Thiruvananthapuram, (IANS) Amid a public outcry over the State Bank of India (SBI) announcement to levy charges on ATM cash withdrawals from June, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac on Thursday accused the bank of bringing down its losses with the move.
Addressing reporters here, in the Kerala Assembly Issac said the only reason he can see for this "mad" new rule is that the SBI is faced with mounting non-performing assets that have touched Rs 1.67 lakh crore.
"This is the height of madness and irresponsibility. It would be interesting to find out the list of NPAs of the SBI.. One wouldn't be surprised if the majority are found to be corporates. Just take a look at their profits, it has dramatically come down. The charges have been levied to bring down their losses. This is something that even private sector banks would not dare think of doing," said Issac.
The bank's new order states that every time a SBI customer withdraws cash from an ATM a charge of Rs 25 would be levied. Charges would also be levied for exchange of old and soiled notes above Rs 5,000.
"This is outrageous and the central government is cheating the people. Ever since the demonetisation began, the Centre has been bullying people. This is going to be taken up, both within and out of Parliament very strongly," said CPI-M Lok Sabha member M.B. Rajesh.
Popular film personality Shobi Thilakan called it an "anti-people policy of the Centre".
"The SBI has turned out to be worse than the local money lenders and is out to fleece the common man. There has to be a public outcry against this new policy," said Thilakan.
Customers spotted in front of an SBI ATM here also expressed anger.
"The Centre has cheated people and it has to be seen from the perspective that they did this very tactfully because Kerala's own bank (State Bank of Travancore) has been merged with the SBI. The people who banked with SBT have now become SBI customers and now they are at the receiving end," said a retired teacher, after withdrawing money from the ATM.
Another angry SBI customer from Kottayam said barring the lone Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator in the 141-member Kerala Assembly, all others had strongly opposed the merger and passed a resolution to this effect.
"This was bound to happen and these are measures to pick the pockets poor people. We wish to know what the state BJP leaders have to say on this. There should be mass protest in Kerala against the SBI," said the angry SBI account holder.
Of the 880 SBT branches in Kerala, more than 400 were closed after the merger. At present there are over 800 SBI branches in the state.