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Bank strike blow to trade

Businessmen as well as the common man bore the brunt of the one-day strike by public sector banks as cheque clearances, withdrawal and deposit of money remained suspended on Wednesday.

In places like Jamshedpur, members of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), which had called the strike to press for wage revision and other demands, forced private banks to down shutters too.

In Ranchi zone, which comprises the districts of Ranchi, Khunti, Lohardaga, Latehar, Simdega and Gumla, financial transactions of over Rs 800 crore didn’t take place. Over 8,000-10,000 cheques could not be cleared. This apart, 50 per cent ATMs didn’t function as they went out of cash.

“I had to withdraw money against a cheque to buy vegetables. But when I landed up at Bank of India, Kantatoli, I found it closed. Finally, I borrowed some money from a friend,” said S.K. Mishra, a resident of Booty More in Ranchi.

According to sources, over 9,000 cheques worth Rs 1,000 crore could not be cleared in East Singhbhum, as the Union Bank, the sole cheque clearance branch in the district, joined the strike.

Efforts to clear cheques through private bank HDFC’s main branch in Bistupur in keeping with an RBI order were also stalled by the striking bank employees. Convener of UFBU’s Jamshedpur unit Subhashish Bhattacharjee said they put up pickets before the Bistupur branch to prevent customers from getting in.

“We had to close down the HDFC branch, otherwise the impact of the strike would have been nullified. All 260 branches of 22 public sector banks and over 12 branches of private banks like HDFC, ICICI, Axis Bank and Yes Bank downed shutters after union members staged dharnas in front of them,” said Bhattacharjee, also regional secretary of SBI Staff Association, Jamshedpur.

ATMs of several public sector banks were shut in Bistupur, Sakchi, Golmuri and Telco. “I could not deposit my children’s school fees. Now, I have to pay a late fine. I knew that banks will be closed today (Wednesday), but didn’t expect ATMs to not function as well,” said Debashish Kar, who works at a Bistupur-based private firm.

Traders, angry over losses because of pending cheques, said they would not pay the banks the day’s interest on loans. “We will write to Union finance minister P. Chidambaram, asking him to waive today’s loan interest,” said Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Suresh Sonthalia.

He added that traders suffered financial losses worth Rs 60 crore due to delay in clearing cheques. Ancillary industries at Adityapur incurred losses to the tune of Rs 10 crore.

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