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Strike cripples banking operations in India

Posted on Feb 20, 04:58PM | IANS

Chennai, Feb 20 : Banking transactions across India were paralysed Wednesday with around one million bankers striking work, affecting the clearance of around four million cheques valued around Rs.250 billion (Rs.25,000 crore), said a union leader.

"Bankers numbering around 10 lakh working in around 90,000 commercial banks and 70,000 cooperative banks across the country are on a two-day strike. Around 40 lakh (four million) cheques with a value of around Rs.25,000 crore could not be cleared today (Wednesday)," C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA), told IANS here.

He said employees up to the rank of chief managers were on strike to protest government policies.

While some branches headed by assistant general managers may be open, there will not be any banking transactions as the staff is on strike.

"Operations of ATM may be affected as refilling of cash is done by banks," Venkatachalam added.

According to him, 12,000 bank branches (8,000 commercial banks, 4,000 co-operative banks) in Tamil Nadu were closed as around 85,000 bankers were on strike.

"In Chennai alone clearing of 400,000 cheques amounting to around Rs.2,500 crore is affected," he said.

The bank employees are holding a rally here, he said.

"In the general insurance sector, around 35,000 employees have struck work and in many places offices have not been opened," J. Gurumurthy, general secretary, All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), told IANS.

Two major unions - AIIEA and General Insurance Employees All India Association (GIEAIA) - in the public sector insurance companies had called for the strike and the response was good.

The strike call also evoked good response in Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) with a majority of employees on strike, a union official said.

Central trade unions called for two-day mega strike as their talks with the government failed to reach a conclusion.

The unions have demanded concrete measures for containing inflation, steps for employment generation, universal social security and making the minimum wage Rs.10,000 per month along with daily allowance.

The strike has been called jointly by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and other such central organisations.

However, normal life in Tamil Nadu has not been affected with schools, shops remaining open and public transport in operation.