Residents of Pulicat and adjoining villages in north Chennai on Thursday staged a protest in front of Indian Bank, demanding improved banking facilities in their locality.
They said the only bank in the area had very few staff members, did not have a permanent manager and it lacked an ATM, causing delays in banking operations.
Jalandran Chettiyar of Lighthouse Kuppam said it took between 15 days and one month to open a new account at the bank.
“The officials keep telling us that they don’t have cheque books and passbooks. There are also delays in cash transactions. We do not have an ATM where we can withdraw cash. Self-help group funds are also not being released on time,” he said.
S. Ranganathan, a resident of Kottaikuppam panchayat, said that education loans were being delayed and only being provided partially. “There are many families like mine that have sent their wards to college and are hoping that they would get education loans,” he said.
The fisherfolk also complained that many banks including Indian Bank and Indian Overseas Bank were allowing only a certain number of persons to withdraw cash under the fishermen’s cooperative funds.
“The State government transfers Rs. 3,600 under the cooperative funds which is a good scheme. But if all of us are not allowed to withdraw the money what is the use of the cash,” asked a fisherman.
In several banks along the coast, this problem persists. M.D. Dayalan, a resident of Kasimedu said that fishermen were being turned away as banks were unable to deal with the pressure.
“They have a limited number of staff and now with the lean season and ban season financial aid also being transferred to bank accounts, the fisherfolk are finding it very difficult. Perhaps the banks could consider providing ATM cards to us,” he said.
Sources in the Fisheries Department said this was the first time cash was being transferred through banks and there were bound to be teething problems. “Around Rs. 8,000 is being transferred to fishermen families across the State,” an official said, adding that banks would be asked to issue ATM cards to the fisherfolk to avoid long queues in branches.
“We hope that these bank accounts would encourage saving in the community. The women in the community have expressed their happiness with the money being distributed through banks,” the official added.
Indian Bank officials said steps would be taken to install an ATM in Pulicat soon, as well as to address the fisherfolk’s grievances.