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Bank strike hits individuals
Published on 7 Aug. 2009 10:36 PM IST
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A strike by over a million employees of 25 state-run banks hit both individual and corporate customers Friday, the second day of the two-day strike over wages and pensions. While bank managements tried to keep automated teller machines (ATMs) across the country supplied with cash, cheques were not being cleared, delaying payments all around. “Eighty-five percent of the bank branches have reported closed. It’s difficult to quantify how much business has been affected, but there will be hardship for the people,” said K. Unnikrishnan, senior vice president and deputy chief executive of the Indian Bank Association (IBA), a body representing bank managements. “Cheques will be cleared on Saturday but the remittances will happen only by Tuesday. However, online remittances are on, which will help reduce the impact of the disruption,” Unnikrishnan told IANS. People were inconvenienced across the country with hundreds of ATMs getting closed. A handful that were open, such as in Kolkata, did not have cash. “I badly needed some money today. But I found all ATMs closed. I am now desperately calling up friends for cash,” said Sumit Majumdar, a Kolkata-based real estate promoter. Echoed Mohammad Akil Akhtar, a resident of the same city: “This is bad. ATMs are needed for emergencies. How can they close them down just to arm twist the government into raising their salaries?” In Bangalore, banking operations, especially transactions have virtually halted, with majority of ATMs running out of cash since Thursday evening. “The response to the strike call is overwhelming. No one has reported for duty,” said the striking All-India State Bank Officers’ Confederation secretary K.F. Mamadapur. Employees of private banks like Karnataka Bank and ING Vysya Bank are also participating in the strike as their salaries are linked to the wage agreements between state-run banks and IBA. In the north-east too, banking services remained crippled with more than 30,000 bank employees supporting the protest. “About 2,700 bank employees in Tripura are taking part in the strike,” said union leader Sushobhan Datta. The trading volume at Indian equities and bond markets is also expected to be slim Friday as a lot of payments are routed through state-run banks. “In bond markets, banks are big players and hence volumes will be down. As settlements and clearance process are hampered, equity trading may also get affected,” said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, equity head at SMC Capitals. It is estimated that an average 3.52 million cheques (valued around Rs.26,767 crore) were cleared every day during May 2009. Private sector banks are open, but operations which involve transactions with public sector banks are expected to be affected.

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