Can Bank Privatisation be stopped? This is a question asked by many including journalists.
My answer is a resounding YES.
It’s not going to be easy but once people of the country realise the evils of privatisation, they will be up in arms.
When the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2017, many thought that the mighty Government will get it passed. But the campaign against it, not only by Trade Unions but also by the civil society, the signature campaign among people, the Newsclick video, debates in the TV channels, articles in news papers, presentation before the Joint Parliamentary Committee forced the BJP- NDA Government to withdraw it from the Parliament.
Similarly, the Bill moved in the Parliament during the NDA-1 government to reduce Government shareholding in Banks to 33% did not see the light of the day.
Today opposition parties may be weak but the people are not weak. The farmers are fighting for more than four months and they are not going to give up. Now the farmers and workers have come together for joint struggle. They are joined by the fish workers of the country lead by National Fishworkers Forum. On 21 March 2021 at Kanyakumari the farmers–fisherfolk Maha Panchayat was attended by more than 20,000 people and more than 300 boats inside the sea in a mass protest.
It’s heartening to note that the United Forum of Bank Unions has decided to meet the farmers and Central Trade Union leaders.
Some of the action programmes planned by the trade unions are unique. They are
❖ Nationwide strikes, intermittent strikes, prolonged strikes and flash strikes at short notice if Government announces privatisation of any bank. Already they have had 2 days successful strike.
❖ On 2nd and 4th Saturday cleanliness drive, tree plantation, drinking water for workers etc with public awareness programmes
❖ Every week candle light demo and Twitter campaign
❖ Aggressive campaign on negatives of products of new generation Private Banks.
❖ Boycott Godi media.
❖ Distribution of carry bags with slogans against Privatisation.
❖ Walkathon, Bike rallies.
❖ Discussion/competitions at schools, colleges and universities
❖ Postcards to MP’s and MLA’s .
❖ Question haircuts to corporates through IBC, NCLT .
❖ Publish data on write offs.
❖ Meet farmers leaders, Central Trade Union leaders and seek support.
❖ Mobilise youth, women and senior citizens.
❖ Join bigger platforms, Co-ordinate with organisations of Civil Society, rope in eminent citizens, retired civil servants, judges, bankers and academicians .
❖ Mass morcha to Parliament.
If properly implemented, this will have tremendous effect as the Banks are spread all over the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, from Ahmedabad to Kohima.
People First, a platform of trade unions, civil society and mass movements has already set up a National Working Group on Public Sector and Sector wise Task forces. The entire Public Sector is coming together. Former civil servants and best-known academicians are lending support as the Government is on a selling spree. Railway unions and Insurance sector unions are in this platform along with National Federation of Officers Associations in Public Sector.
Victory to stop Privatisation is in the hands of the people. Unions and Associations have given a call “Go to the people”.
Convenor of United Forum of Bank Unions Com. Sanjiv Bandlish, Veteran leader Com. C.H. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, AIBEA, Com. Soumya Datta, General Secretary AIBOC are leading from the front.
The Twitter campaign #PrivatisationBigScam is trending.
One major issue to be addressed is the poor service faced by customers. Customers have to be informed the issues of shortage of staff, reduction of branches, poor internet connectivity and the high NPA in corporate loans.
A new era is emerging towards co-operation of people and trade unions. A new coalition of trade unions-farmers-fishermen-youth and women is visible.
Let’s hope for a better tomorrow with Public Sector leading the revival of the economy.
Thomas Franco is former General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.