NEW DELHI: Despite the opposition and bank unions’ outrage over the privatization of public sector banks, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman promised on Tuesday that the rights of bank employees will be fully secured. The Union minister, speaking to the media after unveiling Cabinet decisions, said: “I want to convince you that the organizations will not be closed or the staff will not be dismissed. All will be taken care of, including staff wages, pay scales, and pensions.”
The finance minister emphasized that not all banks would be privatized, saying: “We’ve announced a Public Enterprise Strategy and identified four places where the government will have a presence. This includes the financial industry as well. However, not all banks can be privatized.”
Bank unions have called for a two-day national strike to oppose the privatization of two public sector financial institutions, and Sitharaman’s announcement comes at a critical moment. Since Monday, state-run banks across the country have been on strike, causing service disruptions as over 10 lakh workers have joined the protests. Furthermore, Sitharaman emphasized the importance of bank operations, saying that while there are many financial institutions in the economy, we need banks that can scale up.
“We need more banks the size of the State Bank of India (SBI) to fulfill the country’s aspirational needs,” she said, recalling the government’s decision last year to consolidate 10 PSU banks into four main entities.
She stressed that even some financial institutions that are expected to be privatized will continue to exist following their privatization.
The minister also poked fun at senior Congressman Rahul Gandhi’s earlier tweet, in which he accused the government of “privatizing gains” and “nationalizing damage.” “Rather than tossing these sorts of two-liners every now and then,” she said, “I would like him to engage in serious discussions.” The minister went on to accuse the former Congress President of nationalizing corruption under the UPA regime.
“His grandmother (Indira Gandhi) may have nationalized the banks, but bank losses were nationalized during the UPA’s tenure.” Also, I’d like to point out that they nationalized corruption. So all Rahul Gandhi has to do in response to the tweet is nationalize corruption and privatize taxpayers’ money for the benefit of one family…,” she said. Rahul Gandhi was then told by a senior BJP official to do more in-depth research before speaking.