Bharat bandh today set to hit banking, services

The bandh has been called in protest against the government’s \'anti-people\' economic policies and \'anti-worker\' labour policies

New Delhi: The two-day “Bharat bandh” called by the central trade unions and several other outfits on Monday and Tuesday is likely to hit banking services particularly as a section of the bank employees’ unions has supported the agitation. The bandh has been called in protest against the government’s “anti-people” economic policies and “anti-worker” labour policies.

The Platform of Central Trade Unions and Sectoral Federations and Associations recently met in New Delhi to take stock of the preparations in various states and sectors for the proposed two-day all-India strike. A statement said that roadways, transport workers and electricity workers had decided to join the strike despite the threat of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) being invoked.

Financial sectors, including banking and insurance, will join the strike. The strike notices have also been given by unions in sectors such as coal, steel, oil, telecom, postal, income-tax, copper, among others. The move comes after a meeting on March 22 where the trade unions said they would protest against the Centre’s “anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-people and anti-national policies”. The bank unions are protesting against the Centre’s plan to privatise public sector banks, as well as over the Banking Laws Amendment Bill 2021.

The country’s largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI), has said banking services may get affected due to the strike. “We advise that while the bank has made necessary arrangements to ensure normal functioning in its branches and offices on the days of the strike, it is likely that work in our bank may be impacted to a limited extent, by the strike,” the SBI said in a regulatory filing.

The unions’ demands include scrapping of the labour codes, that there is no privatisation of any form, scrapping of the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP), increased allocation of wages under MNREGA and the regularisation of contract workers, among others.

Besides SBI, a number of other public sector banks have also said their services may get impacted to a limited extent due to the strike. Punjab National Bank (PNB) said the AIBEA, Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) and All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA) has served notices proposing to go on strike on March 28-29. Canara Bank said it was taking steps for the smooth functioning of bank branches and offices. However, if the strike materialises, the bank’s functioning may be impacted, it added.

Private sector RBL Bank said its bank unions are affiliated to AIBOA and AIBEA, and the employees associated with these unions may participate in the strike.

Besides the two-day strike, customer banking services may also be hit on March 31 as the Reserve Bank has asked the banks to participate in the exercise of annual closure of government accounts for the current fiscal year 2021-22. All government transactions done by agency banks for 2021-22 must be accounted for within the same financial year.

The nationwide bandh is likely to have little impact in West Bengal as the state government issued an order saying all offices should remain open and the employees will have to mandatorily report to duty. No leave will be allowed on the two days and salaries would be cut in case of absence.

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