Up to one million Indian public sector bank employees started a two-day nationwide strike on Wednesday, protesting against reforms that they fear could lead to mergers and job losses.
Nearly 87,000 branches were expected to remain closed, but the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) said most private and foreign banks would continue to operate.
"We are opposing the banking laws amendment bill," said Ashwani Rana, secretary-general of the National Organization of Bank Workers, one of the striking unions.
India's parliament is on Wednesday likely to approve a bill to amend some banking laws, which would include raising shareholders' voting rights.
"This bill if cleared will make it easier for corporates to take over PSU (public sector undertaking) banks," Rana told AFP.
Rana's group is one of nine unions that called for the strike after reconciliation talks between their representatives and the IBA failed.
Stock and money market trading volumes were expected to be lower due to the strike, traders said.
Public sector banks employ over one million people and control about 75 percent of India's banking business, but disruption to automated teller machines (ATMs) was expected to be limited as they are privately run.
India, Asia's third-largest economy, has been slow to push reforms in banking, insurance and retail sectors, due to opposition from political parties and calls for protection of national interests.
[image via Agence France-Presse]