Skip to main content

India's private, MNC banks are "turning away" senior citizens, differently-abled from availing facilities

By Gajanan Khergamker*
Banking, particularly its services, fall within the ambit of India’s Consumer Protection Act. The customer of a bank is legally entitled to approach a Consumer Forum for the ‘deficiency in service’ which, if and when proved, could force the bank to cough up damages. 
A Delhi resident Radhey Shyam Sharma moved the New Delhi Redressal Forum for failing to resolve his issue relating to the issuance of an ‘illegal’ bill of his HDFC Bank credit card. Despite a defence put up by the bank attributing the error to the HDFC Bank employee who, it claimed, had acted without authorization, the forum upheld in 2014 the consumer claim, directing the HDFC Bank to pay Rs 40,000 to the consumer.
A couple of years later, in 2016, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) said that the HDFC Bank has got "no love and respect for India", as it put the country’s reputation at stake by not activating the debit card of a couple "trapped in a foreign country" and directed the bank to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the complainant couple who were stuck in Thailand and Singapore for “negligence, inaction and passivity on the part of the bank.”
Cut to today, in 2018, following a series of complaints across banks for failure to comply with a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies laid on October 4, 2017 and pertaining to banking facility for senior citizens and differently-abled persons and published on November 9, 2017, banks – particularly private and multinational – are being charged with discouraging and turning away senior citizens and differently-abled persons from availing banking facilities in branches. 
Vinod Solanki
RBI has, through a publicly-available directive, directed all banks to put in place appropriate mechanisms such as dedicated counters providing preference to senior and differently-abled persons, ease of submitting life certificate, cheque-book facility, automatic conversion of status of accounts from fully KYC compliant to senior citizen accounts, additional facilities to visually impaired customers and ease of filing Form 15G/H. For these, instructions had been issued to banks to provide doorstep banking and ensure other facilities by December 31, 2017.
Notwithstanding the need to push digital transactions and use of ATMs, it is imperative to be sensitive to the requirements of senior citizens and differently-abled persons. Banks have been instructed to put in place explicit mechanisms for meeting the needs of such persons so that they do not feel marginalised. In furtherance to the same, Ombudsmen have also been advised to pay heed to complaints in this context.
Now, that said, there are a host of issues regarding senior citizens accounts and ensuing confusion. Where private or multinational banks are concerned, right from the executive up till the manager, the letter and the spirit of the RBI directive is lost.
“A customer’s account cannot be automatically converted into a Senior Citizen Account, once he turns senior, unless s/he makes a request for the same personally,” says Kotak Mahindra Bank’s Colaba (Mumbai) Branch Manager Rajesh Bhalerao. “As for door-step facility too, the customer will have to request for the same and will be provided conditionally to him,” he adds. 
This, despite the RBI directive according to which: Presently, in some banks, even fully KYC-complaint accounts are not automatically converted into ‘Senior Citizen Accounts’ on the basis of date of birth maintained on the bank records. Banks are advised that a fully-KYC complaint account should automatically be converted into a ‘Senior Citizen Account’ based on the date of birth available in bank’s records.
So, technically what happens is that when the account isn’t automatically converted into a Senior Citizen Account, the customer will automatically be deprived of the benefits of his seniority, despite clear directives by the RBI.
Attempts to ascertain the number of accounts automatically converted by the HDFC Bank from regular accounts to Senior Citizen Accounts and how many of its senior citizen customers, in Mumbai, were offered door-step banking facility failed as despite repeated reminders on phone and through email, HDFC Bank’s officials refused to respond.
At a time when one would imagine that cut-throat competition in banking services would enhance facilities across private and multinational banks, it’s surprisingly the nationalised bank that has been holding its ground and strongly too.
Dena Bank senior manager Sanjay Gondhalekar
“We have been banking with Dena Bank for years and are very happy with the services,” asserts businessman Mohanlal Solanki, whose views are endorsed by son Vinod Solanki who feels that private and multinational banks "loot by way of extra charges" that are invisible and mostly hidden from the customer.
“Forget senior citizens,” says Vinod Solanki, “Even when one of us is busy with work or simply unable to reach the bank, a bank official drops by to our business place and provides us door-step banking, without a charge too. And this when we don’t even qualify for a Senior Citizen Account.”
Most middle-level business account holders vouch for the service of nationalised banks. “Today, even if a cheque I have drawn is deposited into my bank at a time when there are less funds, the bank manager personally calls me up to inform me about the same and I rush to the bank to deposit the amount to ensure the cheque issued to the third party is cleared,” says Colaba resident Suresh Kanojia. “How many private banks will offer this sort of service? They earn mostly from such lapses and oversights by the customer who doesn’t even realise how he is charged,” he adds.
Nationalised Banks, on their part, provide the services as laid down by RBI through its guidelines and notifications. After all, it just takes an RTI application to obtain details from a nationalised bank that most private or multinational banks will dodge through their maze of ‘communications’, ‘forwards’ and ‘internal’ procedures till the customer is left with little option but to give up. It’s this very attitude of private sector banks that proves counterproductive for business.
Gajanan Khergamker
“We have been offering door-step banking facility not just for senior citizens, even for those who are unable to visit the bank for a personal reason, for over years, even before the RBI issued this notification last year,” says Dena Bank’s Senior Manager Sanjay Gondhalekar. “We offer personalised services to all our customers who have been banking with us for over generations. It’s trust and goodwill that we value more than sheer profit through business,” he adds.
While making loud assurances of ‘personalised’ banking through Dedicated Personal Bankers, it’s the well-orchestrated silence over hidden charges and internal changes to maximise profit for the bank and personal career achievements for the Banker that legally translates into ‘deficiencies in service’ that can be brought by customers before a consumer forum and concurrently ensure compensation and redress. Of the ways to ensure justice and obtain redress, this is the swiftest.
---
*Founding editor of "The Draft". A version of this article was originally published in www.thedraftworld.com

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.