State Bank of India (SBI), a premier Public Sector Bank with a history of more than 200 years and the largest single employer in the Banking Industry has indulged in gross gender discrimination.
The recruitment guidelines issued by SBI Deputy Managing Director (HR) on 31st December 2021 prohibit women candidates with more than 3 months pregnancy from joining the Bank even after due selection process as “they will be considered temporarily unfit”, “they may be allowed to join within 4 months after delivery of child”. This is nothing but gross gender discrimination.
Constitutional guarantees equality
Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before law. Article 15 states that “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. According to Article 16 (1) there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. (2) no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the State.
Feudal mindset of SBI management
It is vivid that the above referred guidelines issued by SBI are unconstitutional. Public Sector Banks being owned by Government of India should be model employers. But this act of the SBI management displays its feudal mindset. It is not the first time such retrograde recruitment guidelines are issued. Even during the year 2009 such guidelines were issued. The former Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan took up this issue with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the former Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) president M K Pandhe wrote a letter to the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee protesting against those discriminatory guidelines of SBI. There were protests from the bank employees and women’s organisations. Then only those retrograde guidelines were withdrawn.
CITU writes to Union Finance Minister
The present guidelines through the circular dated 31.12.2021 are issued ostensibly to avoid the benefit of maternity leave to the women new recruits. These will also deny the women employees their rightful seniority and wages for the period of denial of employment ranging from 5 to 11 months besides other losses like PF, Gratuity, Pension etc. CITU has again taken up the matter with the Union Finance Minister. Tapan Sen, General Secretary of CITU, in his letter dated 27th January 2022 addressed to Nirmala Sitaraman, Union Finance Minister, has condemned these guidelines as most reprehensible and against the equality of opportunity ensured by the Constitution of India. He has further demanded of the Finance Minister that this discriminatory provision be withdrawn immediately. In his concluding part of the letter, Tapan Sen stated that “I hope that being a woman, you will personally intervene to correct this”.
All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) lodged its protest through a press statement on 27th January 2022. Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam has tweeted on 28th January 2022 against these discriminatory guidelines of SBI and sought the intervention of the Union Finance Minister.
Bank Employees Federation of India through its letter dated 28th Jan 2022 addressed to the Chairman, SBI expressed that the guidelines were utterly discriminatory, arbitrary and gross deprivation of maternity and other statutory benefits available to a female employee and demanded immediate withdrawal of these guidelines. All India State Bank of India Employees’ Association (AIBEA) also took up this issue with the Deputy Managing Director of SBI through its letter dated 28.01.2022 and demanded immediate withdrawal of these new guidelines.
It is hoped that the Government of India said to be committed to women’s empowerment and equality would act swiftly and ensure that these retrograde recruitment guidelines of SBI are immediately withdrawn and guarantee that no such discrimination is shown either by the Public Sector or by the Private Sector.