The finance ministry on Friday asked state governments to accord priority to employees of banks and insurance companies for COVID-19 vaccination, saying they are exposed to high risks during these difficult times.
Department of Financial Services Secretary Debasish Panda, in a letter addressed to chief secretaries of states and union territories, said states should consider a special dispensation for vaccination of staff of banks, insurance companies, business correspondents, payment systems and other financial services providers on priority.
Tagging the letter, Panda in a tweet said, "Kudos to our Bankers, Insurers, Payment Service Providers, Bank Mitras for ensuring uninterrupted delivery of banking and financial services to people in need during these challenging times."
He also mentioned that many of these employees have succumbed to COVID-19.
"All state/UT governments are requested to instruct local authorities to provide them necessary help and support in ensuring delivery of banking and financial services. Vaccinating them on priority will mitigate their high exposure to risk in delivery of public service," he said.
Raising the issues of some instances of manhandling by state law enforcement authorities during local lockdowns, the letter also asked state administration to ensure easy movement of officials for discharge of duty.
"Likewise, offices of banks and branches have occasionally been ordered to shut down by state law enforcement authorities even during permitted banking hours, accompanied by threats. While bank employees are already braving risks to their health and need to be assured about their safety, these incidents end up demoralising them...and disruption in services," it said.
This becomes impediment to account holders access to funds in their hours of needs, disbursement of DBT payments, extension of credit to mitigate disruption to business, etc which should otherwise be uninterrupted and seamless, it said.
Panda also asked the chief secretaries to instruct district administration and local authorities to cooperate with bank and financial services employees, provide adequate security to them and not impede their functioning or movement.
Welcoming the move, All India Bank Employees Association general secretary C H Vekatachlam said priority Vaccination is very important.
Vekatachlam demanded that the Department of Financial Services can also give some minimum uniform guidelines on working of banks.
It is to be noted that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs on Management of COVID-19 pandemic and related issues, in its 229th report, appreciated the efforts and pain taken by the banking sector for providing uninterrupted service during the COVID-19 outbreak and consequent lockdown.
The Committee placed on record the good work done by them and has also recognised them as Covid warriors.
Last month, the Department of Financial Services requested the health and home ministries for issuing instructions for enabling COVID-19 vaccination of employees of banks and those involved in the banking activities.
Out of total strength of 13.5 lakh employees in the banking sector, about 600 deaths due to COVID-19 were recorded last year, as per the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) data.