Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday said the State Bank of India’s reported plan to implement a voluntary retirement scheme was cruel when the economy has collapsed and jobs were scarce because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“News reports say that SBI [State Bank of India] plans to implement a VRS [voluntary retirement scheme] scheme as an ‘economy measure’,” he tweeted. “In normal times the plan would be debatable. In these abnormal times, when the economy has collapsed and jobs are scarce, it is cruel.”

The SBI has planned a voluntary retirement scheme in which over 30,000 employees are eligible to opt for it, ANI reported, citing unnamed officials. As of March 2020, over 2.49 lakh employees work for the lender as compared to 2.57 lakh in 2019.

In a series of tweets, Chidambaram asked if the SBI, India’s biggest lender, had to shed jobs, what would be the state of other large employers and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. “The plan is ostensibly voluntary but we know that subtle pressure will be brought on the employees that the Bank wants to get rid of,” he added.

The Congress leader further asked why was there a need to announce a new plan if the existing one provided for “genuine voluntary retirement.”

Chidambaram, a former Union finance minister, has been attacking the government over employment and economy, especially since government data announced on August 31 showed that the Gross Domestic Product has contracted by 23.9% for the April to June quarter as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the country’s economy.

The country was paying a heavy price for the “nonchalant and uncaring” attitude of the Narendra Modi government, Chidambaram had said over the sharp decline in the GDP hours after it was announced.

On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had attributed the decline in the GDP to the demonetisation in 2016. “The dice that was thrown on 8 November, 2016 had a terrible result on 31 August 2020,” he had tweeted.

Gandhi had on Saturday also criticised the Centre for reportedly putting a freeze on hiring for government jobs. He was referring to a circular by the Ministry of Finance which spoke about austerity measures to be taken by the ministry. The ministry, however, clarified that the measures referred to internal jobs only and that there were no restrictions for applying for a job.

On the same day, Chidambaram criticised the government’s strategies to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and claimed that India was the only country that did not benefit from a lockdown.