Banks, considered to be an essential service, were open even during the lockdown — be it in the first wave or second wave of the pandemic — offering uninterrupted service to the customers. Almost 50 per cent of the staff — who are surprisingly and unfortunately, not considered front-line workers — have been available in most banks throughout the pandemic, and the sector paid a heavy price for this smooth service too. While over a 1,000 lives of staff members have been lost, many more have been or still are battling the infection across the country.
According to a statement given to moneycontrol.com, C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees Association, about 1,200 bank employees have lost their battle to COVID-19. The figure may even be higher, since not all banks are willing to reveal the true figures and details of deaths.
In March 2020, employees of public banks had questioned the need to go to office when it was possible to work online. Most of the bank branches were open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and customers were anyway being encouraged to stay at home and avail all services online.
In August 2020, following a rise in the number of COVID cases amongst bank employees, the Goa Bank Employees’ Association (GBEA) had even organised a protest against the authorities for not putting in place safety measures for the staff within the workplace.
Voices are being raised against the Government for failing to vaccinate bank employees on priority as they are risking their lives just like frontline workers.