Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) Correspondent
The government has been justifying privatisation of public sector banks (PSBs) by arguing that bank customers deserve much better service than what they are getting. It blames workers of PSBs for poor service.
As a matter fact it is the government’s own policy of deliberately not filling vacancies despite increasing workload which has affected the customer service. The government wants PSBs to cut costs by reducing workforce to improve profit. Losses of PSBs are due to unpaid loans by big corporates and not due to bank workers.
The Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation (MSBEF), affiliated to the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), has taken up a very important campaign to expose the false justification of the government and educate the customers about the harmful effects that privatisation of banks would have on them. In this context a leaflet has been brought out in Marathi, appealing to bank customers by Shri Nandkumar Chavan, President of MSBEF and Shri Devidas Tuljapurkar, Secretary, MSBEF.
As most workers of other sectors are customers of PSBs, it will be desirable for them to know the reality of PSBs and the problem PSB workers are facing. Important information from the leaflet is presented below for the benefit of our non-Marathi readers.
Work load increased:
- The business of public sector banks has increased by Rs. 34 lakh crore during 2019-2022.
- In this period, they implemented new loan schemes; new services like Mutual Fund, life insurance, general insurance, crop insurance, pensions scheme, etc. are also being implemented through these banks.
- The number of bank branches, the scope of the work, the number of transactions, services, as well as the number of services implemented through the banks increased.
- The number of customers has greatly increased:
- 46 crore new Savings Accounts opened and linked to Aadhar cards. Rupay cards were distributed to these holders. They were brought under the ambit of the PM Jeevan Suraksha, the PM Jeevan Jyoti Insurance Scheme, and the Atal Pension Scheme.
- Now the distribution of wages, pension, honorarium, grants, scholarships are all done by the government through the banks.
- MNREGA workers are also paid through the banks.
- PSBs have disbursed crop loans to the 32.77 crore accounts of farmers.
- 35.87 crore accounts come under the PM Rozgar Yojana (Mudra Yojana).
- Loans have been disbursed to 33.36 lakh accounts of hawkers.
- In addition, there are accounts for PM Awaas Yojana, education loans, as well as special loan schemes for small and medium businesses.
Indian Public Sector Banks are unique in the world. They handle 155.82 crore savings accounts and 10.19 loan accounts.
However, staff strength cut down!
- In these 3 years, the number of PSB employees has shrunk by 30,653 though the work load has tremendously increased!
- This was done with the excuse that modern technology is being used.
- VRS scheme was launched in 2001; one lakh employees reduced.
- The vacancies arising from deaths, resignations and so on were not filled.
- In metros and big cities, the work earlier performed by 10-12 employees has to be now performed by 2-3.
- In smaller towns and rural areas, only one employee is often seen in the cage behind the cash counter
- Even if one employee takes leave, the branch has to be closed, often without prior notice.
Bad effect on customer service:
- Dissatisfaction of customers increased
- Stress on employees increased, affecting their physical and mental health and well-being
- This further affected customer service adversely
- Lines for withdrawal of cash are very long
- Employees are hassled
- There is no one to attend to grievances or enquires, and if there is anyone, he or she cannot satisfy the customer
Difficulties faced by rural customers and those who are not tech savvy (unable to use internet, mobiles, etc.)
- Many rural areas do not have regular supply of electricity and BSNL connectivity.
- Often counters have to be closed because of this, the pass books cannot be printed.
- Those who are not tech savvy have no option but to go to bank branches.
And despite this, in the past three years, 3701 bank branches have been closed down due to mergers. Large number of them are in rural areas. Now as an alternative to bank branches, “Bank Mitras” have been engaged. They are able to accept or pay out amounts up to Rs. 10,000. Apart from this, people running businesses like provision, medical or stationery stores, etc. have been appointed as banking agents who do this as an additional source of income. It is also claimed that because of ATMs, net banking and app-based banking, the need of so many branches are reduced.
However, all these alternatives have their limitations. None of them can be a sound alternative to a bank branch.
Statement by MSBEF
“Due to all these factors, banking has become a bitter experience for customers. They naturally take out their frustration on those managing the counters.
“We are placing the real situation before you so that you could take a stand on this issue. Getting good service from the bank is not only your expectation but also your right. That is why we are appealing to you that you too should take the lead to insist on bank recruitment, or in other words, make the bank administration know your stand as a customer. You should reach the central government through people’s representatives. We appeal to you to collaborate with us in the efforts we are making as bank employees.
“If you have any other suggestions as bank customers, please convey them to us through our email, email@example.com . We will make the required efforts in that direction and keep you informed.
“We thank you for your consistent collaboration!”