WB woman goes door-to-door to aid banking for villagers

Coronavirus lockdown: Business Correspondent goes door-to-door to facilitate banking for elderly, farmers in West Bengal village

Representative photo (Credit: AFP)

Sumi Khatun, a 'business correspondent' of State Bank of India moves around several villages in West Bengal's Birbhum district to help people make modest withdrawal or deposit money during the coronavirus induced lockdown.

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Sumi, who has been given permission by the administration to cover around 50-km of distance in the district having a large number of farmers, day labourers travels in an e-rickshaw criss-crossing Lohapur-Nalhati-areas.

On being chosen as the business correspondent in the first week of April, to help the small savings holders in their hour of need and getting permission for outsourcing, Sumi saw how the elderly and infirm had to wait for hours at her kiosk in the scorching heat and decided to herself reach out to them at their households.

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"That is allowed by our bank and after having word with our bank manager, I decided to reach the doorsteps of our customers on my own," she told reporters on Sunday.

The 30-year old carries a laptop, fingerprint scanner and around Rs 50,000 in cash during her travel and is never scared of her security "as I know I am within my family."

Shamima Begum, a 65-year old woman who works as a maid in a house said, "she has turned out to be another daughter of mine. When I was desperately in need of Rs 1,000 but could not go all the way to the SBI branch due to physical hurdles, I was contacted by Sumi who promised to visit my dwelling. And she came on Saturday."

Shamima was among the 70 villagers who were benefitted by Sumi's service so far, more noteworthy since 100-day projects have come to nought due to lockdown causing serious hardships to the villagers, a sizeable number of them Muslims, in the month of Ramzan.

Kabita Das, who works as an ayah in Mohispota in North 24 Parganas said, "since I am attending an ailing 88-year old woman I could not go to the bank branch, two km away, to withdraw Rs 500. I went to the nearby kiosk manned by a young man and got prompt service."

State Bank of India, West Bengal Circle, Chief General Manager R K Mishra said there are about 5000 such people, called business correspondents, across West Bengal who supplement bank branches to reach closer to customers and unbanked areas.

"The mandate for them is to sit at bank service kiosks. However, The bank encourages them if they visit doorstep banking," Mishra told PTI.

The bank also offers them incentive to do so, he said.

The incentives include giving Rs 3000 extra for working beyond 21-days in the lockdown period, extra incentive for higher number of transactions than a threshold number.

The business correspondents are also insured up to Rs 2 lakh for any theft and loss of money.