Friday, October 27, 2006

Not Work and Not Let Work

Today I happened to go to State Bank of India's Kharagpur branch to take out some money from my account. It has been a long while since I used the traditional withdrawal procedure, and ever since I got my ATM card, I hardly ever went to the bank. On nearing the branch, I saw the gate closed with a large red banner across the gate. we hit a roadblock named nationwide strike.

The ATM inside the branch was as usual closed and inaccessible. I thought that only if they placed the banner a little inside and let the ATM be accessible and not the branch's door, it would have been better for us commoners. Anyway, since thinking doesn't solve the problem, I decided to work out alternative ways to get the money. The first alternative was very simple. SBI also has an ATM in Technology market. Since there was no adjoining branch, the gate of the ATM should be open and the ATM accessible. As I was going to the ATM, I happened to chance by another UTI Bank's ATM by the side of TSG. This too, like the Tech Market ATM of SBI, did not have any adjoining branch. But to the horror of my horrors, I found its shutters closed as well. It meant two things. First that it was an all-bank strike, so if I failed to get anything out of SBI, same would be the case with any other bank. Also, it meant that I should expect to find the shutters of my destination ATM closed.

This was very confusing to me. I didn't knew what the demands of the bank employees was. But, I never thought that while they are free to exercise their right to not work, they would even stop others from working (in this case the ATMs); clearly indicating that in order to make their strike successful, they want to maximize the impact on the common-man. If they had decided to not touch the ATMs, I am sure that life wouldn't have changed for most of the people. Just like the mobile phone now, ATM cards are well within the reach (and in possession) of common man. Money depositions can wait, even cheques can sometimes wait (they take some time to get encashed anyway), but money withdrawals are something that usually doesn't allow waiting time. I was also surprised to see that while they exercised their right of not working, they took the pains to go to distant ATMs, and close the shutters there so that most people get affected. So instead of a simple no-work day call, it became a power struggle for the bank employees, trying to show the government that they can bring the business to a standstill. By not allowing others to work, I am sad to speak that the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) has stooped to the level of CPI(M) and CITU in West Bengal. Is what I see just here, or has this phenomenon been reported elsewhere in the country too.

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