Skip to main content

Loot of people’s money by banks? RBI "fails" to issue guidelines on charges

Counterview Desk
The Financial Accountability Network (FAN), a collective of civil society organisations, unions, people's movements and concerned citizens to raise the issues of accountability and transparency of the national financial institutions, has said that India's banks should "stop imposing bank charges on poor for flourishing the rich in India".
Pointing out that during April 2014-September 2018, the money earned as penalty by the 21 public sector and three private sector banks amounts to Rs 12,388.56 crore, a FAN note insists, "It is unfortunate that despite mounting evidence that bank charges are burdening the people, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not yet issued any guideline on the service charges that are currently being levied by the banks for the savings account holders."

Text of the FAN note:

The recently released Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) annual Banking Ombudsman Report for the year 2017-18 mentions a pilot study in Mumbai on the service charges levied by the banks for basic banking services. The study was commissioned to ascertain customer feedback and the need for rationalisation of charges.
The study reveals that over 30 per cent of the customers were unaware of the service charges and 25 per cent expressed their discontent on penalties such as the one levied for not maintaining the minimum balance. The report further states that last year, “Complaints on ‘Levy of Charges without prior notice’ constituted 5 per cent of the total complaints, but on a year-on-year basis it witnessed an increase of 13 per cent.”
It is unfortunate that despite mounting evidence that the bank charges are burdening the people, RBI has not yet issued any guideline on the service charges that are currently being levied by the banks for the savings account holders. As the primary regulator of commercial banks, the RBI cannot remain silent when the charges are over-burdening the people.
In FY 2017-18, 21 public sector banks collected Rs 3490.49 crores just for the non-maintenance of the minimum balance! During April 2014-September 2018, the money earned as penalty by the 21 public sector and three private sector banks (Axis, HDFC and ICICI) amounts to Rs 12,388.56 crore.
It is important to highlight that the penalty for not maintaining minimum balance is only one of the various charges imposed by the banks for the basic banking services.

These service charges include: 

  • Cash deposits and withdrawals at bank branches; 
  • cash deposits in accounts other than one’s own; 
  • cash withdrawal from ATMs; 
  • issuance fee on debit cards; annual charge on debit cards; 
  • balance inquiry at ATMs; mini-statements from ATMs; 
  • regeneration of ATM pin code from branch; account closing charges; 
  • transaction declined with debit cards due to insufficient funds; 
  • SMS alerts that a customer gets from banks; change in address; 
  • change in mobile number; changes in KYC related documents; 
  • cash deposits at CDMs (Cash Deposit Machines); 
  • change of soiled/mutilated/old currency notes; NEFT and RTGS transfer of funds; 
  • surcharges on uses of debit cards for rail tickets, petrol/fuel/ gas stations and payment of certain bills and government services; 
  • cheque books; 
  • demand draft; 
  • balance certificate; 
  • and signature verification. 
The cumulative amount from the services mentioned above from all the banks will be much higher. In response to the Right to Information query, the Bank of Baroda recently revealed that from FY 2014-15 to FY 2017-18, it earned Rs 499.21 crore just on the ATM and SMS charges.
While, in the last few years, on the one hand, in the name of financial inclusion, the government is forcing previously unbanked people to be a part of the banking system. On the other, to show their balance sheet, in the wake of gigantic Non-performing Assets (NPAs) accumulated by the banks, in the favourable light, the banks are inventing new ways to maximise profit.
All this exist along with various types of premier bank accounts, in which one can get an exemption from the charges mentioned above if the person maintains a higher balance in the account.
The consequence of this unfair policy is that the people who receive government subsidies, pensions or any welfare scheme of the government are those who are also forced to pay higher fines and charges! It is not just shameful but brutal that the banks are trying to compensate their losses created due to the reckless lending to the filthy rich by draining the blood and sweat of the poor in the name of service charges.
Our ongoing campaign against bank charges has brought to fore the loot of people’s money by banks. Students, labourers, hawkers, farmers, shopkeepers, homemakers, unemployed youth, urban poor, and pensioners from across the country have shared their stories of losing money to the bank.
Many of the people whom we met during the campaign narrated how they lost their Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employee Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) wages, scholarships, pensions, because of various bank charges.
Rehan Tirmizi, a student at the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, narrated to us how the penalty levied by the HDFC Bank due to the non-maintenance of the minimum balance has pushed his account balance to minus Rs 4,000. Shanti Devi, a daily wage labourer from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, told us how Rs 500 she earned from MGNREGA work was reduced to only Rs 60 due to this policy.

We demand:

  • Immediately remove all bank charges on the savings bank account
  • Stop fleecing the poor to compensate for the loss by the Rich
  • Make willful default a criminal offence
  • Implement stringent recovery mechanisms for NPAs of large corporate loans
  • Ensure proper due-diligence in lending to big businesses

Solidarity statements:

  • The Burden of the NPA created by the rich has fallen on the marginalised sections: Dr Syeda Hameed, former member, Planning Commission of India
  • It has come to light that the banks, in the name of providing various banking services, are illegally and unnecessarily charging the common citizens. This is loot as it comes at the cost of the customers who can't maintain a certain balance in the account: Medha Patkar, leader, National Alliance for Peoples’ Movement
  • The policy of bank charges must be reviewed immediately. If banks can have charges for the minimum balance, what prevents them from introducing one for the high-net-worth individuals, who have multiple and more complex relationships with the banks?: Thomas Franco, former general secretary, All India Bank Officers Association
  • National Hawkers Federation protests this policy of bank charges in strongest terms. The hawkers, street vendors, and other urban poor and are the worst affected: Shaktiman Ghosh, general secretary, National Hawkers Federation
  • The bank charges as unacceptable and that it must go: Vijoo Krishnan, Central Committee Member of CPI-M, and Joint Secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha
  • The poor and middle-class like small traders, labourers etc., who have been included in the banking system by force, have to pay the charges. This is unjust: Harsh Mander, Centre for Equity Studies and Aman Biradiri
  • This ongoing loot in the name of bank charges has to be stopped. The solution to the present crisis in the banking sector is to have stronger public sector banks working without any political interference to protect the interests of the people: Amitabh Behar, Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam India
  • Ambani and Adanis do not have a minimum balance in their bank accounts, poor; student; farmers; women etc. does! So people, who are already poor, are being fleeced. This is immoral and fraud. We demand that the bank charges be scrapped so that we can stop the poor becoming poorer: Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, Anhad
  • The rule on the maintenance of minimum balance is bizarre because everyone would like to have a high bank balance. Those who can't maintain minimum balance are the ones who do not have any money. Bank charges are a tax on poverty. We must make this system of hidden charges more transparent and all the unjust charges must be scrapped: Shehla Rashid, leader, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples' Movement
  • In the name of achchhe din, bure din has arrived in India. One can understand this by the fact that it is now a crime to be poor and it is fined: Umar Khalid, United Against Hate

Comments

TRENDING

Banned? Indian ports 'received' 38 US plastic waste containers reexported from Indonesia

By Rajiv Shah
An Indonesia-based international environmental watchdog group has dug out what it has called “a global pollution shell game”, stating how officials in Indonesia approved re-exports of “illegal” US waste shipments containing plastics mainly to India, as also to other Asian countries -- Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam -- instead of returning them to the US “as promised.”

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Cops' 'inability' to deliver justice? Model Gujarat ranks 12th among 18 major states

By Rajiv Shah
A Tata Trusts study, released in Delhi on Thursday, has ranked “model” Gujarat 12th out of 18 major states it has analysed across India to “assess” the police's capacity to deliver justice. Several of the advanced states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well as some of the so-called Bimaru states such as Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found to have ranked better than Gujarat.

Visually challenged lady seeks appointment with Gujarat CM, is 'unofficially' detained

By Pankti Jog*
It was a usual noon of November 10. I got a phone call on our Right to Information (RTI) helpline No 9924085000 from Ranjanben of Khambhat, narrating her “disgraceful” experience after she had requested for an appointment with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani. She wanted to meet Rupani, on tour of the Khambhat area in Central Gujarat as part of his Janvikas Jumbesh (Campaign for Development).

People's pressure? GPCB mining cancellation 'notice' to top cement unit in Gujarat

By Sagar Rabari*
Environmental Clearance (EC) was given to Ultratech Cement Co Ltd for limestone mining in villages Talli and Bambhor of Talaja taluka in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat on January 5, 2017. EC was issued ignoring, overriding and undermining opposition from local farmers to mining activity in the area. The mining in these two villages covers an area of 193.3268 hectares (ha), while the entire project is spread over an area of 1,715.1311 ha.

Violent 'Ajodhya' campaign in 1840s after British captured Kabul, destroyed Jama Masjid

Counterview Desk  Irfan Ahmad, professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India” (Princeton University Press, 2009), short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in Social Sciences, in his "initial thoughts" on the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri-Jam Janmaboomi dispute has said, while order was “lawful”, it was also “awful.”

Bullet train acquisition: Land holding worth Rs 1.5 crore, Gujarat govt 'offer' Rs 8 lakh

By RK Misra*
Foundation stones laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi litter India’s cities, towns and villages, but there are few projects which he has pursued with such perseverance and tenacity as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train one. However, the overwhelming state power notwithstanding, the farmers, whose lands are being acquired for the Modi government’s dream project, have no plans to give up the fight.