Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday urged state-owned banks to not only remain focused on the core business of lending and earning money out of it, but also expand their services through digital tech and banking mitras in the remote areas of the country.
“(It is important to give access to banking services) to parts of India that have absolutely no access and people are dependent on walking miles to the banks. The access can be through phone banking and not necessarily by opening branches,” Sitharaman said at an event organized by Indian Banks’ Association.
“There is still a gap even in the developed states. There is some gap in some pockets—hilly, remote areas. I would appeal to you all to make special attempts to reach out to people through your bank mitras so that no one is excluded in the digital revolution which the banking sector is undergoing,” she said.
“Laurels cannot be obtained by focusing on crowded, densely populated metropolitan areas,” she added.
In a strong message to step up access to credit, she told banks to ensure their staff are aware of government schemes and play a proactive role to help revive the economy. “Banks’ core business is to lend money and earn out of it. You will do that and, being public sector (banks), you will do things that are welfare-related as announced by the government… that awareness (about schemes pertaining to insurance, pension) will make them accessible to customers who want to avail them… It can’t be that your staff are ignorant of the schemes,” she said.
For tech-driven reform initiatives in doorstep banking, she said the timing is significant as digital tech will drive economic revival, which is a top priority for the government.
In a separate statement, the finance ministry said that financial services, including loan approvals, can be done via doorstep banking from October. In a first, banking agents will provide doorstep services at 100 centres across India.
Customers can request for doorstep banking services through call centre, web portal and mobile app. Customers can also track their service request via these channels.