Challenges over cash shortage, restricted movements for government's DBT agents

Thousands of Business Correspondents (BCs) across the country are facing shortages in cash supply and restrictions in their movements even as the responsibility to ensure the last mile transfer of government relief fund for poor affected by Covid-19 lockdown have fallen upon these banking agents.

These agents also known as Bank Mitras are last mile banking access points for millions of Jhan Dhan account holders in rural areas and are central to government’s direct benefit transfer (DBT) architecture in ensuring funds transferred to bank accounts are made available to beneficiaries in the form of cash.

However, despite being included as an essential service by the Ministry of Home Affairs, these agents are reportedly not being allowed free movement by local authorities in districts across the country, the industry representative body of these 10 lakh odd BCs – Business Correspondent Federation of India (BCFI) told journalists over a videoconference on Friday.

“Due to restrictions our BCs are not able to travel from home to banks and from banks to their banking points,” said Seema Prem, CEO,

FIA Technologoy Services and a board member of BCFI. “As a result, a sizeable number of these banking points essential for financial services are now not open.”

Furthermore, fintech companies facilitating operations between BCs and banks also said that cash shortage in banks and retail outlets is also a challenge in these times when most economic activities have come to a standstill due to the 21 day lockdown and rural citizens are depended on cash proceeds from the Rs.1.75 lakh crore worth relief package announced by Finance Minister on Thursday.

“Several branches are shut down and the movement of cash from currency chests to branches are also not happening in some places,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, CEO, PayNearby and a board member of BCFI. “Due to the lockdown several kirana stores are also shut which generally provided cash supply for BCs.”

With dismal rural ATM penetration, the BCFI warned that several essential cash dependent supply chains such as movement of food stock from rural to urban may take a hit if the situation persisted.

Additionally, these companies also sought insurance support from government in line with those announced for medical workers for BCs operating during the lockdown to “boost morale amidst working in challenging conditions.”

  • Source – Economic Times

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