Bank officers’ unions on Thursday opposed the Centre’s decision to allow all private sector banks to participate in government business, including collection of taxes, pension payments and small savings schemes. In a tweet on Wednesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said, “Embargo lifted on grant of Govt business to private banks. All banks can now participate. Private banks can now be equal partners in development of the Indian economy, furthering Govt’s social sector initiatives, and enhancing customer convenience."
In a joint release, four bank officers’ unions said the Finance Minister has announced in ‘unambiguous terms’ that all private sector lenders would be equal partners and the government’s social sector initiatives which were hitherto open majorly to state-run banks and a few private banks. “Ironically, private banks are enjoying various exemptions such as priority sector lending norms, expansion of bank branches in rural / semi-urban areas, agricultural lending and so on, whereas banks in public sector space are required to comply with various norms relating to priority sector, agricultural loans, weaker sections set by RBI," the release said.
The joint release was issued by the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA), Indian National Bank Officers’ Congress (INBOC) and National Organisation Of Bank Officers (NOBO). The unions said state-run banks are required to lend to the borrowers from the priority sector at a much lower interest rate compared to their private counterparts, who are statutorily not required to play under the administered pricing regime.
“Opening up of the government business to such private players would thus enable them to garner float funds for augmenting their profits at the cost of much distress to poorer sections of our society," the release said. It said while the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 and RTI Act are applicable to public sector banks, these provisions are not applicable in case of the private sector banks. Allowing private banks to handle government business would lead to a situation of absence of accountability on the part of the officers and personnel of such banks, the unions claimed.