Stop obstructing bankers on duty: Kerala bank officers to political parties

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on November 20, 2019

The Kerala State Committee of All-India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) has demanded an immediate end to frequent obstructions to the discharge of bankers' duty by political parties, including elected representatives.

The demand was raised in the context of a recent instance in which a bank officer and colleagues were threatened and manhandled by elected representatives of the principal Opposition party in Left-ruled Kerala.

The local MP and MLA were involved in the incident, when officials and staff from the Kottayam branch of Corporation Bank were forcibly stopped from taking over the property of a defaulting panchayat member, under the SARFAESI Act.

“It doesn’t augur well for elected representatives and lawmakers to use pressure tactics to return the keys of assets taken over under the Act with the permission of the Chief Judicial Magistrate,” said Abraham Shaji John, State Secretary, AIBOC.

Commercial banks follow due process in recovery of assets falling in the category of sustained default. Dereliction of duty by bank officials would attract disciplinary proceedings.

Repayment of housing loan

In the present instance, servicing of the housing loan had become irregular before July 31, 2019. Hence, it was not eligible for a moratorium declared by the State Government.

The argument of the protesters in this connection was misleading, John said. The defaulting borrower's plea to stall SARFAESI proceedings and extend the term for repayment had been dismissed by the Kerala High Court.

"If elected representatives of political parties want to modify the provisions of SARFAESI Act, which is extensively used by the state and district cooperative banks, they should do so in Parliament."

The State Committee of the AIBOC reminded all political parties and elected representatives that their protests against banks was not in the interest of either the banking industry, which is reeling under mounting NPAs, or the larger economy.

"Instead, it gives a wrong message to honest borrowers. In a State like Kerala, where priority sector advances are more than 55 per cent against the national benchmark of 40 per cent, recoveries in housing loans are important."

Incidents of assault of bankers have been on the rise in recent times. Recently, the suicide of a mother and daughter near Neyyattinkara, which turned out to be due to domestic harassment according to the suicide note, was initially attributed to a Canara Bank branch.

In another instance near Vellarada, a mob broke open a house twice when the lady owner threatened to commit suicide, after it was taken over under the SARFAESI Act by Bank of Baroda in line with the orders of the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

In incidents reported from Venjaramoodu and other places, political/social outfit leaders had targeted bankers for discharging their lawful duty.

John said if the attacks against banks and bankers continue, it is possible that norms on sanctioning credit facilities would be made even more stringent, particularly in cases were dwelling units are proposed as security.

Officers of public sector and old-generation private sector banks, with a lion's share of priority sector lending and who otherwise serve the needs of the common man, are demoralised by the lack of understanding on the part of the political leadership, John said.

The officers of Corporation Bank have already staged a pen-down agitation. Officers of all banks affiliated to the AIBOC attended office wearing black badges to protest the assault on their colleagues.

Published on November 20, 2019

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