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NABARD Unions to Strike After Centre’s ‘Inordinate Delay’ Stalls Accord on Staff Wages

Ronak Chhabra |
Over 3,500 NABARD employees and officers are expected to participate in the nationwide strike action on August 30; they are “justifiably restive and agitated,” the strike notice says.
NABARD Unions to Strike After Centre’s ‘Inordinate Delay’ Stalls Accord on Staff Wages

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: ANI

New Delhi: Employees and officers of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) have decided to go on a one-day nationwide strike on August 30 to press for settlement of a charter of demands, including wage revision pending since 2017.

The associations representing over 3,500 NABARD employees and officers have flayed the Union Ministry of Finance for the "inordinate delay" in signing and operationalising the final settlement on wage revision, a proposal for which has already been approved in the meeting of the Board of Directors of country's peak development finance institution.

The delay in wage revision has made employees of NABARD "justifiably restive and agitated," All India NABARD Employees' Association (AINBEA) said in its strike notice earlier this month.

"It is most unfortunate that by postponing the signing and operationalisation of the final settlement on wages and other issues like productivity for an indefinite period in NABARD due to any reason whatsoever, including the reported non-clearance from the above authority, the employees of NABARD are made to suffer for no fault of their own," the association said.

The AINBEA argued that the "inexplicable delay" in revising wages of NABARD employees is forcing the latter to "lose in terms of real wages in the current environ of spiralling prices of all essentials."

"This makes the gain in terms of enhanced wages borne out of such MoS neutralised," their strike notice further added.

Rana Mitra, general secretary of AINBEA, informed NewsClick on Tuesday that a draft Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) between the NABARD management and its employees' association was inked in February this year. Subsequently, he added, the proposal was also unanimously approved in March in the meeting of the Board of Directors of NABARD, which has representatives from both the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

"The proposal was then sent to the Department of Financial Services, under the finance ministry, for final clearance. However, clearance from their end has been pending for four months now," Mitra rued.

According to him, the current draft MoS on wages is the eighth such wage settlement in a row and "in tune" with all the past negotiated wage settlements in NABARD signed between AINBEA and the management.

"The tenure of the current settlement period, which is to be operationalised from November 2017 to October 2022, is already coming to an end shortly within a few months. Similar wage settlements in other financial institutions were over long ago. Trade unions in these institutions are in the process of submitting their next charter of demands. And yet, here in NABARD, thousands of employees are made to suffer," Mitra said.

The call to strike for a day on August 30 has also been supported by the All India NABARD Officers' Association (AINBOA), NewsClick has learnt.

Incidentally, earlier last month, the two organisations reportedly decided to defer a 'Delhi Chalo' protest action following an assurance from the management that "the issue of immediate settlement of revised wages is actively pursued by the management with the government of India."

The strike notice by AINBEA further touched upon the issue of strengthening the Development Financial Institution (DFI) character of NABARD through the flow of concessional funds from both the Central government and RBI.

Acting as an apex regulatory body for the overall regulation of regional rural banks, NABARD has been active in developing and implementing financial inclusion within agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas of the country. Till 1993, regular contributions to NABARD's rural credit funds were made by RBI, which serves as the benchmark institution for NABARD.

"Our association is pressing for restoration of these flow of funds from RBI which will go a long way in strengthening the long term agri-finance structure in the country, the weakening of which is now accepted by policymakers too," Mitra told Newsclick on Tuesday.

Earlier, allegations over a shift in NABARD refinance policy, moving away from the small, marginal, and poor farmers to finance corporates in the name of agriculture, have also surfaced in the media. Such an attempt has also been condemned by the NABARD's employees association.

Meanwhile, support for the employees and officers has also poured in from fraternal employees' and farmers' organisations in the country.

Member of Parliament Elamaram Kareem also raised the issue earlier this month in a letter addressed to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, in his letter dated August 4, urged FM Sitharaman to clear wage revision proposals for NABARD employees and ensure the creation of "congenial industrial relation" in the development finance institution.

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