Cong lends support to bank strike; says Modi govt responsible for inconvenience to public

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New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) The Congress on Monday extended its full support to the two-day strike call given by bank employee unions and said the Modi government is squarely responsible for the inconvenience caused to people.

AICC general secretary and party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a statement, said the United Forum of Bank Union (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions, has given a call for a two-day nationwide strike on March 15 and 16 against privatisation of public sector banks and 'retrograde banking reforms'.

'We stand in solidarity with 10 lakh bank officials and staff participating in the strike against reckless privatisation of public sector banks. The strike called by the United Forum of Bank Union is against the ill-placed priorities of the Modi government. The Modi government is responsible for the inconvenience being faced by the people,” he said.

Surjewala stated that there is no rationale for selling state-owned lenders to private players--foreign or domestic--and alleged that this is yet again a desperate attempt to meet the disinvestment target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore.

He said experts like former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan have red-flagged the move, calling it a “colossal mistake”.

The Congress leader also accused the government of 'running away' from its responsibility of ensuring better governance in public sector banks by 'recklessly selling' such lenders.

'What we really need is higher accountability of public sector banks and not their outright sale. These banks have been at the forefront of lending to priority sectors like public infrastructure roads and also rural areas which need financing,' he said.

Surjewala said a very large part of the country’s population lives in rural areas and are involved in agriculture, adding that “we need public sector banks for outreach and to ensure banking is more accessible to the largest number of population that we have in villages and smaller towns, which are not high on the priority list of private lenders”.

He said the whole idea of bank nationalisation was to bring banking closer to every Indian. PSU banks are not just profit-making ventures. They have been in the past used as vehicles of social reforms, he added.