Banking operations in West Bengal were severely affected for the second consecutive day on Friday as lakhs of employees and officers of public sector lenders continued their nationwide strike to protest against the Centre's move to privatise government-owned banks, officials said.
Shutters of around 8,590 bank branches and most ATMs in the state were down during the day as the United Forum of Bank Union (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine associations, observed the two-day strike from December 16. "We got an overwhelming response to the strike call on the second day as almost all staffers participated in the programme.
We will carry out more such agitations in future if the government goes ahead with the bank privatisation bill," an official of the UFBU said. In the Union Budget for 2021-22 presented in February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed to take up privatisation of two public sector banks. To facilitate it, the government has listed the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, for introduction and passage during the current session of Parliament.
"Besides the two-day strike, a series of protest programmes will be held if the government does not withdraw the bill," All India Bank Officers Confederation general secretary Sanjay Das said. He also stated the government's decision to privatise PSBs will adversely impact the country's economy, priority sector lending and credit flow to self-help groups and rural entrepreneurs.
"Around 70 per cent of the country's total deposits are with the PSBs, and handing over these banks to private lenders will put people's money deposited with PSBs in danger," Das added.