sbthq.jpgAfter two days of hartal— first called by the United Democratic Front to protest against the price rise and the second by the traders themselves to protest against retail chains, the people of Kerala would be subjected to two days of closure of one of the leading banks of the State.

The employees of State Bank of Travancore (SBT), a subsidiary of State Bank of India (SBI), go on strike for two days (February 25 and 26, 2008) in protest against the proposal to merge it with SBI. Unions of other public sector banks and some small private sector banks join them across the country with common demands such as revision of wages.

The SBI is trying to increase its capital base through a rights issue and amalgamation of its subsidiaries to meet global competition. Neither the employees unions of SBT nor others have come out with solid grounds for their opposition to the merger. The Kerala Government is also silent.

The loss of their prominence seems to be major concern of the union leaders and higher ups in the Bank. The employees stand to benefit as their salaries are bound to go up with merger with SBI.

SBT has the largest branch network in Kerala. The presence of SBT with its headquarters in Trivandrum had helped higher penetration of banking into rural areas. Considerable agriculture credit also flows from the Bank. This push may not continue after merge. Some branches may even be closed down owing to redundancy. A major concern for Keralites would be flow of money out of the State.

The banks in Kerala, flush with deposits from the Gulf countries, had been maintaining a low credit deposit ratio. Several of the banks including the SBI used to siphon off funds to Northern States on the ground that there were no viable projects for large-scale lending in Kerala.

Update: Strike postponed following talks

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