Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Saturday said there was a need to stop the privatisation of public sector banks, adding that there should be a common countrywide movement against it.

“We had warned at the beginning of the [farmers’] movement that banks will be next,” Tikait tweeted. “See the result, on December 6, the bill for privatisation of public sector banks is going to be presented in Parliament.”

Tikait has been one of the prominent farmer leaders in the movement against the three farm laws, which were repealed on November 29.

The farmer leader was speaking about The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill that has been listed for discussion during the Winter Session of Parliament.

During her Budget speech in February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the decision to privatise two Public Sector Undertaking banks and one general insurance firm as part of the Centre’s disinvestment plan.

Sitharaman had not specified which banks had been shortlisted for privatisation, but reports suggested multiple names, including Bank of Maharashtra, Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and Punjab National Bank.

But bank employees have been opposing the decision as it could put their jobs at risk.

According to estimates from bank unions, Bank of India employs about 50,000 workers, Central Bank of India has 33,000 staff, Indian Overseas Bank has a workforce of 26,000, while Bank of Maharashtra has about 13,000 employees.

The United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella body of nine associations, on Tuesday called for a two-day strike from December 16 to protest against the proposed Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Last week, the Tamil Nadu unit of the United Forum of Bank Unions held a protest near Valluvar Kottam in Chennai against the proposed Bill led by All India Bank Employees’ Association General Secretary CH Venkatachalam, The Hindu reported.

Venkatachalam also met Chief Minister MK Stalin and submitted a memorandum seeking his support.

On Tuesday, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi MP D Ravikumar had written to Sitharaman, expressing concerns about the Bill. Ravikumar is associated with the All Indian Bank Employees Association.

In the letter, Ravikumar had stated that the public sector banks benefit small traders, farmers and transport sectors. “However, they were also riddled with the non-performing assets in which the big corporate firms had a large share,” the letter stated.

The MP also noted that citizens are wary of private sector banks as some of them, like RBL Bank and Bandhan Bank, were shut down by the Reserve Bank of India after they suffered losses.

The United Forum of Bank Unions had called for a countrywide protest in March too. The All India Bank Employees’ Association had then said that the privatisation of banks was a negative move for developing countries such as India.

“Indian public sector banks represent the hard-earned savings of the people,” the statement had said. “Privatisation of banks would risk their savings as many private banks in the past have collapsed and people lost their savings.”