New Delhi: Gwalior district in Madhya Pradesh, which ordered a complete shutdown for a week beginning Tuesday, also included banking services within city limits to be shut. This is the first time there has been such a disruption to banking services due to the Covid pandemic.
The order was issued Tuesday by Gwalior District Magistrate Kauslendra Vikram Singh. It said the move was taken due to instances of flouting of social distancing norms.
According to the district authorities, banks and their branches will not be allowed any public dealings and customers will not be allowed to enter any bank premises during this curfew. Services, which were suspended on 14 July, will remain so until 21 July, the order stated.
The order further said branches of both private and public sector banks can open for employees but no services will be provided to customers. Banks are also permitted to refill automated teller machines (ATMs).
The curbs on operation of bank branches comes during the Unlock phase of India’s battle against the pandemic. Beginning 8 June, after a two-month lockdown, cities started reopening gradually, but the number of coronavirus cases have continued to rise.
At present, more than 9.3 lakh cases have been reported, of which around 3.19 lakh are active.
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During the nationwide lockdown that began on 25 March, banking services were classified as an essential service and customers were allowed access to bank branches. However, customers could only access basic banking services like cash withdrawals and deposits, cheque deposits and money transfer during the first few weeks.
Public relations officer for Gwalior district administration, G.S. Maurya said that the decision was taken in a meeting of the crisis management cell to mitigate a huge surge in infections in the district.
Gwalior has reported more than 1,200 cases, but of these, more than 300 were recorded on Sunday and Monday.
Another district, Morena, also issued orders to restrict the work timings of bank branches to between 10am and 2pm for those operating within the municipal city limits.
Bankers at risk
Bank unions have been vocal in their demands of curtailment in bank branch timings to four hours daily as well as declaring all Saturdays as holidays. The unions pointed out that with the easing of restrictions, there had been an increase in customers coming to banks, thereby increasing the risk to bankers and potentially turning banks into transmission hubs for the virus.
“Banks have been open throughout the lockdown. Initially, banks saw people thronging the branches due to the Rs 500 monthly payout by the central government to Jan Dhan accounts owned by women. Limited banking services were also allowed for all,” said a banker who works with the Central Bank of India in Madhya Pradesh.
“With the unlock phase, bank branches are seeing many customers coming to the branches, some for even non-urgent transactions like updating passbooks,” the banker said, adding that there is a need for the government to take some concrete steps to protect bankers.
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