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Coronavirus lockdown | PSU banks tell branches to work full hours at ministry’s urging

Bankers are anticipating a rush in their branches in rural and semi-urban areas.

Bankers are anticipating a rush in their branches in rural and semi-urban areas.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Full staffing advised to help banks cope with pay day rush, DBT withdrawals in rural areas

After being prodded by the finance ministry, state-owned banks have directed their branches to ensure both that the staff are present in full strength from Tuesday and that the branches remain open for regular business hours in anticipation of the higher footfalls this week, especially in rural and semi urban branches where digital banking facilities are not being availed extensively.

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Bankers are anticipating a rush in their branches in rural and semi urban areas as more customers are expected to queue up to withdraw cash after the government transfers ₹500 to Jan Dhan account holders as part of the COVID-19 economic relief package announced by the Centre. In addition, there would be the usual increase in banking activity that typically happens at the beginning of a month due to salary disbursements and pension payments. Bankers said this week could prove to be challenging for the branch staff, especially to ensure compliance with social distancing norms.

Some of the lenders have already withdrawn earlier instructions for rotation of duty on alternate days, effective from March 31. All staff members have been asked to report for duty.

Following the nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, public sector banks were operating on the basis of truncated working hours with limited staffing and had been providing basic banking services. In addition, a number of branches had been shut for operations following the lockdown as the staff were unable to reach their workplaces due to the absence of public transport facilities.

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However, this had irked the finance ministry which had reportedly sought an explanation from the banks as to why many branches were closed.

In a video conference with bank chiefs on Saturday, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had reviewed banks’ functioning during the lockdown, even while maintaining social distancing.

“All banks are ensuring their branches are kept open, ATMs filled up and are working. Banking correspondents are active. Social distancing is respected and sanitizers are provided where necessary,” Ms. Sitharaman tweeted on Monday.

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“There is a big risk for the bank staff as well as for the customers who are inside the bank premises in large numbers and this would go totally against the objective of social distancing and increase the risk of infection,” C. H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association, wrote in a letter to the finance ministry.

The staff union has demanded that bank managements ensure necessary transportation for staff to reach the branches as well as the presence of security personnel in front of the branches to regulate any crowding by the customers.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 10:17:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-lockdown-psu-banks-tell-branches-to-work-full-hours-at-ministrys-urging/article31210994.ece

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