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Protest staged at SBI's administrative office building in Vijayawada
A large-scale dharna was staged by voluntary service organizations at the administrative office building of the State Bank of India in Vijayawada in protest against the acute shortage of cash in ATMs and indiscriminate collection of service charges from account holders.

The Better Andhra Pradesh (BAP) president P Gautamreddy and AP Editors'Association president VVR Krishnam Raju who jointly staged the dharna raised slogans against the way the banks have been functioning in recent times.

Their demands include immediate reduction of hiked service charges, carpet insurance to bank deposits, cancellation of service charge on ATM transactions and initiation of CBI probe into NPAs and Industrial loans.

Mr Gowtamreddy expressed anguish that the service charge and the service tax being collected by the nationalized and private banks has turned out to be most cumbersome for the customers. He said that banks have been collecting 54 to 60 types of service charges along with service tax applied on them from the customers which is a world record.

A study undertaken by the Standards and Poor'sglobal organization revealed that while earlier America was first in collecting service charges from the depositors of banks, now India stood first in collecting service charges from the bank depositors along with service tax. This is a very helpless situation, he added.

VVR Krisnam Raju came down heavily on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for being a mute spectator to the anti-customer policies being resorted to by the banking sector. The SBI collected Rs 1771 crore from the customers between April and November last year on the pretext of not maintaining the monthly minimum balance in their accounts. The SBI thus showed Rs 1581 crore as profits in the September quarter manipulatively, he alleged.

Krishnamraju Raju further said that the NPAs of some banks rose to 20 per cent. Surprisingly, they too announced profits on one hand and imposing the burden of service charges on the customers on the other. What was the rationale behind collecting service charges indiscriminately when the banks were making profits, he queried. At present, the SBI has been collecting 54 types of service charges together with service tax, he alleged.

The banks which were nationalized on July 19, 1969 with the aim of boosting social welfare, agriculture, rural and small scale industries, have been functioning against their spirit, he lamented. He expressed the view that the banks were making losses by extending lakhs of crores of rupees as loans to big industrialists and business tycoons which often turned into NPAs. They are levying service charges on the account holders heavily so as to compensate their losses.

Now there is a liquidity (cash in currency) of Rs 17.5 lakh crore, of which Rs 9 lakh crore is in NPAs and waived loans. He made a fervent demand that a CBI enquiry be ordered into the loans offered to the big industrialists, loan waivers and NPAs.

After ending the dharna, the representatives of the people's associations submitted the memorandum to SBI's top officials at Vijayawada administrative office.

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