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Refusal to give salary boost citing NPAs: How can bank employees be held responsible?

By Gautam Thaker*

Recently, there has been an increasing tendency on the part of the Government of India to push forward its reforms agenda. It is found to be vigorously according high priority to issuing new banking licenses to the corporate sector, throwing open the banking sector to private entities in the name of favouring small banks, even as allotting to private persons shares of public sector banks.
In fact, it is giving a go ahead to merger and acquisition of banks in the name of consolidating them. The trend of bad loans or non-performing assets (NPAs) is increasing, but no effective and stringent steps are being taken for their recovery.
All this is happening amidst the government showing keenness to bring about labour reforms in the interests of industrialists and capitalists, though detrimental to workers’ interests. Rights and privileges of the working community are sought to be trampled upon.
When the United Forum of Bank Unions recently approached the government with the demand of lawful, reasonable and time-bound pay rise, it was offered mere 2% rise over a five year span.
For the last many years, pending demands of bank employees have been piling up. Before the time-limit for pay revision came to an end on October 31, 2017, a 15% rise in the pay scale was agreed upon in 2015. This rise in salary was effected from 2012 to 2017.
But when bank employee unions approached the government, they were offered just 2% rise. They were told, since NPAs have snowballed during the last four years, no more than 2% rise could be offered. There are 21 banks under the PSU category with employee strength of over 8 lakh.
As regards increase in banks’ NPAs, employees are not responsible or accountable for it. Powers have been vested in senior officers to sanction loans to the tune of Rs 50 crore to Rs 1,000 crore. Senior officers such as general manager (credit), chairman and managing director as also executive directors are responsible for this. Hence, one cannot accept the argument that pay rise cannot be acceded to in view of rising NPAs.
Presently, the condition of bank employees is pitiable and deplorable. Permanent and regular banking jobs are outsourced to external agencies, working hours of the officers are not fixed, and there is no regulation as regards their extended working hours.
Meanwhile, licenses are issued to the corporate sector for opening new banks, classification of public sector banks are made on the basis of their group performance and resultant mergers.
While the country’s economy has gone down the drains owing to demonetization and goods and services tax (GST), recent bank scandals make it clear that the administration of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has completely and callously failed. There is a need to inquire into why no bank is following or abiding by rules and regulations framed by RBI.
What has happened to the vigilant audit system of banks? Where is the fault of ordinary bank employees for denying them increase in salary? During the year 2016-17, the gross operating profits earned by banks was to the tune of Rs 1,58,982 crore, but there was a setback due to negligence of senior officers vis-à-vis NPAs.
It is difficult to understand that bank employees are being deprived of their legitimate right and justified salary rise under the pretext of NPAs. Let us hope that the NDA Government will take a positive decision in right perspective by taking into account justified and settlement-based demands of the bank employees.
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*Chairman of Indian National Bank Employees Federation, Gujarat. Contact: gthaker1946@gmail.com

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