Indian Bank works on rural banking project

Indian Bank, which launched the National Pilot Project for financial inclusion along with a host of private and public banks last year, is working on several alternative delivery mechanisms to offer regular banking services in rural India. Mechanisms being considered include internet kiosks, smart card and lap-top based delivery mechanisms. If this works, the project will be rolled out nationally. Financial inclusion is the affordable delivery of banking facilities, financial services to all people, including the rural poor in a fair, transparent and equitable manner. In a banker’s lingo, the accounts being offered are called no-frill accounts.

“It is being implemented in Pondicherry. The first phase involved offering about two lakh families in Pondicherry a bank account. We are now working on different models that may be implemented to provide regular banking services to account holders,” Indian Bank-chairman, K C Chakrabarty told reporters.

Elaborating on the models Mr Chakrabarty said: “A makeshift internet-based kiosk system is being considered. This could be installed on every market day at a particular village. A banker would be travelling to the location and the PC at the kiosk will be linked temporarily to a bank’s on-line network.” “Other models are issuance of smart cards that will work on thumb impressions. Such cards will work as passbooks which can store a few transactions. However, such smartcards will cost Rs 315 a piece and there has to be a way to make the investment viable,” he added.

“The third model being considered by the bankers include a laptop based banking system. This laptop will carry bank account details of individuals in a particular village. A banker travelling to the village may carry his laptop along with a small cash box to accept deposits and making payments,” Mr Chakrabarty said. “We intend to implement the most viable model following which this project will be launched at the national level,” said Mr Chakrabarty.

Under the project, bankers have also offered term assurance covers to 89,000 account holders there, for a premium of Rs 200 per year. Individuals below poverty line are required to pay Rs 100 per year
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As on March 2005, there were 70,324 total bank branches in India. Of this, 32,115 were rural branches and the balance 38,209 were in urban/semi-urban areas. The rate of increase in the number of bank branches in India during 1991-2005 in urban and rural areas was 3.5 and 0.6 respectively.

Source Economic Times.