Major bank unions in the country plan to oppose the government’s proposed Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill. They plan a preliminary depositors’ signature collection campaign, with plans for a nationwide strike if the Bill is introduced in the current session of Parliament. Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), third largest of the nine bank unions, had planned a meeting in Chennai to decide what to do. Followed by a likely all-union meeting to have a united forum to oppose the Bill. “All the bank unions will be meeting to discuss the road ahead. In case the government pushes to pass the Bill in the (current) winter session of Parliament, we can go on strike,” Pradip Biswas, general secretary of BEFI, told Business Standard. Although bank trade unions have said they are opposed, there is no united opposition forum yet. “A joint forum of all the unions will be formed soon to mount opposition,” Sanjay Das, assistant general secretary for Bengal at the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), told this publication. All India Bank Employees Association, National Confederation of Bank Employees, BEFI and AIBOC have said they have started on a depositors signature collection campaign to stall the Bill.
Das says 200,000 signatures are already with them and another 100,000 signed an online petition. Additionally, over WhatsApp, petitions with links have been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, Reserve Bank of India and the Union finance ministry.The original copy of signatures collected by BEFI will be sent to the Lok Sabha speaker. The signature campaign also asks the government to make public the names of loan defaulters every six months, ensure accountability of bank executives for bad loans and amendment in the loan recovery procedure. Additionally, unions are demanding that the government declare wilful and deliberate defaulters as criminals. It has instructed its state-level units to organise demonstrations and rallies to show its discontent with the Bill and garner public support. While such a demonstration is already underway on Friday in Kerala, a rally will be organised in Kolkata on December 21. According to the unions, the FRDI Bill puts depositors at risk and they stand a chance to lose their money with the banks. "The FRDI Bill supersedes all previous Acts and there is no need for this Bill when we already have proper regulators like the RBI and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority", Das told this business daily, adding that the FRDA Bill will also snatch away workers' and companies' rights to appeal to the Courts. A circular issued by the unions states that the FRDI Bill proposes to empower the Resolution Corporation to use people's saving to the tune of more than Rs. 100 lakh crore to be used as a bail-in packages for corporate defaulters to the tune of Rs 11 lakh crore. Bank employees are of the opinion that with the bail-in proposal in place, not only deposits can be endangered as the package finally may not work out, but the banks will also try to regain their financial health by using money parked by the depositors with them. Recently, CPI-M politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra, also the former leader of opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, said, "The government wants to come up with a law to use the depositors' money to improve the banks' financial health, but refuses to take any action against the guilty corporates".