SBI employees take out the silent march in Shillong on Monday. Picture by UB Photos
Shillong, Aug. 11: Employees of State Bank of India (SBI) have threatened to demand complete closure of its branches in the Garo hills if the Meghalaya government cannot guarantee their safety and security amid the spate of abductions.
The reaction came as SBI branches across Meghalaya closed down for a day today to demand immediate release of Subodh Kumar Mishra, a bank assistant at SBI’s Gasuapara branch in South Garo Hills, who was allegedly abducted by militants on August 5.
The 42 SBI branches in the five districts of Garo hills, however, will continue to remain shut indefinitely until Mishra’s safe release, the deputy general secretary of SBI Staff Association, Shillong module, Biman B. Bhattacharya, told reporters after he joined his colleagues in a “silent march” here this afternoon.
The Shillong module includes Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.
A decision to close down all SBI branches in the Northeast in the next few days is also likely to be taken if Mishra is not immediately released.
There are nearly 300 employees in the 42 branches of the SBI in Garo hills while there are 110 branches and offices of the bank in the state.
“Our anger is directed towards the government as it cannot ensure our safety and security although we have come here to serve the people. In the past year alone, three SBI officials have been abducted from Garo hills,” said Bijoy K. Dutta, the deputy general secretary of SBI Officers’ Association, Shillong module.
Dutta said despite these cases of abduction of SBI staff, the state government was yet to take any constructive step to protect them, especially those serving in the rural areas.
He threatened that SBI associations could demand from their management immediate complete closure of all the 42 SBI branches in Garo hills.
“We need assurance, and we cannot work without security,” he said.
Bhattacharya said Mishra’s family members had paid Rs 5 lakh to the abductors on Saturday but they had allegedly demanded another Rs 5 lakh for his release.
However, he said the identity of the abductors was still unknown. “They claim to be a new group,” he added.
SBI officials said militant outfits were serving demand notes to banks in the Garo hills.
“But from where will we pay?” one of them asked.