Come April - the dawn of the new fiscal - and bankers would hit the streets to hold silent demonstrations outside the headquarters of corporate loan defaulters pressurising them to pay up their dues, said a top union official.
The bank union has decided to take on a national scale the recent silent protests by employees of Andhra Bank outside the offices of loan defaulters in Tamil Nadu.
"We are redrawing our list of corporate loan defaulters and the process is expected to be over soon. From mid-April onwards, our members will hold protests outside the offices of corporates whose loan accounts have been categorised as non-performing assets (NPA) to make them pay up their dues," CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) told IANS.
According to him, such a protest would spread awareness among the people of this country -- the ultimate owners of the government-owned banks -- about the huge loan dues built up by the corporates.
Last year, AIBEA released a list of 406 bank loan accounts amounting to Rs 70,300 crore that have been declared bad and had demanded declaration of wilful default a criminal offence and investigation of the nexus between the borrowers and bank officials.
Employees of Andhra Bank, cutting across cadre-lines, recently held protests outside corporate loan defaulters in Tamil Nadu.
"The moment such protests began, there were threats issued to bank staff from loan defaulters to desist from holding protests," an official of Andhra Bank told IANS preferring anonymity.
The All India Andhra Bank Award Employees Union (AIABAEU), affiliated to AIBEA, decided to hold silent protests outside the headquarters of loan defaulters.
"Ours is a silent protest outside the offices of loan defaulters. In some places, police complaints were lodged against the employees. The police, after hearing our cause and witnessing the silent protest, even encouraged us to continue," K Thamaraiselvan, deputy general secretary, AIABAEU told IANS.
According to him, the protesting employees do not hold any placards naming the defaulting corporate or their loan dues. The employees would stand outside a corporate office, holding a placard that simply says 'Pay up your dues' -- and the people can infer.
He said following the silent protests, some borrowers have started paying back their loans.
"In some cases, the debtors have paid back even Rs 18-20 lakh," he said.
The Andhra Bank employees would hold their novel campaign till March 31.
According to him, the bank earns sizeable gross profit only to provide huge sums towards NPA provisions.
In the case of Andhra Bank, the gross NPA is around Rs 7,000 crore.
It is only now that the bankers have started to hit the streets against loan defaulting corporates.
All these years, the bankers acted against individual/agriculture/student borrowers with alacrity in recovering their loan or auctioning their properties leaving the big sharks free.
"In India, farmers commit suicide for not being able to pay back their dues. In the case of corporate loan accounts, it is the bankers who are forced to 'commit suicide' for their inability to recover the loans," Thamaraiselvan said.
"The irony is that the bank deducts our loan dues from our salaries whereas they are not able to do anything with the corporate," he added.
Union officials in banks are unanimous in their view that restructuring of loans is an organised industry and needs to be probed.
A review should be made to identify the beneficiaries whose debts/loans availed in the banks with interest were written off, AIBEA had earlier demanded.
The AIBEA has also demanded that the bank loan defaulters should not be permitted to contest assembly or parliamentary elections.
According to AIBEA, floating of asset reconstruction companies (ARC) as a tool to reduce non-performing assets (NPA) should be discouraged and the NPAs should be actually recovered.
Venkatachalam is on the same page with the government's decision to revise the system of statement of intent or memorandum of understanding it signs with the bank management.
The current system is like a pyramid scheme/multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme where the large number of employees do not get performance incentives while those at the top - chairman and managing directors, executive directors - get hefty incentives. This despite banks racking up huge non-performing assets, Venkatachalam said.
Bankers also are of the view that the time has come to tabulate the incentives earned by their top officials and the total NPA generated during their tenure to bring in moral accountability.