Multiple requests made by P Rajesh, SBI Branch Manager in Vizag, were turned down by higher officials despite suffering from fever and showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Representative image of a man in ICURep image courtesy: picxy/rajastills
Coronavirus Controversy Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 15:56

The death of a 39-year-old banker in Vizag due to COVID-19 has left the banking community, not only in Andhra Pradesh, but across the country in shock. Several banking employee unions across the country have condemned the manner in which the higher authorities at the bank allegedly treated Pitta Rajesh- rejecting his leave on multiple occasions before his demise. 

The SBI Officers Association has claimed that despite repeated requests for leave by the young banker, even after he tested positive for COVID-19, the concerned seniors did not grant him leave. Employee unions have now called for stringent action to be taken against higher officials after Rajesh's death.  

The SBI Officers Association (Amaravati Circle) has written a letter to the General Secretary of the SBI Officers’ Association located in Tirupati, alleging violation of COVID-19 guidelines by the bank’s higher authorities. According to the association, 39-year-old Pitta Rajesh, Branch Manager of Agency Laxmipuram died of COVID-19. The association says that Rajesh was in touch with them in the last few days before his death.

The association has alleged that the Regional Manager and the Human Resource Manager are responsible for Rajesh’s death. The association believes that timely action of sanctioning leave could have saved Rajesh’s life. The association has also mentioned in the letter, “The death revelations of Com Rajesh are disgusting, dreadful and have left the whole banking community to shock (sic).”

According to the association, Rajesh was suffering from a fever from August 25. The field officer of the branch was also unwell and as Branch Manager, Rajesh immediately sanctioned leave to the field officer when he tested positive on August 28, states the association in its letter.

However, the association alleges when Rajesh requested for leave, he was informed that unless he submits a COVID-19 positive report, leave wouldn’t be sanctioned. The association goes on to allege that Rajesh was forced to work even despite fever and symptoms of COVID-19.

On August 30, there was another request made for leave by Rajesh but in vain. On August 31, yet another request was made but the HR Manager did not pick up the call and according to the association, the Regional Manager turned down the request by saying that deputation cannot be arranged where only two officers are posted.

The fact that the field officer of the same branch had tested positive was not taken into consideration by the RM while turning down Rajesh’s request for leave, said the association. As leave was not sanctioned, Rajesh could not even undergo a COVID-19 test despite suffering from fever and symptoms, they further alleged.

It was only on September 1 that Rajesh could get himself tested. According to the association, on September 1, when the transformer near the bank branch blew and operations were stalled, the cash-incharge, seeing Rajesh’s health condition, decided to take him on his bike to get tested for COVID-19.

When the result of the rapid test returned positive, Rajesh immediately informed the higher officials and requested for leave. However, even after testing positive, the request for leave was turned down by both the Regional Manager and the HR Manager, alleged the association. Meanwhile, the two managers asked for a copy of the report as proof for the leave to be processed.

On September 2, when Rajesh received a printed copy of the result, he submitted the same following which his leave was sanctioned. The association alleges that by then Rajesh’s health has drastically deteriorated. 

Rajesh was later admitted to a government General Hospital in Kakinada for treatment. Even during treatment, according to the association, he was directed to attend review meetings online. Rajesh was also allegedly insulted and targeted by the Regional Manager during the review meetings. He passed away on September 11. 

According to the association, the bank’s guidelines and instructions laid down were never followed. The association says the instructions were only on paper. “No attempt is being made for the well-being of staff members who are detected to be positive.”

Rajesh’s death has sparked outrage among bank employee unions. The United Forum of Bank Unions took to Twitter alleging that Rajesh’s death was a murder. They warned that they would protest in front of the Chief Minister’s office if a case was not registered by the Andhra police.

Speaking to TNM, Praveen Kumar, Deputy General Secretary, SBI who is the head of the Amaravati Circle of the SBI Officers Association, which has around 6500 officers as members, said, “When the tragic details of what happened was brought to my notice, on behalf of the Amaravati Circle of the SBI Officers Association, I wrote to the General Secretary. This is an internal letter and I am not aware how it has now become public. SBI always acts on such kinds of complaints that are brought to their notice. Even in this case, I am sure action will be taken and justice will prevail.”

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