As commercial banks being reluctant to open branches in the Maoist-affected areas, the State Government has urged the Centre to provide Modern Cash Transit Centres (MCTCs) to help common men in the Red corridors.
While the Government of India is harping on Financial Inclusion for the entire country and has launched the Prime Minister Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) with a big hype, the people in the Leftwing Extremism-hit areas are worst sufferers as banks are just not opening branches in these zones.
Repeated requests by the State Government to open bank branches have gone unheeded with most of the areas of Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Koraput districts still remaining unbanked. Notably, 85 per cent of areas of Malkangiri and Nabarangpur are not yet covered with bank branches.
Due to lack of banking access within a radius of 25-30 km, people are unable to transact in their newly-opened PMJDY bank accounts.
As people cannot swipe their ATM cards at nearby access points, they become ineligible for insurance under the PMJDY Social Security Scheme, pointed out a senior official in the Department of Finance.
And due to poor the cash transit system between Reserve Bank of India (RBI)-banks-RBI, many bank branches do not have adequate stock of cash, due to which people after commuting entire day from village to nearest bank branches and often return empty-handed unable to withdraw from their own accounts.
In this situation, the State Government is planning to have mobile banking vans to provide weekly banking services in the worst-affected districts. Each van requires adequate security and logistic support, which needs to be provided.
For opening bank branches, the State Government has agreed to provide rent-free building in each unbanked gram panchayat (GP) headquarters. However, response from the banking sector is not encouraging, for which out of 6,238 GPs, 4,452 GPs do not have a bank branch with the LWE-hit districts being worst sufferers.
The State-Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) has given a target of five years (2014-19) for opening branches by different banks. Sadly, in 2014-15, against the target of 1,118, banks opened 119 branches. In 2015-16, the target has been scaled down to 927, and till date only 26 branches have been opened. Not a single bank branch has been opened in Malkangiri and Nabarangpur during last two years.
Another major problem in opening bank branches in remote areas is the poor internet coverage. The existing BSNL towers do not provide data connectivity to the proposed bank sites. So, VSAT is considered as the only solution.
While the NABARD is providing financial support for VSAT to be set up by Banking Correspondents or Kiosk Agents, such support is not extended for full-fledged bank branches.
Under this backdrop, the State Government has urged the Union Government to extend support for such initiatives so that Financial Inclusion and PMJDY are successfully implemented.