Cashless transactions a distant dream in Kandhamal

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The Centre’s aim of cashless economy appears to be a distant dream in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Kandhamal district where 127 of the 161 gram panchayats remain unbanked and major areas are yet to get internet connectivity.

Cashless transactionsTraders of Bulandhapada, a small business centre located on Kandhamal-Boudh border, have to travel 18 km to the nearest bank branch at Gochhapada for any transaction.

Similarly, people of Indragada on Kandhamal-Ganjam border travel around 25 km to Raikia to withdraw money from bank, bank officials said.

In the last two years, not a single branch of any nationalised or private bank has opened in the district. Even the service points opened by the banks do not fulfil the desired goal as these are located close to bank branches, a senior bank official said.

“We have repeatedly asked banks to open branches in the district but in vain,” Kandhamal district Collector Reghu G said.

The government has even decided to provide space to banks in the Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendra to operate their branches initially, he said.

Whereas, banks have their own reasons for not opening any branch in Kandhamal.

“Banks are reluctant to open branches due to lack of internet connectivity and non-feasibility to run a branch,” lead district Manager Subash Nimala said.

The district has 68 branches of 19 different banks, including cooperative banks in 34 panchayats. Similarly, the district has 98 customer service points and 60 ATMs of different banks.

Though the exact number of bank account holders is not officially available, sources said most of the total 7.33 lakh people have not come under the banking system.

The total amount of deposits stood at Rs 1,661.80 crore as against the Rs 604.58 crore provided as advance by the banks by September-end.

“Tribals prefer cash transactions. In some areas, they also prefer to exchange commodities and are reluctant to go to banks,” S P Tripathy, a senior lawyer in Phulbani district, said.

They only go to the bank to withdraw their wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), sources said.

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