Over 3,400 Branches Of 26 Public Sector Banks Closed Or Merged In Last Five Years, Shows RTI
A customer uses an automated teller machine (ATM) at a State Bank of India Ltd. (SBI) branch at night in Bengaluru, India. (Photographer: Karen Dias/Bloomberg)

Over 3,400 Branches Of 26 Public Sector Banks Closed Or Merged In Last Five Years, Shows RTI

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Over 3,400 branches of 26 public sector banks have been either closed or merged during the last five financial years due to merger under the consolidation exercise in the banking space, a Right To Information query revealed.

Of this, 75 percent of the affected branches belong to the country's biggest lender State Bank of India. To a query under the Right to Information Act filed by a Neemuch-based activist Chandrashekhar Gaud, the Reserve Bank of India informed that 26 public sector banks of the country either closed or merged 90 branches during financial year 2014-15, 126 branches in 2015-16, 253 branches in 2016-17, 2,083 branches in 2017-18 and 875 branches during 2018-19.

The RTI information came out at a time when the Centre is planning to consolidate 10 public sector banks into four mega state-owned lenders. According to RTI reply, the maximum 2,568 branches of the SBI were affected due to merger or closure in the last five financial years.

RBI informed that Bharatiya Mahila Bank, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore were merged with SBI with effect from April 1, 2017.

In addition, the merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda came into effect from April 1 this year. Meanwhile, employee organisations of public banks have opposed to the government's new plan to consolidate the banking space.

Also read: PSU Bank Mergers: What Consolidation Means For Lakhs Of Employees

All India Bank Employees' Association General Secretary CH Venkatachalam told PTI that at least 7,000 branches of these banks likely to be affected, if the government forms four big banks out of the ten state-owned banks in the country.

Most of these affected branches will be from the metros and cities, he added. Venkatachalam expressed apprehensions that the proposed merger would decline the business of the public sector banks concerned. It is generally seen that customers stop banking with the branch, once it was closed or merged with another one.

However, economist Jayantilal Bhandari said that merger of public sector banks is the need of the hour. "The state exchequer will benefit after creation of big banks by merging smaller public sector banks. In addition, the large state-run banks will be able to distribute relatively more loans to the common people due to their strong financial condition, which will spur the economic growth in the country," he said.

Also read: #BQDebates: Will Consolidation Lead To Better Public Sector Banks?

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