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Bank strike prompts cash crisis on Day 1

Ramakant, a Kankerbagh resident, faced myriad problems with banks on a two-day strike beginning Monday and ATMs running out of cash.

He would have managed if it were any other day. But on Monday, he had no option than to borrow money to help treat a relative who was admitted at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). The relative, Ram Kumar, has been admitted to PMCH after suffering head injuries in an accident at Munger on Sun- day evening.

Ramakant said: “First, we tried to admit Ram Kumar to a private hospital. But with the banks remaining closed and ATMs drying up, we settled for PMCH.” But that was not to put an end to their woes. After admitting the patient to PMCH’s emergency ward, there was urgent need of money to purchase medicines. Ramkant further said: “We badly needed money to purchase medicines, carry out CT scan and other tests and treatment. But with the banks closed and ATMs running out of cash, there was no alternative than to borrow money from friends.”

Ramakant was not the only one affected because of the two-day bank strike called by United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisations of nine bank employees unions. There were many others who faced problems ensuring treatment of their near and dear ones at government and private hospitals.

There were a few who had prior idea about the strike and had withdrawn money on Saturday and Sunday itself.

Banking services remained paralysed on Monday. Not just nationalised banks, even private sector banks remained closed.

Pramod Kumar Tiwari, a trader from Rajeev Nagar, had to arrange money for his business. Tiwari said: “I had to pay my client, but could not withdraw the required money because of fixed transaction limit at ATMs. Left with no options, I borrowed money from friends and relatives.”

Money transaction in the range of Rs 300 crore was affected as over 40,000 bank employees joined the two-day nationwide bankers’ strike.

Sources said around 19,000 nationalised banks branches, including 334 in Patna, were closed on Monday. The bank unions called the strike to oppose banking reforms and press for salary revision due from November 2012.

Sidhartha Ghoshal, general secretary of All India Bank Employees Association, said: “In the name of banking reforms the government is trying to crush labour laws. Most provisions under the banking reforms are anti-worker.”

Sources said the effect of two-day bank strike would be felt even after Tuesday, as many cheques would remain uncleared on Wednesday. The wait for those awaiting cheque clearance will only get longer.

Those on strike said they understood the hardships heaped on the common man owing to their strike but they expected the latter’s support. Shivaji Singh, general secretary of State bank of India Officers’ Association Patna Circle said: “People think that persons working in banking sector are getting hefty salaries, but we are poorly paid. A peon at a central government gets higher salary than a clerk handling computers and financial transactions at our bank.” Sources said a person joining as a clerk at a nationalised bank is paid Rs 14,000 on joining while a bank probationer gets Rs 20,000 on joining.

The members of employees association further said that due to poor salary payment, many of the 33,000 persons who joined the banking sector three years back as clerks, after clearing Institute of Banking Personnel Selection examination, have left. Now, only 12,000 are left.

Vinay Soren, a teacher at Patna University in Ashok Rajpath,said: “I knew there was going to be a two-day bank strike and that ATMs would run out of cash. So, I withdrew money on Sunday itself.”

Suraj Kumar, a trader at Ashiana More, said: “I thought only SBI employees were on strike, but today came to know that even private banks were hit by the strike.”