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Banking operations were hit today by the nation-wide strike called by employees of public sector banks to protest against the government's proposed consolidation move and to press for other demands. Operations such as clearing of cheques, money transfer, cash remittances, and deposit and withdrawals at branches were hit across public sector banks and some old generation private sector banks, as per the reports received from various parts of the country. However, branches of new generation private banks like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank were functioning as usual. The impact of strike was seen in major business centres like Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Pune and Jaipur, while some ATMs in small cities went dry, according to reports from various parts of the country. The Indian Banks' Association (IBA) had already informed customers that functioning of branches and offices may take a hit due to the one-day strike.
It had also asked banks to take measures in advance to minimise the impact.The strike has been called by all unions under the aegis of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU). The UFBU is an umbrella body of nine unions, including the All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and the National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW). AIBEA General Secretary C H Vekatachalam said government is talking of consolidation, amalgamation and merger of banks at a time when India needs more banking services. Bank mergers would result in closure of bank branches as is happening in the case of SBI now after the merger of associate banks, he said, adding that creation of big banks through mergers would also increase risks for lenders. AIBOC General Secretary D T Franco demanded that the government should immediately raise gratuity limit for bank employees to Rs 20 lakh. Other demands of the unions include no write-off policy for non-performing assets (NPAs) of corporate loans, declaring wilful default of loans as criminal offence and implementation of recommendations of Parliamentary Committee on Recovery of NPAs, NOBW vice-president Ashwini Rana said. The government should provide overtime for additional work employees did during demonetisation phase, he said. The UFBU, which claims membership of nearly 10 lakh across banks, requested the government for cost reimbursement of demonetisation to banks. As many as 21 public sector banks control 75 per cent of the total banking business.
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