The day-long strike called by nine bank unions on Wednesday will hold up the clearance of at least 3 million cheques, worth around Rs 23 billion, the All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) has said. Around 1 million bank employees and officers are participating in this strike, the association has claimed.
The strike has been called to protest against the government’s recent decision to merge Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank to form a single bank after closing down the two other entities.
"The response to the strike has been very enthusiastic. Reports reaching us from all states suggest that the strike has been successful. Clearing operations will be affected today because branches are closed and cheques cannot be sent for clearance," said C H Venkatachalam, general secretary of the AIBEA, which is part of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU).
With branches closed, cash transactions are also set to take a hit. Government treasury operations, import and export bill negotiations, money market operations, etc, are also going to be affected.
"About 3 million cheques, worth about Rs 23 billion, will be held up without clearance due to the strike," Venkatachalam added. He underlined that the intention was not to disrupt banking services, but to draw the attention of people and Parliament, which is in session, to the implications of the merger.
A statement issued by AIBEA said that the merger of Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank into a single entity would lead to the closing down of thousands of branches. While the merger of six banks with State Bank of India in April, 2017, led to the closure of around 6950 branches, the three banks to be merged now have around 9,000 branches put together.
The merger would result in the closure of thousands of branches, at a time when the ATMs are also being shut down and India needs more branches. These closures would pose a serious problem to the customers.
The association has also sought a tough action from the government in recovering bad loans.
"If loans are recovered, all banks will be more profitable. Already, all the 21 government banks are showing an operating profit (Rs 1,550 billion as on March 31, 2018). It is only because of provisions for bad loans (Rs 2,300 billion), that banks are showing a net loss of Rs 850 billion. The government should review its policy," said the AIBEA.