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No disruption in customer services; all branches to remain open: Bankers assures FM

New Delhi, Mar 28 (PTI) Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said she had extensive discussions with the heads of banks who assured of customers services without disruption and keeping all branches open.

Lauding efforts of bankers in this difficult time, the minister said it is encouraging to know that they are doing their best even during the lockdown.

'Finance Minister Smt @nsitharaman today made one-to-one calls with CMDs of all public sector banks. @TheOfficialSBI @pnbindia @MyIndianBank @canarabank @UnionBankTweets @IOBIndia @AllBank1865 @bank_andhra @BankofIndia_IN @bankofbaroda @mahabank @centralbank_in @CorporationBan2,' a tweet said.

She also assured that she will talk to states and ensure that there are no restrictions on the movement of cash, bankers, vendors or bank mitras.

'Had a detailed conversation with the chiefs of banks - public & private. Encouraging to know that they are doing their best, even during the lockdown. They are certain that they’ll ensure customer service without disruption. Social distancing is being adhered to as well,' Sitharaman said in another tweet.

She also asked heads of banks to make sure there was adequate money in ATMs, branches and with banking correspondents.

The virtual meeting was also attended by Financial Services Secretary Debasish Panda and joint secretaries Madnesh Kumar Mishra and Suchindra Mishra with the Department of Financial Services.

During the call, she also instructed CEOs to ensure that all branches and ATMs remain open and continue operations.

Besides, she advised them to provide authorisation to bank staff and coordinate with district administration for the smooth passage of bank staff.

The government earlier this week announced a slew of measures, including direct benefit transfer of cash assistance to the poor, old age people and disabled, for mitigating hardship posed by the outbreak of coronavirus.

'The entire banking fraternity deserves recognition and thanks for their tireless and brave efforts to ensure that banking services continue in these adverse times and that every customer is reached in a timely and safe manner,' she said.

Appreciating efforts of bankers, she said, 'Bank officials and staff have consistently been on the frontline in providing services to customers during this time of adversity, whether it is physically providing cash where it is needed or keeping branches open no matter what'.

According to Indian Banks' Association (IBA), 1,05,988 bank branches across the country were operational on Friday.

However, banks are closed on Saturday and Sunday.

The Finance Minister also requested customers to adapt to digital banking and avoid visiting bank branches.

'PSB staff & customers across India practising #SocialDistancing. Kudos to bankers providing necessary service in these testing times. Customers are rqstd (requested) to adapt #NetBanking #MobileBanking & visit branch only if they must,' she said.

Many banks have decided to put in place mobile ATMs to reduce the pressure on branches.

To serve the people who are at risk of travelling for withdrawal of cash,  Indian Bank has taken initiative to deploy its Mobile ATM, the bank said in a statement.

The mobile van carrying ATM will be moving around the designated city and remain in each place for a specific period, it said, adding this will facilitate the public the convenience to draw money near the houses.

Meanwhile, the IBA has appealed to customers to strictly observe social distancing and avoid visiting branches unless very necessary. PTI DP MR MR