Rajasthan: Angry Locals In Pallu Village Hold 8 SBI Bank Employees Hostage For 12 Hours

Abhinav Joshi

May 3rd, 2018

Image Credits: Youtube

Arguments over slow service in an SBI bank branch in Pallu, Rajasthan escalated on Friday, April 27. Alleging rude behaviour of bank staff, the local people, including some traders and people’s representatives, barricaded the entire staff in the bank for close to 12 hours and also caused an hour-long jam on the mega-highway. The situation soon proved beyond control of local officials and could only be contained at around 8 pm with the help of police, after senior bank officials arrived from Bikaner.

Eight bank employees were locked in the bank premises for close to 12 hours with no electricity or help. Once the police managed to escort the scared staff out, heated discussion continued in the local police station among the senior bank officials and the protestors. Things finally cooled down at around 11.15 pm when the decision was taken to suspend cashier Ravi Joshi and hand out APOs (Awaiting Posting Orders) to branch manager Ravi Kumar and two other bank officials.

According to Dainik Bhaskar, the Pallu bank branch in Hanumangarh district was functioning as per people’s expectations on  Monday, 30th April. However, the bank staff of various branches in Bikaner region wore black arm-bands while working, as a sign of discontent over Friday’s events.

As reported in Patrika, Jitendra Mathur, Regional Secretary of SBI Officers Association (Adhikari Sangathan), said bank officials demand that action should be taken against the perpetrators who disrupted bank work, threatened and barricaded bank employees for 10 hours after cutting power supply.

Response of bank staff 

According to bank employees, commotion began on Thursday afternoon when a third party engineer was fixing connectivity issues in the branch’s server system. The customers were asked to wait for about 10-20 minutes as transactions cannot be carried out till the server is up. One of the waiting patrons, a local business-man (Brijlal Karwasara), became rude and impatient and started recording the proceedings from his mobile. The bank manager took the phone from the customer and asked the bank staff to file an FIR in the local police station. Reportedly, when the bank staff went to the police station to file the FIR on Thursday, the police did not cooperate, and moreover, the local traders’ association gave a call for “Pallu bandh” on Friday, April 27.

On Friday morning, the local people and traders’ association, accompanied by few local politicians, gathered in front of the bank branch and barricaded bank staff in the building at around 10.30 am. When a bank employee tried to get out, the Sarpanch Mahavir Saharan and another person by the name of Gaurishankar Thori hurled abuses and threatened him with his life. The mob cut off the power supply to the bank to further frighten the bank employees who waited helplessly as the crowd set up a mike and DJ console outside the bank gates.T

The eight bank employees waited in the dark, afraid for their safety, for close to 10 hours as no help reached them. Only after senior bank officials reached the scene at around 8 pm, bank staff suspected the police’s role in the whole incident as they did not reach on time.

Infuriated by the incident, the bank employees staged a ‘Satyagraha’, an indefinite strike at the local head office of SBI, Jaipur to demand justice. Reportedly, the police arrested the agitators from the site of the protest.  The Bankers association ‘We Bankers’ who are protesting in support of the SBI Pallu branch employees have called for an indefinite hunger strike at Ministry of labour, Delhi

The locals tell a different version of events

According to local farmers and traders, the Pallu SBI bank branch is infamous for its rude staff and general apathy towards the customers. Complaints have been filed by local people against the branch manager and the staff several times, including one on Thursday, April 26, but no respite ensued. On Friday, at around 10 am, the locals led by Zila Parishad member, Gaurishankar Thori, and several sarpanches of nearby villages, assembled in front of the bank for a sit-in, demanding the transfer of bank staff.

As reported by Dainik Bhaskar, the situation worsened at around 10.30 am when a cashier came to the locked gate and started abusing Gaurishankar and Sarpanch Saharan. Allegedly, the bank official managed to grab the hand of the Sarpanch and attacked him multiple times with an ‘all in.’ This infuriated the assembled crowd, and they cut off the bank’s power supply and blocked the road. The officer in charge of the local police station managed to convince the people to end the roadblock after about an hour, but the barricading of the bank continued.

The protestors demanded transfers and strict action against the objectionable bank employees. Local administration, including an SSP from nearby Bhadra, was unable to disperse the crowd. The representatives of DGM Bikaner reached the scene at around 8 pm and assured the assembled people that their concerns would be heard. The police then escorted the barricaded employees out, and the senior bank officials and local representatives made their way to the police station to discuss demands. After more than 3 hours of discussion, the farmers and traders agreed to stop their protests on the condition that the cashier will be suspended and three other officials will be given APOs.

The Logical Indian take

All of us have encountered apathetic government officials one time or another. However, to be fair, we have also encountered honest, overworked, underpaid officials trying their best to meet the huge demand in spite of the shortage of resources and manpower. Lack of time-bound service delivery and an effective citizen grievance redressal system is the major cause of people’s negative attitude towards government offices, including the state-run SBI.

However, mob mentality and extreme actions such as barricading bank officials without food and electricity for 10 hours is nothing to be proud of. It is the responsibility of the local government to not to let such unruly elements in society fester. If action is taken against bank employees, it is only reasonable that those who incited the crowd to take the law into their own hands should also be punished. Moreover, a probe needs to be initiated to conclusively prove if the bank employees were at fault.

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