Keep banking channels up and running; maintain smooth cash withdrawals: FM

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Photo: Dalip Kumar
The Union government has asked all banks to ensure that their banking channels — branches, ATMs, and the business correspondent network — are up and running across India for transactions, especially cash withdrawals. 

Banks are expected to witness a surge in transactions across channels next week, owing to salary payments to employees. Pensioners will also be visiting branches in the first few days of April. The beneficiaries of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme are also likely to withdraw money from their accounts, senior public sector bankers said. 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held one-to-one interaction with chief executives of banks on Saturday. The nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has led to disruptions in banking operations in the field. Banking services have been declared as essential services.

According to the finance ministry’s Twitter handle, during the call, banks raised specific problems and were heard in detail. Solutions to these issues are being found through coordination with state governments and all the problems are being addressed, it said.

FM acknowledged the role of public sector banks and encouraged them to keep up their efforts in providing uninterrupted banking services across the country.

Financial Services Secretary Debasish Panda and Madnesh Kumar Mishra and Suchindra Mishra, both of whom are joint secretaries in the Department of Financial Services, were also present during the calls.

Banking on them

  • Banks to ensure all their branches and ATMs continue operations
  • To implement social distancing at all points
  • Provide authorisation to staff 
  • Seek district administration help for smooth passage of staff

Bankers have conveyed that over 90 per cent of branches are working for transactions and special care is being taken to keep adequate cash at branches, ATMs and with BCs. Some branches are not able to function due to loacal factors like restrictions on the movement of people. Bank executives are sorting out these issues by coordinating with district magistrates, police and state governments. 

Banks are considering additional steps for BCs like insurance coverage and additional financial incentives as transactions at BC points have declined sharply in March after the lockdown in various states.

Meanwhile, public sector lender Indian Bank has launched mobile ATM, which is going to colonies, residential localities, and vegetable markets in Chennai for the benefit of all civilians. The bank is also in process of starting similar facility in other places, including New Delhi, said its MD & CEO Padmaja Chundru.

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