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Two-day nationwide bank strike from today, volumes may be hit

They are protesting against reform proposals that would ease mergers and allow more foreign, private capital.


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Unions at Indian banks representing about one million employees have called for a nationwide two-day strike beginning Wednesday to protest against reform proposals that would ease mergers and allow more foreign and private capital into the sector.

Trading volumes may be lower than usual as not all dealers are expected to report to work, although banks will ensure that basic market operations, including treasury volumes and settlements will continue, according to staff at lenders.

The strike call will affect 70,000 bank branches across state-run and some private and foreign banks including the country's largest lender State Bank of India.

The third-largest economy in Asia has been unable to pass key reforms and liberalise banking, retail and insurance sectors due to opposition from political parties.

The United Forum of Bank Unions, which heads all nine bank employees and officers unions, have called the strike to oppose government proposals that would make bank mergers easier.

Other major measures, which the unions are protesting, include increasing the voting rights of shareholders and allowing more foreign and private capital into the banking sector.

"There is no question of calling off or reducing the number of days of strike unless the finance minister says that he will defer tabling the Banking Law (amendment) Bill," Viswas Utagi, secretary of All India Bank Employees Association told Reuters.

Not all employees will adhere to the strike, according to Reuters checks with staff at some of the major private and public lenders.

A previous bank strike on August 5 had hit branch operations across India, but trading in bonds, stocks and foreign exchange were largely unaffected.

"Since cash transactions are automated, there will be no problem in settlement. There has been no impact in previous instances as well," said a banker.

Cheque clearing facilities and the availability of cash at ATMs could be most impacted.

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