The Hindu Business Line : RBI on mobile bank branches in N-E
This step is a long awaited one. The regulator is aware that eastern and north-eastern parts of India are highly under-banked. These were the findings as back as in 1989 when 'Service Area Approach' was introduced. This lopsided picture persists even after decades because all said and done, the western India with Gujarat where business/entrepreneurship and banking are in the blood of the people, Mumbai (Maharashtra) being the Financial Capital of the country, Goa -a tourist destination, Karnataka (the bed-rock for banking where the South Canara district alone witnessed origin of today's four leading nationalised banks viz., Syndicate, Canara, Vijaya and Corporation Banks) and Kerala - an equally enterprising God's own country - is highly / overbanked area.
Although Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was the original capital of the country and a port city, for some historical reasons then and political or economic or social reasons now is lagging behind in industrialisation or development. All other neighbouring states like Bhubaneswar, Bihar, seven north-eastern States and Sikkim follow and are influenced by this city. Instead of looking up for development and progressive policies, always people from this sector choose the path of fighting for rights and resort to streets with unproductive bundhs, dharnas and insurgency actions. The Centre or regulatory authorities should not be adopting the policies of either protecting or pampering or favouring this region. Instead, some concessions which are scientific and reasonable be adopted to facilitate these states to stand on their own legs.
May be the step taken by RBI in allowing the banks operating in the region to go in for mobile bank branches and ATMs is one such step. Of course it may be with a pinch of salt that there is high risk of attacks and looting on these banks or ATMs in almost all parts in this region as also any other region in the country. The issue of Financial Inclusion may be taken care of through the proposed mobile branches and ATMs. Only time will tell the fruits of such an initiative.