Show me the Money

Gyanendra Keshri, Executive Editor, INCLUSION

While carrying out financial literacy training at Samavesh, many irregularities came to the fore including instances of poor asked to pay Rs.500 for opening zero-balance Jan Dhan account

When 54-year old Ranjana Devi (not the original name) from Himmatnagar village went to a bank to open an account under Jan Dhan, she was asked to show an identity and residence proof or pay Rs.500. Neither she had any identity and residence proof, nor was she is in a position to pay the money demanded. So she could not open the bank account.

Ranjana is not alone. More than half of the women who participated in the training programme complained about irregularities in the process. The banks are asking either for money or documents that they don’t possess.

This is clearly illegal as Jan Dhan accounts are being opened with zero balance and self declaration. It must be probably a demand for bribes. As regards the documents required for opening the accounts, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has clarified that even those persons who do not have officially valid documents can open an account. The account can be opened on the basis of a self-attested photograph and putting his/her signatures or thumb impression in the presence of an official of the bank.

However, such accounts have limitations regarding the aggregate credits (not more than Rs.100,000 a year), aggregate withdrawals (nor more than Rs.10,000 in a month) and balance in the accounts (not more than Rs.50,000 at any point of time). These accounts would be valid normally for a period of 12 months. Thereafter, such accounts would be allowed to continue for a further period of 12 months, if the account-holder provides a document showing that he/she has applied for any of the officially valid document, within 12 months of opening the account, according to a RBI statement.

Skoch Group raised these irregularities with the lead bank of the region—Bank of Baroda—and other stakeholders in Pilibhit. Even though, the senior bank officials admitted that denying bank account to any individual because of money or document is illegal, they did not rule out such practices.

“This is a crime. Those involved in such practices must be punished,” said S K Mathur, General Manager of Canara Bank in Lucknow. Mathur, who participated in the Samavesh, said such irregularities dampen people’s confidence in the system.

(Gyanendra Keshri can be reached at gyanendra@skoch.in)

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