Bank unions call for strike on March 15,16 against privatisation of banks

New Delhi: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in the Budget 2021 speech that the government is looking to divest non-strategic, state-run firms. The announcement has raised concerns among public sector bank employees and unions, considering that they are outside the strategic ambit, as articulated in the Budget.

In order to oppose the proposed privatization of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) by the Centre, the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) on Tuesday called a two-day nation-wide strike from March 15. As per a UNI report, this was decided at the meeting of UFBU held in Hyderabad in which all the nine bank unions —-AIBEA, AIBOC, NCBE, AIBOA, BEFI, INBEF, INBOC, NOBW and NOBO took part.

All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) General Secretary Ch Venkatachalam, who participated in the meeting, in a Circular to all Units and Members, and e-mailed to UNI said, the meeting discussed the various announcements made in the Union Budget regarding reform measures like Privatization of IDBI Bank and two Public Sector Banks, setting up of Bad Bank, disinvestment in LIC, privatization of one General Insurance Company, allowing FDI in insurance Sector up to 74%, aggressive disinvestment and sale of public sector undertakings, etc.

As per the agency report, the meeting observed that all these measures are retrograde and hence need to be protested and opposed. After deliberations and discussion, it was decided that intensive struggle programmes and agitational actions have to be launched to fight back these policies of the Government, said Venkatachalam.

He was further quoted saying, “Accordingly, a day-long dharna will be held in all the state capitals on February 19, Relay Dharnas will be staged in all States/Districts/Towns from February 20 to March 10 and two-day strike on March 15 and 16. He said further strikes will be decided looking to the developments.

In her budget speech, Sitharaman said the government plans to privatize two state-run banks, besides IDBI Bank, and a general insurance company in FY22. She also announced the proposed initial public offering of state-run Life Insurance Corp. of India (LIC), in what would be India’s largest public issue so far.

Bank unions organized demonstrations across the country last week to protest against the move. “The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) is meeting on 9 February at Hyderabad to decide on full-fledged agitation against the proposed privatization of public sector banks,” UFBU’s convener for Maharashtra Devidas Tuljapurkar, had said.

As per the agency report, the AIBEA General Secretary said the Central government’s announcement to privatise PSBs is
totally unfortunate and unwarranted. “The need of the hour is to strengthen public sector Banks”, he added. The AIBEA has called upon all the unions and members to rise to the occasion and implement the programmes successfully.

It is worth adding that the government is expecting Rs 1.75 trillion from divestment receipts for FY22, which will help finance social sector and developmental schemes of the government.