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