SBIs latest medical fitness guidelines for new employees have drawn flak from several politicians and employees' associations.

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news Controversy Saturday, January 29, 2022 - 12:31

In a set of new rules issued by State Bank of India (SBI), the bank has said it has been stated that a woman candidate who is more than three months pregnant will be considered ‘temporarily unfit’, and can join the bank within four months after childbirth. The move has elicited criticism from several quarters, including from MPs and the All India State Bank Of India Employees' Association.

In its latest medical fitness guidelines for new recruits or promotees, the bank has said that a candidate would be considered fit in case of pregnancy which is less than three months. "However, if pregnancy is of more than 3 months, she will be considered temporarily unfit and she may be allowed to join within four months after delivery of the child," as per the medical fitness and ophthalmological standards for new recruits and promotees dated December 31, 2021.

For recruitment, it said, the policy will be effective from the date of approval, that is December 21, 2021. The revised standards in respect of promotion will be applicable with effect from April 1, 2022, it said.

Earlier, women candidates who were up to six months pregnant were allowed to join the bank, subject to certain conditions. The conditions include furnishing a certificate from a gynaecologist, declaring that the work would not interfere with the health of the woman  or foetus.

Madurai MP Su Venkatesan, in a letter to the chairman of SBI, has stated that the move was discriminatory based on gender, and the ‘instructions are against the principle of Constitution, which guarantees equality under Article 14, 15 and 16’. He also added that it was ‘nothing but reflection of patriarchal mindset of the SBI management and not consonant with the ideas of gender justice hardwon rights of the struggles of social reform movements and women organisations’, and sought to withdraw the guidelines. He has also written a similar letter to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam has written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman demanding immediate withdrawal of the medical fitness circular issued by SBI pertaining to the guidelines for the recruitment of pregnant women, saying "it undermines women's rights."

According to the All India State Bank Of India Employees' Association General Secretary K S Krishna, the union has written to SBI management urging it to withdraw the guidelines. "The proposed amendment by the bank is fundamentally prejudicial and against womanhood. The proposed amendment will be unconstitutional as it discriminates against women, by treating pregnancy as a disease/disability. It cannot be forced upon a woman to have a choice between bearing a child and employment as it interferes both with her reproductive rights and her right to employment and such an action cannot have any place in the present modern era," he said.

He also said that the same proposal was put forth in 2009 but was withdrawn after a lot of opposition.

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has also issued a notice to SBI seeking withdrawal of its new rules. "State Bank of India seems to have issued guidelines preventing women who are over three months pregnant from joining service & have termed them as temporarily unfit'. This is both discriminatory and illegal. We have issued a notice to them seeking withdrawal of this anti women rule," DCW Chief Swati Maliwal tweeted.

In the notice, the panel has also sought a copy of the new guidelines, as well as a copy of the similar rules operational before this.

(With PTI inputs)

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