In rural Orissa,it’s the bank that will come visiting

If the tribals can’t go to the bank,the bank will come to them. The Orissa government plans

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Bhubaneswar | Published: July 3, 2013 5:13:27 am

If the tribals can’t go to the bank,the bank will come to them. The Orissa government plans to introduce a mobile banking service in 20 blocks in 10 tribal districts in the current financial year.

Although the RBI has initiated various policy measures such as advising banks to open no-frills accounts with low or zero balances,a vast section of the population has remained out of the network. Commercial banks don’t venture into remote areas because that isn’t viable as a business. Central cooperative banks that cater to the farmers in rural areas have expanded,but even these have no branches in 72 of the state’s 314 blocks,mostly in the tribal districts.

“As these people can’t come to the bank due to the absence of communication facilities,we thought of taking banking services to the tribals through mobile ATMs. Under the project,the farmers can deposit their surplus funds and avail of finances through mobile vans where a small counter and an ATM will be installed. The mobile ATMs would also enable the government to pay MNREGS beneficiaries,give scholarships to the children of Kisan credit card holders,disburse old-age pensions,and compensate farmers for losses due to natural calamities. The new banking system would also facilitate direct cash transfer for subsidised gas users,” says Bishnupada Sethi,commissioner-cum-secretary of the cooperatives department.

Under the proposed scheme,around 3.79 lakh farmer families in the tribal-dominated districts of Keonjhar,Mayurbhanj,Kalahandi,Koraput,Rayagada,Malkangiri,Nuapada,Sundargarh and Nawrangpur would benefit. The project is being run as a pilot scheme under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikash Yojana. The six central cooperative banks in Orissa will operate the mobile vans.

Of the 55 lakh farmer families in the state,51.64 lakh have been issued Kisan credit cards. “Getting a Kisan credit card from a bank involves a cumbersome procedure. We are hoping mobile banking would help the remaining farmers get their cards,” Sethi says.

The Kisan credit card helps give farmers easy access to institutional credit for cultivation of seasonal crops,and also loans for agriculture and allied activities. As small and marginal farmers constitute around 84 per cent of total farm families of the state,credit is considered a key input for improving production.

The total cost of each mobile bank with its ATM has been calculated at Rs 30 lakh. Diebold,one of the leading manufacturers of ATMs and cash dispensers,is preparing mobile ATMs for State Bank of India,Punjab National Bank,Oriental Bank of Commerce,and Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd. In the pilot project,the department has planned 20 such mobile ATMs.

Sethi says the penetration of mobile banks would also stop proliferation of chit-fund companies that have targeted Orissa’s rural areas. By a conservative estimate,people in Orissa have lost around Rs 25,000 crore to chit-fund companies in the last few months. “The more areas we cover,the more people would keep their money in banks and not chit-fund companies,” Sethi says.

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