“Not all banks will be privatized,” says Nirmala Sitharaman


Sitharaman said the decision to privatize the banks was well thought out. She said the government wants the bank to get more capital and to meet the country’s aspirations

Amid an ongoing strike by banks across the country, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tried to allay fears at a news conference Tuesday. The minister addressed a government briefing, when she said that the policy of public companies towards companies ‘very clearly’ states that the Center will continue to operate banks from the public sector. “So just saying quickly that all public banks will be sold out is not okay,” she said.

She said the decision to privatize the banks was well thought out. Sitharaman said the government wants the bank to get more capital and to meet the country’s aspirations. The Minister added that the interest of employees in the banks that are being privatized will be protected. “In those banks that are likely to be privatized, the interests of each staff member will be protected. The interests of existing employees will be protected at all costs,” she said. “Whether it’s their salaries or their pensions, everything will be taken care of,” said the Minister of Finance.

Sitharaman’s assurances followed on the second day of a two-day bank strike convened by the United Forum of Banking Unions to protest the proposed privatization of two state-owned banks. Reportedly, about 10 light bank employees took part in the strike, which affected banking services for four consecutive days (including free Saturdays and Sundays).

The minister said banks are being privatized because the government wants to make financial institutions better equipped and more sustainable. She gave the example of the State Bank of India and added that the focus is on merging banks that are large enough to meet the country’s aspirations. “Today we have quite a number of banks and they have a very big role to play. But we need banks that will be able to grow,” she said.

Finance Minister Sitharaman also lashed out at Rahul Gandhi for criticizing the government. He tweeted: “GOI (Government of India) is privatizing profits and nationalizing losses. The sale of PSBs to Modicronies is seriously jeopardizing India’s financial security. I am in solidarity with the striking bank employees.” She said the congressional leader was likely to confide her comments to foreigners. “These two ships are not helping. I would like it to be seriously discussed … Rahul Gandhi should think, first do his homework and then bring charges against us,” the minister said.

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