Banks in quandary over burqa-clad women

Published - November 25, 2016 01:14 am IST - New Delhi:

Ever since the Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 currency notes were demonetised, bank staff have been dealing with huge crowds. Apart from dealing with public ire, banks employees, especially those working around Muslim residential pockets, have another issue to deal with.

The bank staff said they had faced unpleasant situations with women who walked in wearing burqas, while adding that asking them to lift their veils could trigger a backlash.

Peculiar case

An employee with Janata Co-operative Bank in Pataudi House, Daryaganj, said on condition of anonymity that they once had to call a woman employee from home to help.

“Women usually show their faces, but we faced a situation a day after the demonetisation was announced. One woman refused to lift her veil. When we told her that her old notes would not be exchanged, she abused and threatened us. We have women employees, but none of them were there during that shift,” he said, adding that the burqa-clad woman finally agreed to lift her veil before a woman employee in an empty cabin.

Resistance

Another employee at the ITO branch of Syndicate Bank said some women resisted when asked to show their faces. But, she added, they usually agree since the branch has three female employees. “We don’t give/exchange money without matching their IDs. Some women resist, in which case we ask them to step aside,” she said.

The Hindu spoke to some burqa-clad women, who said that it was a part of their culture.

“It is awkward to lift our veil before unknown men,” said Ruqsar, a resident of Jama Masjid.

Waiting outside the Oriental Bank of Commerce in Connaught Place, Ruqsar said she stood in queues for three days as she had to pay her daughter’s school fee. “Even at metro stations, airports and during elections, there are separate enclosures for women where security staff check IDs. Why can’t banks have something like this? I am not comfortable lifting my veil and banks should respect that.”

Banks doing their job

But Ruksana, another woman outside the same bank, said the bank officials can’t be blamed for doing their job.

“The burqa can be misused. Anyone can withdraw money using my ID if she wears a burqa. The employees are right in asking me to lift the veil.”

Misuse caught

Some bank employees, in fact, narrated instances when they caught girls below 18 years asking for money to be exchanged using someone else’s ID.

“Young girls come wearing a burqa. It is difficult to check every detail on every ID. But we are particular about the date of birth and photo,” said a female employee at Dena Bank, Daryaganj.

Not convinced

Also, with most women having common surnames like Begum or Khan, bank staffers say there have been occasions when they refused to exchange old currency. Hajra Begum, 49, said she had gone to IDBI Bank, where she was asked to lift her veil.

“Despite that, they were not convinced and began questioning me. Thankfully, my husband intervened. Later, the bank employees told us that nine women with the same name — Hajra — had exchanged money the same day.”

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