Citizens' Issues
Strike cripples banking services across India

According to reports, operations like deposit, withdrawals as well as clearing are affected in PSU banks due to the strike. About 10 lakh employees from 42 banks are participating in the two-day strike

 
New Delhi, Aug 22 (PTI) Employees of public sector banks in India have gone on two-day nationwide strike on Wednesday opposing banking sector reforms and outsourcing of non-core activities, affecting operations.
 
Several private sector banks, foreign banks and ATMs, however, continued to operate normally.
 
The strike call was given by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of nine unions of employees and officers of PSU banks.
 
They are protesting against banking sector reforms and unilateral implementation of the Khandelwal committee report on human resources management in PSU banks.
 
"The strike is on since this morning. Nearly 10 lakh employees are participating in it. This includes 24 public- sector banks, 12 private banks and six foreign banks," All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary CH Venkatachalam told PTI.
 
He also said that ATM machines will work until they have the cash and thereafter those services will also be impacted.
 
The strike has been called against government's policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. Bank unions are demanding stringent and effective measures to recover bad loans.
 
"Strike is going on normally, demonstration will start by 10-10.30am (local time). All the nine unions are participating in the strike," said Rakesh Agarwal, General Secretary, State Bank of India (SBI) Officers Association.
 
Bank unions have been demanding pension revision, housing loan revision, 5-day working week and human resource related issues, Agarwal said. 
 
There are about 87,000 branches of public sector banks, employing over 10 lakh people. The PSU banks, which operate 63,000 ATMs, control about 75% banking business in the country.
 
According to reports, operations like deposit, withdrawal as well as clearing are affected in public sector banks, including the largest lender State Bank of India, due to the strike.
 
However, in the private sector, operations were normal in ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank and foreign banks.
 
Among other things, the trade unions are protesting against Banking Laws Amendment Bill which is pending in Parliament and implementation of the Khandelwal committee report.
 
The Amendment Bill, 2011 contains provisions such as raising of shareholders' voting rights from 10% to 26% in private banks and supersession of bank boards.
 
The Centre-appointed Khandelwal panel had suggested a slew of measures, including more outsourcing of non-core activities in a time-bound manner.
 
Also, the standard of recruitment, including methodology and content for testing, has to be raised. Testing of computer skills will be mandatory for both officers and clerks, the panel had recommended.
 
The Khandelwal committee had also suggested that the minimum qualification for clerks and sub-staff should be graduation and class 10, respectively.
 
The unions which had given the strike call include All India Bank Employees Association, All India Bank Officers Confederation, National Confederation of Bank Employees, All India Bank Officers Officers Association, Bank Employees Federation of India, India National Bank Employees Federation, Indian National Bank Officers Congress, National Organisation of Bank Workers and National Organisation of Bank Officers are part of the United Forum of Bank Union.
 
In western Indian city of Mumbai, there was marginal impact of the strike.
 
SBI said it is too early to assess the impact on operations as the headquarters has not received any feedback from the branches.
 
An official of the Corporation Bank said employees belonging to the striking unions are absent from work, impacting the operations.
 
Union Bank, Central Bank and Bank of India said their branches have recorded thin attendance so far.
 
Old private sector banks like Federal and Dhanalaxmi Bank also said that their branches, being run by managers of Grade IV and below, are impacted due to the strike.
 
These banks typically have around half of their branches run by lower grade officers, who are part of the National Federation which is striking.
 
Meanwhile, banking transactions came to a halt in public sector banks in Punjab and Haryana, although private banks like HDFC, ICICI continued to operate.
 
The impact of the strike was visible on the industrial sectors of both Punjab and Haryana as industry representatives fumed over hampering of their business activities due to the two-day long strike by bank employees.
 
Industry representatives, particularly of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, said they could not arrange funds for working capital requirements.
 
"The slowdown in the economy coupled with sluggish demand has already hit the industrial sector. Now, the strike will add to our woes. It is unthinkable to carry out any financial transaction without banks," a Ludhiana based industrialist N Bhamra said.
 
Due to the strike, cheques worth several crores of rupees remained uncleared in the public sector banks. Several banks' asset recovery branches have even postponed the auction of loan defaulters' properties.
 

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Unnecessary heart procedures in US healthcare?

About 600,000 procedures are performed every year to clear coronary artery blockages. But studies show that medicine alone is as effective in patients with stable heart disease and that many procedures to clear blockages are unnecessary  

 
The New York Times reported this month that the US attorney’s office in Miami is investigating allegations that patients underwent unnecessary heart treatments at facilities owned by Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), a 163-hospital chain. ProPublica reported new accusations that one of the nation's largest hospital chains performed more than a thousand unnecessary heart procedures grabbed headlines this week, but the practice is far from unique in US healthcare.
 
A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only half of 144,000 non-emergency heart catheterizations—typically the use of tiny balloons and stents to clear blocked arteries—were appropriate; 38% were ‘uncertain’ and 12% were ‘inappropriate.’
 
“It’s presented in the media as if it is aberrancy, when actually it's the rule,” said Dr David Brown, an interventional cardiologist and professor of medicine at SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine of the unnecessary heart procedures. “The medical system is addicted to the revenues that it generates.”
 
ProPublica reports that in 2011, Medicare alone spent nearly $1 billion on the procedures. While they boost revenues for doctors and hospitals, unnecessary procedures consume taxpayer money, raise insurance premiums and put patients at risk. Studies show that about 3% of patients experience serious complications.
 
According to the Times, an internal HCA review found unnecessary procedures being performed at several facilities, including more than 1,200 at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute, in Fort Pierce, Florida.
 
ProPublica says that HCA did not return a call for comment, but said in a statement posted on its website that there’s wide disagreement among physicians about which procedures are medically necessary and its use of stents was within the range of those at other hospitals.
 
The ProPublica analysis reveals that comparisons to common practice among doctors and hospitals may not be the best barometer of proper patient care. Studies show that doctors often do not adhere to best practices when they treat patients who have plaque build-up in their coronary arteries but whose condition is stable.
 
About 600,000 procedures are performed every year to clear coronary artery blockages, according to the American Heart Association. The procedure involves snaking a catheter through the patient's arteries and clearing the blockage with a tiny balloon and a small wire cage—the stent—that holds the artery open.
 
But studies show that medicine alone is as effective in patients with stable heart disease and that many procedures to clear blockages are unnecessary. Dr Brown published a review of eight studies and found “there's absolutely no evidence” for substituting stents for medical therapy in patients with stable heart disease, he said.
 
The American Heart Association recommends putting patients with stable heart disease on blood thinning medication before they try a stent, said the authors of a May 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Yet it happens in fewer than half of the cases where doctors use stents, the study found.
 
There is some debate about the scope of the problem, says ProPublica.
 
 

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