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CTUs Extend Support to Call to Protest Against Bank Privatisation Before Parliament

Ronak Chhabra |
To oppose the privatisation of PSBs, the bank employees' and officers' unions in the country, under the banner of UFBU, gave a call to stage a dharna before Parliament on July 21.

File Photo.

New Delhi: On a day when the Monsoon session of the Parliament commences in which it is feared that a bill to facilitate the privatisation of two public-sector banks will be introduced by the Narendra Modi–led government, Central Trade Unions (CTUs) reiterated their opposition to the expected move.

The CTUs also extended support to the dharna before Parliament on July 21, called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), a coming together of bank staff unions.

"… we are totally opposed to privatisation of our public sector banks which are the main engines of our economic development. It is notable the bank unions under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) have been waging a relentless battle against the moves of the government to privatise the banks," a statement by Joint Platform of CTUs, released on Monday, said.

Signed by INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, and UTUC, the statement added that handing over the PSBs to the private sector "makes no sense at all."

"There is no case of privatisation of public sector banks because it is only the big private corporate companies which are the major defaulters of huge bank loans due to which banks are incurring large amounts towards provisions, write-offs and haircuts," the unions reasoned.

Further arguing in favour of the PSBs, the unions remarked that public savings must remain with the public banks "because of our bitter experience in the past where many private banks have collapsed, and the people lost their precious savings."

"Further, for the development of our economy, these deposits have to be deployed in important and needy sectors of the economy. Only public sector banks extend loans to priority sectors like agriculture, employment generation, poverty reduction, health and education, women's empowerment, credit to small, medium and cottage industries, exports, etc. Private sector banks are interested in giving loans only where profits are more and assured and not for social needs of the country," the unions added.

Reasoning on similar lines to oppose the privatisation of PSBs, the banks' employees' and officers' unions in the country, under the banner of UFBU, gave a call to stage a dharna before Parliament on July 21.

"The bank unions will give a strike call if the government introduces a bill to privatise public banks in the Parliament or make an announcement to do so in the ongoing monsoon session," C Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) told NewsClick on Monday.

He added that the bank employees and officers also ran a Twitter campaign on Sunday morning, which was "successful" and shall be continued.

In the Union Budget for the financial year 2021-22, the Modi government had announced its intent to privatise two PSBs, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, earlier in April this year, reiterating that the government will fulfil its commitment to the same.

This was even as the Central government has not been able to make considerable progress on bank privatisation for these many months now since making the announcement in the face of trade union opposition, according to one media report.

In December last year, over eight lakh bank officers and employees across the country struck work for two days to protest against the listing of a bill that seeks to amend banking laws in the country in the legislative business of the then winter session of Parliament.

Likewise, in March this year, banks remained closed for another two, as employees and officers joined the two-day general strike call of CTUs to protest against the privatisation of public enterprises.

Giving a wide berth to the concerns shared by bank unions over the Centre's privatisation policy, recently this month, in a paper, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) Director General Poonam Gupta and Columbia University professor Arvind Panagariya batted for privatising all PSBs in the country but State Bank of India (SBI).

Incidentally, Gupta is also a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, while Panagariya is a former chairman of NITI Aayog, the government's apex public policy think tank, according to a report by The Indian Express.

Asked about the paper, Venkatachalam of AIBEA called it a "nonsensical and one-sided" report written with a "vindictive" purpose against the PSBs. He added that the bank unions have repeatedly presented arguments on how the private banks are not any better than PSBs.

"We stand by our arguments and will continue the struggle," he said.

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