Banking operations were affected on Tuesday as employees of public sector banks took part in a nationwide strike to protest against the government’s proposed reforms. The United Forum of Bank Unions, which includes nine bank associations, had called for the strike after the Centre proposed consolidating public sector banks. More than 10 lakh bank employees across 1.3 lakh branches did not work on Tuesday.

However, operations at private lenders such as ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank were running normally, PTI reported. Online banking operations were not affected by the strike either.

Around 55,000 bank officials went on strike in Tamil Nadu. “It is a dawn-to-dusk strike as cheque clearing operations start at 6 am,” General Secretary of the All India Bank Employees’ Association CH Venkatachalam told IANS. The group believes that the privatisation of banks would be dangerous for the country and its people.

“Privatisation of banks would mean privatising the Rs 80 lakh crore of common people’s money available in our banks,” the association said “It would also result in denial of loans to priority sectors such as agriculture, rural development, education, etc.”

Besides opposing the consolidation move, bankers also want a write-off policy for non-performing assets, wilful defaulters to be declared criminal offenders and the implementation of the Parliamentary panel’s recommendations to recover NPAs.

More than 12 lakh financial instruments, including foreign exchange transactions, cheque clearance and sanctioning of loans, will be affected by the strike, Venkatachalam said. ATMs are also likely to empty sooner than usual as bank branches will remain shut.