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Outrage over Death of Covid-hit Andhra Banker, SBI Launches Internal Probe into Negligence Charges

The SBI Officers’ Association alleged the branch manager died as he was forced to work despite being infected with coronavirus.

The SBI Officers’ Association alleged the branch manager died as he was forced to work despite being infected with coronavirus.

The probe was ordered after the SBI Officers’ Association alleged Pitta Rajesh, who headed a rural branch, died after he was forced to work despite being infected with coronavirus.

The administration of State Bank of India has launched an internal inquiry into the death of a coronavirus-infected manager of a rural branch near Vishakhapatnam following allegations of negligence.

The investigation was ordered after the SBI Officers’ Association alleged that Pitta Rajesh (39), who headed the Agency Laxmipuram village branch, died as he was forced to work despite being infected with coronavirus.

The official letter addressed to the general secretary, SBI Officers’ Association (Amaravati Circle), surfaced on the Twitter page of United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella body of nine bank unions with over 21,000 followers.

According to the association, Rajesh was suffering from mild fever since August 25, but was disallowed from taking leave as his field manager was also on a sick leave and the bank was already facing a manpower shortage.

The field manager eventually tested positive for COVID-19 on August 28 and by this time, Rajesh’s health condition also worsened. The association has further alleged that when Rajesh reached out to both the regional manager and the bank’s human resource team on August 30 and 31 seeking medical leave, his request was rejected on the ground that “deputation cannot be arranged where two officers are posted”.

Rajesh could not undergo a COVID-19 test as the branch is located in a remote area with no testing centres. The association has alleged that the bank’s HR despite being aware that Rajesh had come in contact with a coronavirus-infected person, had compelled him to come to work.

When Rajesh’s health condition deteriorated on September 1, his other colleague took him on a two-wheeler to a hospital that was 50km away. Rajesh was found to be ‘severely’ COVID-positive through a RT-PCR test. However, even after informing his regional, he was allegedly asked to furnish proof of the same. He was finally sanctioned leave next day after he submitted his test reports.

It has also been alleged while Rajesh was undergoing treatment at a government hospital in his hometown Kakinada, he was forced to attend review meetings on August 5 and was subjected to constant humiliation by his seniors, before succumbing to the virus on 11 September.

While SBI is yet to officially issue a statement about the incident, News18 has learnt that a team from SBI’s main office in Hyderabad reached Visakhapatnam on Wednesday to conduct an inquiry. The team will submit a report soon, following which the top management will take a call on whether there was any negligence on the part of the regional manager and HR.

Sources said a compensation package following norms has already been provided to the deceased’s family.

Meanwhile, members of the Union Forum of Bank Union have threatened to protest outside Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s office if an FIR is not lodged against the accused.

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