India's major banks are devising a plan to shut down most of their branches during the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to combat coronavirus outbreak in the country, news agency Reuters report said. No official word has, however, come so far on this.
As per the report, the step was necessitated to prevent tens of thousands of bank sector employees from becoming infected with COVID-19. According to the report, there will likely be one bank branch open in every 5 km, in all major cities across the country while in rural areas the banks would operate alternate day.
As of now, the Finance Ministry has maintained that 90 per cent of the banks and ATMs are functioning as normal.
Banks in the rural areas, where 70% of Indians live, are likely to function every alternate day considering most of the people in these areas depend on cash for their daily livelihood, Reuters reported quoting a source privy to the plan.
“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,” a senior banker with a state-run bank told Reuters.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been proactive with her steps to ease the burden on financial institutions and businesses. She has announced several measures during her two press conferences in the last 2 days.
Some of these measures include waiving off of charges on debit card cash withdrawal as well as pushing back of deadlines of payment of various taxes including the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
On Thursday, Nirmala Sitharaman announced the Rs 1.7 lakh crore stimulus package in wake of the economic fallout of COVID-19. More than 80 crore people are expected to benefit from India's economic package.
In India, over 600 cases of COVID-19 have been reported including 13 deaths.