During the time period of the demonetisation exercise, 208 bank employees —197 of public sector banks (PSBs) and 11 from private sector banks — were prima facie found to be indulging in illegal activities by violating the rules and regulation of Central government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), according to finance minister Arun Jaitley.
In a statement tabled in the Lok Sabha on Friday, the finance minister stated: “Certain bank officials have been found involved in irregularities related to demonetisation. On the basis of prima facie involvement in irregularities, PSBs are so far reported to have placed 156 officials under suspension and to have transferred 41 officials. PSBs are also reported to have filed 26 cases with police/CBI wherever criminal cases are involved.”
In respect to private sector banks, he said that the “RBI has informed that 11 employees have been placed under suspension where bank employees have been found involved in ‘irregular exchange of transaction’ of specified bank note (SBN) during the phase of demonetisation”.
However, on December 6, 2016, third-largest private sector bank Axis Bank had announced that it has suspended 19 officials, including six from Delhi over alleged involvement in illegal practices post demonetisation.
Jaitley added that the RBI has informed that the private sector banks have initiated internal investigation and complaints have been filed with police/CBI. On December 28, 2016, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested a Kotak Mahindra Bank branch manager in Delhi for his alleged involvement in exchange of Rs 38 crore worth of demonetised notes through demand drafts in fictitious names.
Meanwhile, through various applications filed under Right to Information Act, The Indian Express has learnt that during first month of demonetisation — November 9, 2016 to December 8, 2016 — four employees of Bank of Baroda and at least one employee of Central Bank of India were allegedly found to be indulging in such illegal activities.
“In the time period between November 9, 2016 to December 8, 2016, preliminary administrative action have been taken against four employees, who have been found violating Bank’s/Government guidelines for demonetisation. Investigation is under process to fix staff accountability,” the Bank of Baroda stated in its RTI reply.
On the evening of November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that two categories of notes — Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 — would cease to be legal tender from the midnight of November 8.
The Central Bank of India noted in one of its RTI reply: “It has been reported that one employee of Birla Mandir branch of Patna has been alleged to involve under illegal exchange of demonetised currency (SBN). However, departmental action against the staff concerned is under progress which is confidential.” As many regional branches of Central Bank of India refused to divulge information, it was not clear if this one employee was the only one violating the rules of demonetisation exercise.
IDBI Bank told this newspaper in its RTI reply that there was no “incidence of illegal exchange of demonetised notes and no violation of rules of central government and RBI” during first month of demonetisation exercise. Bank of Baroda, IDBI Bank and Central Bank of India are among the top five public sector banks of the country. None of these banks replied to the subsequent queries mailed by The Indian Express. Canara Bank refused to divulge any details about its employees.
On December 2, 2016, the finance ministry had said that 33 bank officials of public sector banks were found to be violating rules and regulation of the central government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regarding demonetisation. It said: “27 officials of various public sector banks have been placed under suspension and six officials have been transferred to non-sensitive posts.”
Meanwhile, one employee of each — IDBI Bank and Central Bank of India — were injured while they were on duty during the first month of demonetisation exercise. The Central Bank of India stated in its RTI reply that its female employee was injured in the Bina branch of Sagar region due to “commotion by several public on November 11, 2016”. Elaborating further, the Central Bank of India stated: “Heavy rush on counter and due to pressure the counter glass was broken and the staff injured. The female employee has 6 to 7 stitches on her forehead.”
IDBI Bank stated that “one employee of our bank was injured while they were on duty during the period between November 9, 2016 and December 8, 2016”. The bank refused to elaborate further on the nature or cause of injury.
The number of employees availing leaves in these three banks — Bank of Baroda, IDBI Bank and Central Bank of India — dropped significantly during the first month of demonetisation. In the month prior to demonetisation — between October 8, 2016 and November 7, 2016 — the number of employees who were on leave during some/all days were 25,882, 9,849 and 19,634, respectively. However, during the first month of demonetisation, the number of employees who took leave fell to 10,193, 6,864 and 9,519, respectively.
At Bank of Baroda and Central Bank of India, in the month prior to demonetisation — between October 8, 2016, and November 7, 2016, — the number of employees that got their leaves canceled were 1,221 and 2,753, respectively. However, during the first month of demonetisation exercise, the number of employees whose leaves got cancelled dropped to 809 and 1,871, respectively. At Central Bank of India, the number of employees that were transferred in the month prior to demonetisation were 446.
However, during the first month of demonetisation exercise, the number of employees that were transferred in Central Bank of India were just 154.