19th July 1969 is a historic day in the banking industry since on that day 14 major private banks in India having deposits of Rs.50 crores and above were nationalized through an ordinance. This is undoubtedly an epoch making incident on the lives of the common people of the country. Long drawn movement and struggles built over two decades opened up a glorious chapter in the annals of the working class movement in our country.

The total number of branches of these banks were 4134, deposits stood at Rs.2627 crores and advances Rs.1813 crores. Total number of employees in these banks was 93000.  In her broadcast to the nation, Smt. Indira Gandhi informed “An institution such as the banking system, which touches and should touch lives of millions, has necessarily to be inspired by a larger social purpose and has to sub-serve national priorities and objectives. That is why there has been a widespread demand that major banks should be not only socially controlled, but also publicly owned…”

However the Ordinance was challenged in the Supreme Court by R C Cooper, Director, Central Bank representing the interest of share holders and depositors. He was supported by business tycoons and MPs like M R Masani of Swatantra Party and Balraj Madhok of Jan Sangh (at present BJP). On the other side, A K Gopalan, MP, CPI (M) and Sushila Gopalan veteran Trade Union leader of CPI (M) moved petition of intervention supporting bank nationalisation. The Supreme Court struck down the Ordinance on 10 02 1970, yet the Government was successful by promulgating another Ordinance on 14 02 1970, which was subsequently converted as an Act. Six more banks with deposits of Rs.200 crores and above were nationalized on 15 04 1980.

Thus the nationalisation of banks resulted in branch expansion, particularly in rural areas, accompanied by considerable rise in deposits and advances.  It also had a material impact on the pattern of deployment of banking funds, particularly to priority sector. The latest figures on important indices on deposits (Rs.109,52,496 crores), advances (Rs.61,89,713 crores)and branches (86221), employees (7,94,040) of public sector banks shows a rapid growth, explicitly dsiplying the confidence of the people of the country in this sector.

Bank employees and officers under the umbrella of UFBU have observed many agitational programmes including strikes to retain banks in public sector. The recent call by UFBU to observe Dharna before Parliament on 21st July 2022 is also an important step in this direction. Reports are there that during this session of parliament, the government may bring a bill to privatise public sector banks.

Hence, it is the duty of all the employees and officers of the banks to resist any such move of the government, wherein the public in general and customers in particular have a bigger role to play. Let us struggle to preserve the Nationalised Banks for a better India.

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