The Indian Government has asked the banks to start its operations with a full workforce to handle relief measures amidst the Novel coronavirus outbreak.
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All Banks to Operate in Full Workforce! Is it Safe?
According to the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), most of the State Level Bankers’ Committees (SLBCs) as well as management of certain banks have directed that all branches should continue to function normally.
This waives off the roster policy and working on a skeletal strength or arrangements for rotation of staff members, as well as working from home measures announced by banks in their earlier circulars.
This measure may benefit the customers, however it hampers the social distancing or break the chain norms that everyone is required to follow.
While the government may use Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to transfer money into accounts of beneficiaries, many of these account holders are crowding in the banks to withdraw cash.
What does AIBOC Have to Say?
AIBOC says many banks and their branches in order to cater to the expected increase in the volume of transactions and urgent banking requirements due the coronavirus relief measures announced by the government, all branches should work on full strength from 31 March 2020 across the country till further instructions.
AIBOC has expressed absolute disapproval against these ‘unreasonable and illogical decisions’ taken by a section of authorities. It also urged Debasish Panda, Secretary in the Department of Financial Services to set right these issues at the earliest, in the best interest of banking personnel as well as the country.
It says, “We strongly feel that in the present scenario, it would be a welcome step to continue opening only a minimal number of branches. This will enable the bank staff – who have already been facing the situation of non-availability of transport facilities and payment of exorbitant sum to the transport operators in the wake of universal lockdown and instructions on curfew – to attend their duties and extend the minimum essential services in line with the latest directive from Indian Banks Association (IBA) issued on 30 March 2020, besides implementing the schemes and measures announced by the finance minister to render service to the community.”
Why Is AIBOC Enraged?
The Confederation also said, although it is advised to take all safeguards for COVID19 prevention like social distancing, enabling limited number of customers on the branch at a given point of time, maintaining adequate distance, staff wearing masks and gloves and frequent use of sanitisers, and customers using protective gear the ground reality is different.
According to AIBOC, many bank branches do not have security guards, while possibilities of deployment of police, home guards and security personnel are impossible because of the all-pervading lockdown and lack of people who are ready to take up such jobs. It says, “Most of the branch premises have space just to fit the number of counters and staff and the prescribed distance of 1meter to 1.5 metres between two counters is hardly maintained. In addition, supply of masks and sanitisers is not adequate even in cities like Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi, not to speak about the smaller centres and rural and semi-urban areas.”
AIBOC also said that the latest directives by the Finance Minister is causing immense workload on the bank employees everywhere for recover long inoperative Jan Dhan accounts, added responsibilities to manage surging crowd in every bank branch and especially the risk the bankers face of exposing themselves, their families and all people with whom they would be interacting, to the contagious COVID-19 virus. This defeats the very purpose of the national lockdown and imperative need for social distancing declared by none other than the prime minister, it added.
AIBOC says it strongly feels that the government and bank management has paid limited attention to the hygiene or safety of the bank employees and officers and is in the process of exposing the entire banking fraternity and its stakeholders to avoidable risk even in the scenario of the number of coronavirus spread.
The Confederation also added, “We are of the considered view that this irrational approach of a section of the authorities is a blatant deviation from ‘break the chain’ advocated by experts is not only inimical to the safety and security of the employees and officers of the banks but would also lead to multiplied chances of contamination to themselves and their family members as well as the public at large by way of community transmission causing serious irreparable repercussions to the society, at a time when the pandemic is poised to enter its third stage in our country.”