Cong seeks statement from FM on strike by bank employees

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New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) The opposition Congress on Tuesday demanded that the finance Minister make a statement to address concerns expressed by 13 lakh bank employees, who are on a two-day nationwide strike to protest privatisation of two public sector banks.

Raising the issue through a Zero Hour mention in the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the government has taken a decision to privatise two public sector banks without consulting the 75 crore account holders, who too are a stakeholder.

Bank employees are worried about their future following the government's decision to privatise and merge public sector banks.

The nation's 12 public sector banks employ 13 lakh and have about 1 lakh branches across the country, he said adding the government was able to implement schemes like zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts only on the back of the public sector banks.

Also, India was largely untouched by the 2008 global financial meltdown as it had strong public sector banks.

These banks as well as public sector units are the only ones that give reservation to the deprived sections of the society, he said.

Public sector bank employees and officers began their two-day strike on Monday while employees of general insurance companies will strike work on March 17. Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) employees have given a strike call on March 18, he said.

Kharge demanded that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman should make a statement to address concerns of employees over privatisation and mergers of banks and insurance companies.

Sitharaman was present in the House when Kharge made the demand.

Sanjay Singh (AAP) demanded an additional chance be given to UPSC candidates as many of them lost out on their last attempt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He cited the 2015 decision of the government to give one additional chance to candidates to appear in UPSC examinations and said the government should sympathetically consider the request.

Shaktisinh Gohil (Cong) sought that the pace of COVID-19 vaccination should increase as at the current rate it would take over 12 years to vaccinate the targeted 70 per cent population and 18 years for 100 per cent inoculation.

M Shanmugam (DMK) demand an inquiry committee to go into irregularities in the distribution of free ration in Tamil Naidu during the pandemic.

He alleged that instead of giving 5 kg of wheat or rice plus 1 kg of pulses a month to each eligible ration cardholder, the state government gave the promised quantity per family.

The foodgrains were then diverted to rice mills, he said alleging corruption.

He sought a social audit of the scheme and identification of the lapses.

Rewati Raman Singh (SP) raised the issue of non-construction of the promised Lohagarh oil refinery in Uttar Pradesh.

The 7 million tonnes a year capacity refinery, he said, was promised to be built after completion of the Bina refinery in Madhya Pradesh.

But even after years of completion of the Bina refinery, construction on the Lohagarh unit hasn't started, he said.

'If the refinery is not to be built, the land acquired from farmers for the project should be returned to them,' he demanded.

Ram Nath Thakur (JD-U) wanted adequate warehouses to be built to avoid rotting of foodgrains. PTI ANZ ANZ DV DV