April 20, 2021 11:52:51 pm
After nearly 15,000 bank employees and officers got infected and more than 30 died during the ongoing second wave of Covid-19 in Gujarat, banks in the state have been allowed to function with 50 per cent staff and cut timings for serving customers by two hours for 10 days till April 30.
The decision in this regard was taken by the state government on Tuesday.
According to the circular issued by the finance department, the banking business for customers shall be undertaken from 10 am to 2 pm. “This is a reduction of two hours from normal banking hours for customers,” said Janak Rawal, general secretary of MahaGujarat Bank Employees’ Association.
“Staff strength in branches and administrative offices shall be curtailed by 50 per cent by adopting alternate days work from home to minimise the risk of pandemic,” the circular stated.
During this 10-day period, bank branches and its offices shall provide only essential services to customers and preference shall be given to senior citizens. The essential services will include cash deposit, cash withdrawals, RTGS and remittances including clearing.
The government has also asked banks to “ensure adequate cash in ATMs”. The new work timings will come into force from Wednesday.
The move from the state government comes after both the SLBC and the bank unions wrote to the government apprising them of the delicate situation in which the banking sector was functioning in Gujarat. The heads of major public sector and private sector banks, regional director of RBI, Ahmedabad and convenor of SLBC held a meeting on April 15 to assess the Covid situation in the banking sector and had made certain recommendations to the state government.
“This step was needed as there were a lot of Covid infections happening within the banks. We had also asked the government to consider all Saturday as holiday which was not considered,” said MM Bansal, convenor of SLBC in Gujarat.
“All essential services will be provided and in certain branches where enough staff strength is present we will allow normal activities to take place. However, it will be on a case to case basis and we will be leaving it to the respective branches,” Bansal added.
In a letter written by MahaGujarat Bank Employees’ Association and Gujarat Bank Workers’ Union on Monday, the unions sought government help to reduce physical exposure of bank employees with customers.
“Bank employees are the silent protagonists of the fight against coronavirus. They are working under the fear of getting contaminated. Total banking staff is working under fear and is apprehensive about their health. They are supposed to interact with common people,” states the letter.
“As per report available, nearly 15,000 bank employees and officers are infected by coronavirus and more than 30 bank employees have lost their lives in this second wave of coronavirus in Gujarat,” the letter addressed to the CM stated. Rupani is also the chairman of State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) in Gujarat.
Janak Rawal, general secretary of MGBEA, told the Indian Express, “We are concerned about the safety of bank employees. Different business and trading organisations are going for voluntary closure. We cannot do that. So we have asked the government if some steps could be taken to limit the exposure of bank employees and customers.”
Citing the rising number Covid cases in Gujarat, the bank unions have suggested reduced hours (10 am to 1 pm) for cash dispensation from the bank. “All banks can provide only essential services like cash deposit, withdrawals, transfer and clearing, so that less number of people will visit the bank branch,” the letter stated.
The Unions have sought declaration of holiday on all Saturdays for the next two months. “The SLBC can review the situation after a month,” the letter added. The Unions also asked the government to advise banks to work with reduced staff strength and to permit only four customers inside the bank at a time.
Demand for closing down a branch for 48 hours has also been made if any employee is found Covid positive. The Unions have also requested the government to exempt pregnant women employees and those with disabilities from attending office.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.