RSS idealogue and RBI Board member S Gurumurthy’s comments on public sector bank employees has led to much furore. At the 52nd anniversary celebration of Tamil magazine Thuglak, held recently in Chennai, Gurumurthy, who is also its editor, used a Tamil word ‘Kazhisadai’ (translated as scum/filth) to refer to public sector bank employees in a derogatory manner. His comment received backlash from various bank unions, officials, and opposition leaders and the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) asked for his resignation from the RBI Board. He made the comment in the presence of Union Finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman.
While replying to a reader's question during the event, Gurumurthy said that public sector banks are losing talented officials to the private sector owing to poor pay and lack of freedom.
“Talented employees in public sector banks are leaving their jobs since the package is very low and they cannot act independently. Now, all we are left with “Kazhisadaigal” only and it is with them that the country has to compete globally in the financial sector,” he said.
Bank unions have taken strong exception to this. "We did not expect this kind of words from a person like him who is holding one of the highest offices in the RBI and that too in the presence of Honorable Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, who saluted bank employees for their selfless service during the pandemic period," reads a statement released by All India Bank Officers confederation (AIBOC), Tamil Nadu state unit.
The Secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) has termed the comment dirty and derogatory. "We strongly condemn his uncalled for comments and demand his immediate apology. He is unfit to be on the Board of RBI and the government should remove him from this important post," AIBEA Secretary Venkatachalam said.
AIBEA statement also stated that bank employees were working day and night to cater to the needs of customers. “We are playing an inevitable role in the economic growth of the country,” it said.
The Union Forum of Bank Unions (Tamil Nadu) asked why the Finance Minister did not challenge the statement. In a video of the speech, one can see Nirmala Sitharaman squirming as soon as Gurumurthy made the comment and shaking her head in disapproval. "It would have been just on the part of the Finance Minister if she had condemned the shameful comment by Mr. Gurumurthy. UFBU Tamil Nadu expresses its strong protest and demands an unconditional apology from Mr. Gurumurthy for his unwarranted filthy remarks about public sector bank officials and employees," the statement said.
CPI(M)’s Madurai MP Su Venkatesan wrote a letter to Nirmala Sitharaman regarding the same. “Gurumurthy’s speech was not dignified. Bank employees are under your ministry and they have rendered wonderful service to the people during the pandemic despite many odds, which was recognized by you in the meeting itself,” the MP said in the letter.
Usually, the annual day celebration of Thuglak takes place during the month of January. Due to the fear of a third COVID-19 wave, the anniversary event was postponed. The 52nd-anniversary was celebrated at the Music Academy in Alwarpet on May 8, in the presence of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and other top officials from various sectors.