Nirmala gets support for her outburst against SBI chief

Nirmala Sitharaman gets support for her outburst against SBI chief

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (PTI Photo)

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday received support from several quarters for her outburst against SBI for delaying the operationalisation of around accounts of around 2.5 lakh tea garden workers in Assam, calling the bank "heartless" and "inefficient".

Sitharaman was panned by a section on Saturday after an audio clip of her tough talk during a meeting in Guwahati last month, in which she rebuked SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar, following which the All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC) issued a statement against that was withdrawn later.

As the issue snow-balled into a controversy, several Twitter users came out in Sitharaman's support with some saying "male ministers would have been lauded" for such tough talk.

Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who attended the financial inclusion outreach program in Guwahati on February 27 where the incident took place, was among the first to jump into her defence, thanking her for her intervention.

"Grateful to @nsitharaman for championing the cause of these deprived workers. After her intervention, the Assam government is working closely with the public sector banks of the region to ensure financial inclusion for the most underprivileged sections of society," he tweeted while saying the AIBOC statement was a result of the outfit not getting the context right.

Assam will remain "eternally grateful" to Sitharaman for such a "proactive stance", he said.

In the audio clip, which is available on the internet, Sitharaman asked officials when they could operationalise the bank accounts to which an SBI official said they needed permission from RBI and they could not do it in a week. Sitharaman was then heard telling the SBI Chairman not to tire her out and asked him to meet her in Delhi. "I am not letting this go. This is the utter omission of a job. I hold you completely responsible for this," she said.

Last Friday, the AIBOC issued a press statement condemning the Finance Minister for her "direct and unsavoury" attack on Kumar. However the next day, it withdrew the statement saying it was "erroneously issued".

She also tweeted the AIBOC statement withdrawing the remarks against her and retweeted the explanation given by the Assam Finance Minister.

Sarma had said the Assam government had in 2017 opened nearly eight lakh accounts of tea garden workers and transferred an incentive of Rs 5,000 in each account. "Due to procedural lapses and lack of alertness on part of local banking officials, a sizeable section of these workers were being deprived of their rightful dues as they could not withdraw their own money from these accounts," he said.

Sitharaman also received support from several people on Twitter with some saying she was standing up for those who were suffering and there was no issue in praising her despite ideological differences.

Some others said if the Finance Minister was a man, there would not have been criticism of the tone and instead, the person would have been praised for tough talk.

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