An officer of Jammu and Kashmir Grameen Bank was sacked after he protested against the management’s alleged attempt to coerce non-local employees to return to work in the Valley, weeks after they had fled when a manager from Rajasthan was shot dead by militants.
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s administration is dealing with protests from many non-local and migrant Pandit employees who are seeking relocation to Jammu following a spate of targeted killings by militants.
Thousands of migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees have been boycotting offices after the government refused to relocate them to Jammu, but dozens of non-local bank employees have reportedly re-joined their duties after directions from the management.
Satvinder Singh — a manager of J&K Grameen Bank and general secretary of its officers’ association — was sacked on Monday after the management accused him of provoking employees not to join their duties. The bank is an affiliate of Jammu and Kashmir Bank.
This has triggered protests by employees in J&K, with a joint forum of regional rural banks in the country writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top dignitaries to protest against the officer’s “unlawful termination.”
On June 2, militants killed Vijay Kumar Beniwal, a bank manager at SBI-sponsored Ellaquai Dehati Bank, in his office in Kulgam district of south Kashmir, triggering panic. Many non-local bankers, who number a few hundred, fled the Valley.
The joint forum of Gramin Bank unions, which includes six national-level unions of regional rural banks including All India Gramin Bank Employees Association, recently wrote to the finance minister seeking relocation of non-local bankers and declaring that Kashmir was unsafe for them.
But the bank directed the non-local employees to “report back to their respective place of posting immediately” on June 14, officials said.
The officers’ association, in a letter to the chairman, said this was an attempt to “browbeat” them into submission and urged the management not to resort to such “coercive” measures that might cost them their lives in “absence of security measures in Kashmir”.
“Business continuity cannot supersede life continuity,” the letter read.
On June 16, the association general secretary was slapped with a show cause notice in which the bank accused him of provoking officials against resuming their duties and encouraging them to rebel against the organisation.
Satvinder told The Telegraph that the management sent a two-day notice to him.
“The letter was sent on my email in the evening hours on June 16. I wrote back and pleaded for a 15-day notice as is the rule. I also wrote that I was ailing and presented doctor’s prescription suggesting rest. But on Monday I was terminated, without giving me time to respond,” he said.
J&K Bank chairman Sudhir Gupta’s mobile phone was switched off and other officers did not respond.
S. Venkateshwar Reddy, secretary general of All India Regional Rural Banking Employees Association — of which J&K Grameen Bank association is a part — in a letter said that Satvinder’s association had responsibly sought “rescue, safe passage of non-locals posted in Kashmir valley to Jammu” and not forcing them to work in Valley till situation improves.
Migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees — all of whom are reluctant to join duties and many have fled to Jammu — on Monday threatened to appeal to international human rights organisations for asylum if the central government failed to relocate them from the Valley in the wake of attacks on minorities.
The government is avoiding any action against them, lest it will further antagonise the community.