NEW DELHI, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Amid a growing clamor for privatizing state-owned banks in the wake of the country's biggest-ever bank fraud of 1.8 billion U.S. dollars, bank employees have written to the Indian government slamming such a "counterproductive" move.
"Should the PSBs (public sector banks) be handed over to private corporates, it will not only be counterproductive, but also lead to self-destruction of a well-knit huge branch network across the length and breadth of the country that services crores of people," Indian National Bank Employees Federation wrote to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
A bank official said Saturday that they would hit the streets and stage protests if the government goes ahead with any such move. "Privatisation means many employees will lose their jobs," he said.
In fact, the Indian government has been considering several measures like privatization of nationalized banks after facing flak for the 1.8-billion-U.S. dollar bank fraud. It passed a law Thursday aimed at confiscating the properties of those involved in large-scale fraud.
India's Finance Ministry ordered the closure of as many as 35 branches of state-owned banks in foreign countries.
The move came after Punjab National Bank last month reported to authorities about the 1.8-billion-U.S. dollar fraud, masterminded by billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, though he claimed to owe the bank only 775 million U.S. dollars.
Though Modi has not been formally charged for the crime, India's External Affairs Ministry has revoked the passports of the disgraced jeweller and his uncle and business partner Mehul Choksi, and launched a massive crackdown on companies linked to the duo.
Investigators have also arrested 13 people, including some high-ranking bank officials, for their alleged involvement in the fraud. A top internal auditor of the Punjab National Bank was the latest to be taken into custody Wednesday.
The celebrity jeweller, however, has gone into hiding. He is said to have fled the country and was reportedly last seen in New York after his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos as a part of an Indian delegation.