Banking sector crippled for second consecutive day (Roundup)

September 25th, 2008 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) India’s banking industry was crippled for the second consecutive day Thursday as more than 800,000 bank employees and officers continued their strike in protest against privatisation, merger and acquisition of state-owned banks.The strike also affected remittance of money to Kerala from Gulf countries, where a large number of people from the state work. “This will cause a lot of difficulty for people here,” said a bank official.

Traders said the strike had disrupted business. “The bank employees should not have gone on a two-day strike. The strike in the month of Ramadan is causing a lot of trouble for traders as well as common people,” P. Zakeer, president of the Malabar Chamber of Commerce, told IANS.

“The strike is complete, total and successful,” Rajen Nagar, national president of All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), told IANS in Kolkata Thursday.

But the branch manager of a private sector bank in the city complained that protesters prevented employees of his bank from entering the branch during the two-day strike.

The two-day strike has been called by the United Form of Bank Unions (UFBU), the umbrella body of all bank unions, to press for a six-point charter of demands that includes opposition to amendment of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, which will give equal voting rights to shareholders.

Apart from all the public sector banks, some banks in the private sector, cooperative banks and regional rural banks have also joined the strike affecting operations in 50,000 branches all over the country.

In Kolkata, bank customers were greatly inconvenienced as 90 percent of the ATMS remained closed.

“I badly needed to withdraw some money to pay for my wife’s treatment in the hospital. But now I am left at the mercy of the hospital,” said Sourav Dutta, a West Bengal government employee, standing crestfallen outside an automated teller machine (ATM ) here.

Bangalore also faced the same problem.

“Many ATMs of state-run banks in upscale locations, markets and central business district dried up of cash by noon,” a bank union leader told IANS outside State Bank of Mysore (SBM) in downtown Bangalore.

“Due to cash shortage and long queues, guards were seen giving preference to customers holding the debit/ATM card of the respective bank though all ATMs are equipped to facilitate cash withdrawal from any ATM kiosk irrespective of the customer’s bank,” Praveen Kumar, a software engineer from the city, said.

In Chhattisgarh, the strike was total and successful, said bank employees union leader D.K. Chatterjee.

The strike affected banking business worth Rs.5 billion in the state, he told reporters in Raipur.

In Orissa, too, large numbers of ATMs were also non-functional.

The situation was better at Kozhikode, where customer flocked ATMs in the state as the two-day nationwide strike called by United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) continued Thursday.

According to bank officials, the ATMs were loaded with more cash than usual so that customers may not face any difficulty for money to meet emergency needs.

“Usually, we load the ATMs with Rs.7-8 lakh (Rs.700,000-800,000). In view of the strike we loaded Rs.15 lakh in ATMs. It should last two days,” an official of the Federal Bank told IANS.

In Chandigarh, scores of bank employees gathered in the bank square in Sector 17 where all the major nationalised banks are located. Similar protest rallies were brought out in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala, major business centres in Punjab.

“One of our key demands is to stop the government from amending Banking Regulation Act which would increase foreign investment in banks,” said G.K. Joshi, joint secretary of the Punjab Banks’ Employees Federation.

In Jammu and Kashmir, while nationalised banks remained shut, the local Jammu and Kashmir Bank, regional rural banks and co-operative banks functioned normally.

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