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Kerala: Grameen Bank Workers Strike Work, Urge Creation of National Rural Bank

Neelambaran A |
The demands of the RRB employees include the formation of NRBI, adequate recruitment, regularisation of temporary workers and services conditions.


Cover photo Caption: Employees and Officers of the Kerala Grama Bank headquarters in Malappuram. 

Employees of Regional Rural Banks (RRB) in Kerala held a one-day strike on February 23 on demands including the formation of a National Rural Bank of India (NRBI), filling up of vacancies and other service conditions. The other major demands include regularisation of temporary employees, abolition of appointment of business correspondents and withdrawal of appointment of recovery agencies. 

Ahead of the strike, the Kerala Grama Bank Employees Union (KGBEU) and Kerala Grama Bank Officers Union (KGBOU) held a 60-hour-long day and night dharna from February 21.

The February 23 strike was being held after a series of protests by the All-India Regional Rural Bank Employees Association (AIRRBEA) whose demands failed to elicit any positive response from the department of financial services. 

The major demand of the RRB employees is to delink the banks from the sponsor banks, since the first conference of the AIRRBEA. A statement of the organisation accused the sponsor banks of converting the RRBs, created by an Act of Parliament, into subordinate banks. The deputing of staff, without considering any criteria from the sponsor banks to the RRBs, resulting in the inferior treatment of the staff of the RRBs. 

The AIRRBEA statement added that RRBs were being refused a level-playing field without unique business models and policies. “In the existing set-up, development of RRB-specific business models is becoming a mirage. The boards of RRBs adopt policies and business models of their respective sponsor banks alone. Some RRBs are forced to sell financial products of the sponsor banks which are irrelevant to RRB customers. In that way, the sponsor banks are playing against the RRB customers as well”, the statement added. 

The AIRRBEA strike across the country reportedly affected services to about 40 crore customers since around one lakh employees stayed away from work. 

Badarunissa, general secretary of Kerala School Teachers Federation, inaugurated the 60-hour protest in Malappuram. 

Speaking with Newsclick, Bigesh Unniyan, general secretary of KGBEU said: “The demand for delinking RRBs from the sponsor banks and beginning a NRBI is gaining momentum given the present crisis faced by RRBs across the country. The domination of the sponsor banks is affecting the very purpose of the formation of RRBs itself”.

The KGBEU and KGBOU held a 60-hour dharna from February 21 in front of the Kerala Grama Bank (KGB) headquarters in Malappuram on the charter of demands.

The other major demands include the discontinuation of appointment of Business Correspondents in the banks, since the density of banks is very high in Kerala and the system weakens the banking system.

The unions also demanded the regularisation of temporary employees, appointment of 29 office attendants in existing vacancies and withdrawal of the engagement of recovery agents by the bank. 

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