Bank employees pay the price for the fidelity to customers

Published on
January 6, 2023

Bank employees forced to enrol customers in Modi gov’ts insurance policies without their consent.

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Some of the state-run bank employees say they face a tough choice: enrol customers in the Modi government’s ‘welfare schemes’ for the poor by any means, or risk being harassed, punished and made an example out of for falling short of target.

This is the reality of employees in the banks that have been charging customers for the Union government’s multiple insurance and pension schemes they didn’t need or hadn’t requested, but are still paying for them.

Several employees of state-run banks across the country shared with me personal accounts of how that pressure affected them and the unethical methods their colleagues were forced to adopt.

One of the bank employees I had spoken to for the above investigative story (hyperlinked) by The Reporters’ Collective called me out of the blue. His voice was quivering as he spoke about the harassment he had been facing and soon broke down. He is someone who tries to avoid wrongful enrolments. He said a senior bluntly told him that his disinterest in “business development” was why he faced these hardships. Of late, he has been wondering if he should give up his upright ways and go with the flow.

Another bank, another state, another upright employee. Same story. Deputed to faraway branches multiple times for refusing to fraudulently enrol customers in the government’s insurance schemes.

If you didn’t do as told, you do not want to be that person. Ultimately, most of them learn to toe the management line fearing harassment. Employees are forced to do whatever it takes to attain the target, by hook or by crook.

WeBankers Association’s General Secretary Ashish Mishra narrated multiple instances of banks’ management bullying employees. One example stands out for retaliation at its finest: a public sector bank employee, who is also a trade union activist, was suspended from service just before his retirement because of “gross misconduct”—wearing kurta-pajama to office and coming late – and his pension was held back. Mishra said it was a calculated move by the bank to teach everyone a lesson that if they speak up, they will have to face dire consequences. 

Mishra alleged that the bank’s management unofficially asked the dismissed employee to apologise in writing and assure that he would not take up others’ cases to reverse his suspension. His case is now pending in the Supreme Court after the bank lost in a labour court and a high court.

Auditing does take place, whistleblower policy exists yet certain frauds keep taking place. In fact, some frauds have become routine in nature.

For the insurance scam story, I had joined a few private Facebook groups of bank employees. Different banks, same story: bank employees lamenting the compulsion to enrol customers in the Union government’s insurance and pension schemes, fraudulently . One Facebook group has a revealing comment thread wherein bank employees have shared how they dupe customers to save their own neck.

Also, I created a poll in a few Facebook groups of bank employees and asked if the employees or their colleagues are under pressure to enrol customers in the insurance schemes by hook or by crook. Of the 428 respondents, 92% answered yes.

Bank employees and Bank Mitras (independent persons who operate bank kiosks or Customer Service Points) compare themselves to slaves. Bank Mitras are compelled to work on Sundays, and holidays. I have more than a hundred screenshots of State Bank of India’s kiosk operators complaining to their superiors about the maddening pressure and humiliation they face every day in the name of enrollment targets.

I filed an RTI application with the Union Finance Ministry and sought information about the unethical sale of insurance. This is the response I got: “we are not required to furnish replies to hypothetical questions”. A few weeks later, the ministry issued a letter to banks, stating that the government has come to know about the unethical selling of insurance in banks and that this must stop.

The letter was sent out more than a month ago but complaints of fraud continue to surface  on Twitter. Business as usual.

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