Kadamakkudy does not qualify for setting up an ATM under RBI norms.

Ernakulam is to be declared as the first district in the country to have meaningful financial inclusion on November 22, but there are areas which lack banking facilities in the district.

Kadamakkudy panchayat, comprising a group of islands, has no ATM, a facility which is available to most communities in the State.

“The new road from Vallarpadam to Kalamasserry passes through the panchayat, but there is no ATM anywhere along the route. Despite being a highly commercially viable route, no bank has set up ATMs along the road,” said Ebenezer, a resident of the panchayat.

As the population in the islands is scattered, the panchayat does not qualify under the RBI norms for setting up an ATM or a branch of a public sector bank.

The main banking facility available in the islands is provided by Korampadam Service & Cooperative Bank Limited. However, the terms for operating service cooperative banks are different from those applicable for private sector scheduled banks or public sector banks.

The service cooperative banks are not entitled to issue Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) compliant cheques. MICR cheques facilitate speedy clearance in banking channels. Handling non-MICR cheques, however, can involve a lengthy process for clearance and delay a monetary transaction.

“The existing banking facility does not provide the opportunity for people to avail themselves of the benefits offered by the general banking industry. The service cooperative bank does not offer agricultural loan at the rate at which it is offered by public sector banks. While the public sector banks offer farm loan at 7 per cent, the service cooperative bank offers loans at more than double that rate,” said Ebenezer.

Under the prevailing banking norms stipulated by the RBI, service cooperative banks are among the several entities which are not eligible to be called a bank.

Though the RBI had brought the issue to the notice of the authorities in the State, the opposition by the cooperative sector had forced the apex bank to withhold the move, according to sources.

Such banks could face the axe of the apex bank as and when the existing waiver on nomenclature is reversed.

The Union Bank of India, the district lead bank under the RBI lead bank scheme, has set up an office to extend banking facilities under the Business Correspondent scheme in the panchayat, according to K.R. Jayaprakash, Lead District Manager.

“The Union Bank of India has set up a branch at South Chittoor, near the Chittoor ferry which runs a boat service to Kadamakkudy, to help the people from the islands. Varappuzha on the mainland, located near the islands, can also be accessed by the islanders for banking services,” Mr. Jayaprakash said.

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