Banking transactions were hit across the country after about 10 lakh bank employees began a two-day strike on Wednesday to protest against banking sector reforms and outsourcing of services to private sector.
Normal banking operations, including cash transactions, cheque clearances and foreign exchange dealings were affected. “The strike today has been a success all over the country. Banking services have been affected and paralysed,” All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) general secretary CH Venkatachalam said in a statement. Employees of 24 public sector banks (PSBs) and 12 private banks participated in the strike. However, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank services were not affected.
Banking circles said volume and liquidity in the forex market was low as many of the public sector banks were not there in the market due to the strike. SBI halted trading in onshore spot foreign exchange markets as its settlement operations’ staff did not show up for work. Bank branches were shut in many cities as thousands of employees, many brandishing banners, shouted slogans against the proposed reforms.
Parliament is likely to approve amendments to banking laws that include raising the limit on shareholders’ voting rights in public and private banks in the coming days. If Parliament approves the changes on Thursday, the limit on the voting rights of shareholders in private sector banks will be raised to 26 per cent from 10 per cent now, and to 10 per cent for state-run banks from just 1 per cent.
An official of a nationalised bank said cash withdrawals were not affected as customers were depending more on the ATMs.