In 1970, then Finance Minister, Dr. N.M. Perera presented his maiden budget on October 25th. He highlighted the importance and the necessity of forming and establishing a Savings Bank. There were a number of planning and discussions that had to be done prior to forming the bank. Especially amalgamating with the Post Office Savings had a lot of questions to be answered and agreements to be signed.
Without the postal department officers and other clerical staff, it was impossible to move on to the next step. Finally, National Savings Bank managed to open two branches One in Kollupitiya at the Head Office and 2nd in Fort in Ceylon Savings Bank, under the Shop and Store Act.
In the beginning, 200 clerical staff were hired and eighty of them were University graduates from the major four universities. I was able to be among the 200. We had to join the union headed by the Ceylon Mercantile Union. (CMU) According to the Act, employees had to work a half-day on Saturdays too.
When I was serving at the Head Office Branch in the New Accounts/Information Desk mostly common people came to open savings accounts. I have helped many Watti mothers (female vendors go door to door selling vegetables, fruits and fish) who want to save, but never knew how to read or write. They only had to provide their National Identity Card. I had to step down from the desk and sit with them in the front area and fill up the forms and take their thumb impression on the signature card. Those days there were specially trained staff who were trained to read thumb impressions. Those who joined from the postal department had the experience. I had to explain to them how important it is to have a savings account rather than to keep their hard-earned money under a stack of clothes. At that time for every Rs 10- for one calendar month interest was calculated, while other banks calculated interest for quarterly balance.
Finally, National Savings Bank received its Banking status, and the Bank Employees Union was formed. Its First president, late Dayananda Akureliya worked hard to get all the rights and services for theNSBemployees too.
In 1975, before National Savings Bank turned four, the father of theNSB, Dr. N.M. Perera and his Party (LSSP) was thrown out by the existing Government. That was the beginning of the darkest period in the history of National Savings Bank, for most of the employees who worked hard at its inception. For me going back to the past is a painful journey. For Sri Lanka, the past is always better than the present and the uncertain future.