Hundreds of Bankers Oppose NPS, Privatisation at Jantar Mantar
Members of BEFI from across the country gathered to register their protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar, New Delhi: Hundreds of bank employees holding banners and placards and shouting slogans entered the Jantar Mantar on Tuesday morning protesting the lack of adequate recruitment, privatisation of nationalised banks, outsourcing of employees, contractual work, the National Pension Scheme (NPS), among other issues.
As the Centre announced the privatisation of two more nationalised banks, bank employees in almost every state started protesting. As a result, the government announced that the privatisation of these banks is off the agenda as of now.
Men and women of all age groups wearing the symbolic cap of the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) listened to union leaders as they criticised the Centre.
Ranjan Raj (62), who was with Indian Bank for 40 years, recalled the old days. “Public sector banks were designed so that even lower-class people and the illiterate could easily access them and bankers were there to help them,” he told Newsclick.
“A rickshaw puller or a farmer could open a bank account even if he had Rs 5. It was social banking with banks focussed on social service, not profits. Small farmers who were given loans boosted the rural economy. Now, the focus is completely on maximisation of profit,” he added.
Public sector banks have slowed recruitment and only hire employees for a few years. After their contracts expire, new employees are hired. “Banks are hiring on the Agnipath Yojana. The most recent example is State Bank of India,” a youth from Tamil Nadu alleged.
The youth from Kerala compared the contractual outsourcing of the govt to the Agnipath scheme and the things that private companies do
Leaders from different organisations joined the protest—CITU president K Hemalatha, All India Bank Employees Association’s JP Sharma and All India Bank Officers Association president Krishna Kumar, among others.
“The fact that the bankers are looking beyond their issues and addressing issues like unemployment shows that you have been doing a commendable job,” said Hemalatha.
Mentioning the impact of neoliberal policies, she said, “The neoliberal agenda started in the 1970s to address the systemic crisis in capitalist society. Even the IMF agrees that it has been a failure. The pandemic has aggravated the crisis. Soon, more jobs will be lost.”
Representatives from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, West Bengal and other states protested the Centre’s policies.
Sanil Babu N., who has worked in the banking sector for more than 27 years, said that the shift to digital has only increased problems. “Villagers find it difficult. Besides, banks do not have the required number of employees. When banks don’t function properly, the employee is blamed both by the government and customers. Even peons are hired on a contractual basis earning only Rs 300-Rs 500 a day and without social security.”
Newsclick spoke with a peon working on a contractual basis for more than 21 years. “I am happy about representing my association in Delhi. Our plights often go unheard. I have a family of four. It is difficult to make ends meet with the meagre government salary,” said Shaju A. (40), from Kerala’s Thrissur district. “If my employment is regularised, I would get other benefits like other employees.”
Shaju A, a sub-staff at a rural bank in Kerala runs a family of four. He has been working for 21 years as a temporary employee but has no scope to have the benefits of a permanent one
One of the most significant demands was the rollback of the NPS. “We call it ‘No Pension Scheme’. Even general managers under the NPS collect a pension of only Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000. Is this what the pension means?” questioned Sanil. Under the Old Pension Scheme, a fixed amount was paid to every retired employee.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.