Major Indian banks, including the country’s central bank, are considering staffing fewer branches during lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), Reuters reported.
Indian government’s plan
Indian banks have been exempted from the 21-day lockdown announced by the government as they are categorised as an essential service.
The Indian government has launched an economic stimulus package of INR1.7trn ($22.6bn) which also includes direct cash payments to the poor, the report added.
According to the plan, only one bank branch will be open every five-kilometre (three miles) in major cities.
Around 70% of Indians live in rural areas and are often dependent on cash. Hence, the banks in rural areas will operate on alternate days with staff focused on the disbursal of welfare money.
A senior banker at a state-run bank told Reuters, “The general guideline is that branch operation should largely be for villages just to take care of those people who are not familiar with digital transactions.
“Informally, banks are talking to each other to cope up with a situation where there will be some rush for cash withdrawal because it is expected the government will provide cash for the poor directly into their accounts.”
Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) advises banks
To limit customers from visiting branches, IBA has advised its 255 member banks to suspend non-essential services until further notice.
The banks are also mulling to allow inter-operable services that would allow customers of one bank to withdraw money from any other bank.
The report added that the plans have been under consideration for about a week.
Many Indian banks are closing branches or reducing branch timings to limit the spread of the virus.
Recently, SBI staggered its branch timings due to nationwide lockdown
HSBC has shuttered its branches for until the end of the 21-day lockdown period.