Finance ministry to states: Protect bank staff, prioritise vax


MUMBAI: The finance ministry has again written to state governments asking them to put in place a dispensation for vaccinating bank and other financial sector employees. It has also asked the states to protect financial sector employees after incidents of bank staff being manhandles by police enforcing a lockdown came to light.
Debasish Panda, secretary in the department of financial services at the finance ministry, said in a letter to all states’ chief secretaries that the home ministry has categorised the banking industry as a provider of essential services. Since bank employees have to necessarily commute from their homes to offices, and offices must remain physically open, the chief secretaries have been asked to communicate to all district magistrates and police chiefs not to hinder or impede their functioning or movement.
“This letter is very pertinent, and the messaging will help in boosting the morale of bank employees,” said Rajkiran Rai, chairman of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). “It sends out a message to everyone that bank employees should be treated with respect,” he added. Earlier this week, videos of police caning a bank employee on his way to work had gone viral and had caused outrage.
In March, the IBA had sought frontline worker status for bank staff. At that time, the association had pointed out that there were around 600 casualties due to Covid among bank employees. Since then, the number of casualties has doubled with the maximum deaths during the last six weeks when the country saw a surge of cases in the second wave.
Although the finance ministry has made requests to states for vaccination of bank employees, some senior executives feel that the communication for priority in vaccination needs to come from the home ministry for states to take cognisance.