received threats from the local political organisations dictating them to join work as normal routine and refrain from the strike. Our members, however, have braved them," Biswas added.

Similarly, in the government owned life and non-life insurance companies the strike was a success.

"The strike was a total success in Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and the four government owned non-life insurers. Around 100,000 insurance sector employees were on strike nationwide," V.Ramesh, general secretary, All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), told IANS over phone from Hyderabad.

According to him, insurance offices in West Bengal and Kerala were closed.

Unions in the non-life insurance sector are demanding early conclusion of wage negotiations, finalisation of the promotion policy and scrapping of outsourcing, among other demands.

Transport unions in the country are also striking work over the proposed Road Transport and Safety Bill.

All 52 regional rural banks apart from district banks joined the strike. Besides, employees of other important banks like IDBI, Nabard too struck work, AIEBA's Venkatachalam said.

"Except the State Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank, all other banks joined the strike. Kotak Bank is on strike," Venkatachalam added.

The strike was called in support of the 12-point charter of demands of the 10 central trade unions. Fourteen unions in the banking sector too gave the strike call, protesting against the NDA government's proposed bills amending labour laws, the Contract Act, the Electricity Act and Factory Act.

The unions in the banking and insurance sectors participated in the strike in support of strike call of central trade unions.

Complaining of increasing attacks on the rights and privileges of workers and concessions extended to the employers, Venkatachalam said there are open attempts to amend labour laws in favour of the employers and to the detriment of the workers.

The neo-liberal economic policies are only aggravating the problems of the workers and common masses, he said.

Venkatachalam said in the banking sector, there are continuous attempts to push through the reforms agenda aimed at privatisation of banks, consolidation and merger of banks and others.

"More and more private capital and foreign direct investments are being encouraged. Private sector companies are being given licences to begin banking business," he said.

According to him, Regional Rural Banks are sought to be privatised and a bill has been passed in parliament despite protests from employee unions.

The real problem of increasing bad loans is not being effectively handled by the government but on the other hand, crore of rupees are being written off from profits of banks, Venkatachalam said.

"Deliberate and wilful default of bank loans should be termed a criminal offence and money recovered but no action is being taken on them," he added.

"As on March 31, 2015, there are 7,035 cases of wilful defaulters involving bad loans of Rs.58,792 crore.

"The bad loans in the banks as on March 31, 2015, has risen to Rs.2,97,000 crore in addition to another Rs.4,03,004 crore of bad loans of 530 corporate companies shown as rescheduled and restructured loans under CDR (corporate debt restructuring) scheme," Venkatachalam said.

According to him, bad loans struck up in top 30 borrowal accounts of public sector banks as on March 31, 2015, is Rs.1,21,162 crore.

"More and more private capital and foreign direct investments are being encouraged. Private sector companies are being given licences to begin banking business," he said.


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