Millions of people faced hardships on Friday as a strike, by one million employees of government-owned and some older private banks, paralysed the sector in large parts of the country. The employees were protesting against banking sector reforms — privatisation, mergers and outsourcing of jobs.
However, newer private banks — like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Yes Bank and Axis Bank — and several foreign ones, functioned normally.
Long queues were seen outside many ATMs in Delhi and other cities. "It took me half an hour to access the ATM," said Gagandeep Puri, a Delhi resident, who has an account with Allahabad Bank. Adding to the woes of the common man, many ATMs of public sector banks ran out of cash.
Clearing operations, too, came to a complete halt. Reserve Bank of India data revealed that 3.7 million cheques worth Rs 28,000 crore could not be processed during the day.
Rajya Laxmi, a public sector bank customer in Hyderabad, could not repatriate $1,000 (R45,000) to her son in the US. "Now, I can only send him the money on Monday. I hope it reaches him before the deadline for paying his house rent," she said.
Many foreigners, too, faced difficulties as they couldn’t find a bank to get their currency exchanged.
"Today’s strike was for the preservation of the economic sovereignty of the nation," said Vishwas Utagi, secretary of the United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella body of nine leading trade unions in the banking sector.
With inputs from Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Chennai, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Lucknow