AMRITSAR: Banks' employees take part in a protest during a two-day nationwide bank strike in Amritsar yesterday.-AFP

NEW DELHI: Nine bank unions in India yesterday started a nationwide two-day strike against the privatization of public sector banks and regressive banking reforms initiated by the federal government. As many as one million bank employees are expected to participate in the strike. Banks in the country were already closed on March 13 and March 14, leading to a four-day break till Tuesday in regular banking operations. The strike has been called by the United Forum of Bank Union (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions.

The unions participating in the strike are: All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE), All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), Indian National Bank Employees Federation (INBEF), Indian National Bank Officers' Congress (INBOC) and National Organization of Bank Officers (NOBO) and the National Organization of Bank Workers (NOBW).

Apart from bank unions, all the unions in four general insurance companies will be on strike on March 17. All the unions in Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) are on strike on March 18, while unions of four insurance companies have called for a strike against the privatization of public companies.

Branches of private-sector lenders like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank are open as they are not part of the strike. Services such as deposits and withdrawal at branches, cheque clearance, and loan approvals likely to be affected due to the strike. However, ATMs are likely to remain functional. Many public sector lenders, including the State Bank of India (SBI), had informed their customers that their normal working could be affected at the branches and offices if the strike materializes.

Banks said that they are taking necessary steps for the smooth functioning of bank branches and offices. Money markets and stock markets are also going to face problems as payments would be impacted. In the union budget presented last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated two public sector banks (PSBs) would be privatized as part of the government's disinvestment plan.