Kerala: BEFI Kickstarts People's Banking Jatha Highlighting the Attacks on Public Sector, Cooperative and Gramin Banks
CITU Kerala state president Anathalavattom Ananthan flagged off the rally from Thiruvananthapuram. BEFI state president Shaju Antony is the captain of the jatha. (Image Courtesy: Sanil Babu N)
The Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) is holding a statewide rally against the attack on public sector banks (PSBs), cooperative sector and rural banks. The 'People's Banking Protection Jathas" will meet the bankers and general public to highlight the impacts of the mergers of PSBs, privatisation of banks and strangling of cooperative banks.
The reduction of 27 PSBs to 12 in the last six years under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led regime in the Centre, and the subsequent closure of 6,000 branches leading to hardships for the general public and delays in filling up around 3 lakh vacancies in the PSBs would form another point of debate during the jatha.
The BEFI has called upon the public, the end users of the banks, to join the struggle against the policies plaguing the banking sector.
The two rallies, one from Kasargod and the other from Thiruvananthapuram, were flagged off on May 3 and will culminate in Ernakulam on May 13 with a 'People's Banking Protection Rally' and massive public meeting.
'IMPACT ON COMMON MAN WOULD BE HIGHLIGHTED'
The BEFI, along with trade unions, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), youth and women's organisations, formed the People's Banking Protection Committee in Thiruvananthapuram on March 21 to highlight the attacks on the banking sector.
Under the aegis of the committee and BEFI, the two jathas have begun their journeys to meet the people and bankers. The 11-day-long vehicle jathas will touch upon all 14 districts to appraise the bankers and public of the detrimental effects on the sector owing to the policies pursued by the union government.
Speaking to NewsClick, Sanil Babu, the general secretary of BEFI Kerala unit and captain of the jatha from Kasargod, said, "The merger of PSBs has resulted in the closure of around 6,000 branches, which catered to the needs of the general public. Those depending on branches for educational and agricultural loans are left stranded after the move."
Though the hubs operated by the banks take care of the big loans to corporates and high-net-worth individuals, the rural and urban poor are affected by the closure of the branches owing to the merger.
"We want to explain the impact of the actions taken by the government to the public. The delay in filling vacancies when the unemployment in the country is very high and implementing the contract system will adversely impact the youth and the public," Babu said.
The BEFI also highlighted the impacts of the sale of 51% shares of the Kerala-based Catholic Syrian Bank (CSB).
"The bank has planned to end permanent employment and loans to the common public and is set to implement the contract system and corporate loans. This is a prime example of privatisation of banks", he added.
'MEETING THE BANKERS AND PUBLIC'
Besides the yatras, the BEFI members are visiting every bank branch across the state to deliberate about the hardships faced by the bankers due to the merger of banks, attempts to privatise banks and prevailing vacancies.
"We have prepared pamphlets and booklets explaining the impacts of the policies being implemented now. We are inviting the public to participate in the resistance against the adverse policies destabilising the banks," said N Suresh, former national vice president of BEFI, to NewsClick.
A street play would be performed by troupes travelling along with the two jathas about the policy issues affecting the banks and their impact on the people.
"The plays will be performed in around 4-5 reception centres on all days of the yatra. The pamphlets and books would also be distributed to the general public in these centres," Suresh added.
'RESIST ATTACK ON COOPERATIVE, GRAMIN BANKS'
Another crucial point raised by the jathas is the attack on the cooperative and gramin (rural) banks along with the dilution of the NABARD.
"Through the new central legislation leading to the formation of the union cooperation ministry, the government is trying to strangle the cooperative sector itself. By amending the Banking Regulation Act, the Union government is not even permitting the use of the term bank by the cooperatives", Sanil Babu said.
The BEFI has also flayed the moves of the Union government to issue initial public offerings (IPO) for the regional rural banks (RRBs).
"The banks were formed to cater to the needs of the rural population, but the present moves will only weaken the gramin banks, which would again hurt the rural masses", Sanil Babu added.
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