Public sector bank employees had gone on strike on December 21 to protest against the proposed merger of associate banks and banking reforms announced by the government. Bank officers called the strike on December 21 to demand full and unconditional mandate for the 11th bipartite wage revision talks based on a Charter of Demands submitted on May, 2017. No headway has been made in the process so far even after 19 months since the discussion on wage revision began. Around 3.2 lakh officers participated in the strike. The demands of bank officers include implementation of the 11th bipartite settlement relating to salary and perks, giving effect to wage revision at the earliest, striking a balance in the duties and work of officers, giving effect to five day week in banks, upward revision of pension of retired bank officials, giving preference to basic banking transactions, banning marketing of non-banking products, cancellation of New Pension Scheme and give effect to specific pension etc.
The banking industry in India witnessed sea-change through nationalisation of banks in the years 1969 and 1980 with the sole aim of promoting small savings for self-sufficiency and for utilising the banks as catalytic agents for the economic growth.
AIBOA opposes the move to merge nationalised banks as the merger would result in reducing staff size and number of branches of associate banks in the name of rationalisation of operations. The strike also aimed at registering protest against merger of Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank, and hike in health insurance premium of retired employees. Trade unions in all state run banks, in the past, have acted as a powerful corrective force against the excesses by bank managements. One cannot ignore the fact that the trade unions continue to be a formidable force in nationalised banks. During last seven decades, bank employees have fought many battles without losing in a single one. They have won in each and every battle. Their strength is their unity among rank and file. No doubt, the merger exercise has already been set in motion and it is reckoned to be a matter of time before the process is completed; the employees are making a last ditch effort to stall it. PSBs have an important role in the development. The current management of most PSBs are as good as that of private banks. In fact, it is the level of NPAs which to a great extent differentiate between a good and a bad bank. High level of NPAs in Indian banks is nothing but a reflection of the state of health of the industry and trade. Comparing the performance of PSBs and private sector banks at a time when PSBs are weighed down by the problems of the economy at large is not fair. It would be more appropriate to compare the performance over a longer period. Privatisation of banks will worsen the banking scenario in the country. It is terrible that the Indian banking industry, considered to be one of the strongest in the world has now to face the problem of NPA because of wilful defaulters and political pressure. It is certainly not fair to blame banks for lending huge amounts to Vijay Mallya despite his failing business. Political interference in decision making in public sector banks is the root cause of the NPA mess. As far as publishing the list of defaulters is concerned, bringing such details under the purview of the Right to Information Act is a more viable option. A wide range of academic studies points to a trend towards convergence in performance of PSBs and private banks since banking sector reforms were set in motion in 1993-‘94.
The functioning of PSB has been criticised by those who want complete privatisation of PSB. No doubt privatisation of banks will lead to the profit driven approach for a short time but on that path, would it be possible to implement financial inclusion and other Government schemes which is one of the top agenda of RBI?
Vinod C. Dixit