`Postal dept.-banks accord soon on farm credit disbursal

CHENNAI OCT. 13. The pilot scheme of disbursing agricultural credit through post offices in Tamil Nadu is likely to take off soon, with indications of an early end to the impasse between the Postal department and nationalised banks over commission chargeable by it.

Though the Union Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, announced a September 1 launch date, the negotiations between the department and the banks reached a stalemate.

``As it involves additional work and our wide network is to be used for the disbursement, we are asking for a suitable rate,'' the Postal Secretary and Director-General, Padma Balasubramanian, said. The negotiations were still on. U. Srinivasaraghavan, Chief Postmaster-General, Tamil Nadu Circle, said an agreement was likely to be clinched by month-end.

On the Postal Bill (which sought to amend the Indian Post Office Act, by providing for qualitative improvement in services with more customer-friendly measures), Ms. Balasubramanian, said the department would examine recommendations made by a standing parliamentary committee and inform the Cabinet of its position. Subsequently, a new legislation would be formulated and tabled in Parliament.

On extension of e-post service, she said an exclusive software was being developed and expected that it would be ready by March next. Bridging the digital divide, the scheme would ensure transmission of e-mail messages, sent for those who had no access to the Net. The postal staff would deliver the messages for each of which a fee of Rs. 10 would be charged. At present, this scheme was in operation in four or five States. Asked whether the scheme would succeed given the increasing number of Net cafes, she replied in the affirmative and said the reach of the department was deep in rural areas.

Dr. Srinivasaraghavan said a national training centre for management information systems and postal accounts would be formally declared open here next month. Postal finance marts would shortly be set up in Chennai, Tiruchi, Coimbatore, Salem and Pudukottai. A mart was already established in Madurai. Apart from marketing various products of the banking and insurance sectors, the marts would provide counselling for investors. Recently, the State circle conducted a training programme for marketing executives from all over the country. On the `Speed Post Passport' service still not being available in Coimbatore, Hosur, Salem, Tirupur, Cuddalore, Vellore and Kancheepuram, he said the matter had been taken up with the External Affairs Ministry.

Ms. Balasubramanian was in the city to participate in the inauguration of a week-long cultural meet.

About 350 officials and their families from 19 States were participating in the event, being held in Chennai after a gap of 33 years, said Dr. Srinivasaraghavan.

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