PSU banks: Why it's unfair to penalise senior citizens with no pension for minimum account balance default
There is an urgent need for the government to intervene in the matter.
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As per recent media reports, the State Bank of India has collected Rs 1,771 crore as automatic levies from its account holders for failing to maintain minimum monthly average balance in their savings account.
The collections exceed the bank's own second-quarter profits during the last fiscal and pertain to the period April-November, 2017. It is pertinent to recall here that the charges have been reintroduced by the SBI after a gap of five years during the 2017-2018 fiscal. Other public sector banks that have collected this charge include the Punjab National Bank, the Central Bank of India, the Canara Bank, which have added Rs 97 crore, Rs 68 crore and Rs 62 crore respectively among others. Punjab and Sind Bank is the only one that has not levied any similar charges from its account holders.
The SBI creditably did not levy this amount on pensioners, beneficiaries of social benefits from the government and accounts of minors with effect from October 1. Although I don't receive any pensionary or any other benefits from the state, I have been charged for this failure twice in the recent past on December 1, 2017, and again on January 1 this year (a new year gift from the SBI).
I am sure there would be many more like me, who may have been or may silently bear such automated charge and not react at all. It is strange that the bank is levying this charge also on those who have no regular source of income nor any pension, while seemingly extending an act of kindness to those receiving regular pensions at least. And all this when the bank's home page highlights that it is also actively involved in a non-profit activity called community services banking since 1973 even as it ignores the no-pension, no-income-earning account holders, including senior citizens. This proves charity can never begin at home, or the cart can pull the horse too, when policies may be conceived with such unholistic approaches.
The position may be even more autonomous for the profit-making private banks.
There is an urgent need for the government to intervene in the matter and advise all these banks, including the private ones, to prominently share details of how many account holders are not in receipt of any pensionary or other regular credits/social security benefits, including those below poverty line (BPL) and those enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Scheme, who are being automatically charged for their inability to maintain minimum average balance.
It must also share the cumulative earnings thus made to add to their respective profits since April 01, 2017, on their websites and scrutinise the same to remove any anomalies.
There is also a need to look into the reasons for the reintroduction of this charge by the banks when in the past five years there were no such penal provisions on sections of the populace affected.