The cash withdrawal, currency exchange challenge at rural bank branches

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

So far, the bank branch has been the nerve centre of the government’s demonetization drive. Branches in metro areas are struggling to cope with demand. For customers banking on branches in rural areas, it could be worse. About 93% of the 595,000-odd rural areas remain ‘unbanked’—they have no physical branch (see chart 1). And there are 629 million Indians, or about 81% of population in rural areas, residing in these 554,000-odd unbanked centres (see chart 2).

This unbanked number should be tempered by two new supply channels. The first is the 125,000 ‘bank mitras’—bank agents assigned to a fixed unbanked area under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana. The second is the 531,000 roving banking correspondents in rural areas, whose coverage details are unavailable. Both these sets, and the post office, need to come into play in rural areas. If they don’t, the yawning gap in branch coverage between rural areas and other areas (see chart 4) can greatly inconvenience rural Indians in this period of transition.

 

RB1

RB2

RB3

RB4

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News In Numbers – August 21

News In Numbers: August 20

 

24

The number of additional days banks in India will be closed, beginning September 1. The government yesterday issued a notification, announcing that banks would remain closed on second and fourth Saturdays as against the current norm of working half-day. This February, the Indian Banks’ Association signed a pact with bank unions agreeing to increase employee wages by 15% and increasing the number of holidays by two every month. With this, the number of holidays in a year for bank employees will almost double (excluding Sundays), considering that banks have 25 public holidays in 2015.

 

1.85%

Low-cost airline SpiceJet on Thursday announced an offer of sale of 1 lakh tickets at rates ranging between Rs 799-2,699 one way, excluding taxes, for travel dates between 25 August 2015 to 26 March 2016. This is just 1.85% of the total passengers the airline carried between September 2014 and March 2015. After the airline changed hands and Ajay Singh returned to take over, it returned to profitability after seven quarters and recorded a net profit of Rs 22.5 crore in the fourth quarter of 2014-15. This February, the airline had put on offer 4 lakh tickets in a sale it called ‘cheaper than train fares’.

 

72.9%

The share of public sector banks in aggregate deposits as on March 31, 2015. With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) giving an in-principle approval to 11 entities for payment banks, there could be a case of these affecting the small and medium public sector banks, especially in terms of deposits. Overall, during 2014-15, banks have showed a decline in both deposit and credit growth. For instance, India Post, which is one of the 11 entities that can set up a payment bank, has 139,000 post offices, which is more than three times the number of bank branches in rural areas. Payment banks could offer deposit rates of 6-7% to attract customers, against the average of 4% that public sector banks offer, according to a report by Ambit Capital.

 

59

The number of companies the market regulator has barred from accessing capital markets for misusing stock options to allegedly evade taxes. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is yet to find out the exact reason for the misuse of stock options and has referred this case to the income tax department, Financial Intelligence Unit and the Enforcement Directorate to further investigate the matter and take appropriate action. In the last few months, there have been quite a few instances of companies getting barred from the capital markets or being suspended from trading. For example, this February, Sebi suspended trading in Kamalakshi Finance Corporation, and imposed trading restrictions on 33 entities for making undue gains of Rs 1,800 crore.

 

Rs 80

Wholesale prices of onions touched a two-year high at Rs 4,900 a quintal (100 kg) in Lasalgaon, Nashik (Maharashtra), India’s largest bulb wholesale market. It jumped by 8.9% in just a day. According to the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation’s director, prices have increased mainly due to a decline in supplies: harvesting has been delayed and there might be a fall in production of kharif onion. A few months ago, India had a stock of about 40 lakh MT, which has since reduced to about 16-18 lakh MT, mainly due to consumption and storage loss. Retail prices of onions are currently in the range of Rs 50-60 per kg in many parts of the country and have hit Rs 80 in the national capital.

 

 

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