In a typical incident of predicament, an elderly woman had to drag her 100-year-old mother on a cot to the bank while the bank employee had to be a stickler to prevent corruption. In Village Bargaon under the Khariar block in Odisha, the official refused to give the applicant access to her Jan Dhan Yojana account without physically verifying that her mother was alive — a rule made by the government years ago to prevent people from drawing pensions in the name of their elderly dependents who were long dead and gone. The incident dates three days back, but videos of the women surfaced yesterday.
Gunja Dei (70) had gone to the bank to withdraw pension on behalf of her mother Labhe Baghel (120). However, the bank official in this remote location in Odisha refused to pay-up and asked for physical verification of the account holder.
The beneficiary Labe Bag had received a sum of Rs 1,500 in her Jan Dhan account recently. When her 60-year-old daughter Gunjadei Sika went to the Utkal Grameen Bank, 400 m away from her house, the officials did not allow her to withdraw the money without physical verification and authentication. Upon repeated requests, the bank told Gunjadei that an official would visit her house and hand over the money after verification.
In March, the Centre had announced Rs 500 monthly assistance for women Jan Dhan bank account holders from April to June to help the poor tide over the COVID-19 crisis under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package.
The video of the elderly woman dragging her aged mother soon went viral and drew sharp criticism for the bank official’s “absolute lack of humanity”.
Notably, as per Reserve Bank of India guidelines, doorstep banking services are available for senior citizens and the disabled residing within 5 km of radius from their home branch.
When no one from this bank in the backwaters of Odisha visited them in 48 hours — notably, this particular branch of the bank has just one employee as of now during the nationwide lockdown — a desperate Gunjadei dragged her mother on a cot up to the bank on 10 June. Subsequently, the bank officials gave her the money after verification.
People came to know of the Odisha incident after a video of Gunjadei dragging her mother on cot went viral on social media. While the branch manager of the bank could not be reached, the incident has drawn criticism from all quarters. At the same time, questions are being raised as to who these zealous videographers are who wait for such opportune or inopportune moments for the sake of sensationalism on social media.
Reacting to the incident after the video went viral, Naupara’s district collector Madhusmita Sahoo said that the woman had taken her mother to the bank despite the manager offering to visit their house the next day for verification.
“As the bank is managed by a single person, it was difficult for the manager to go to the woman’s house the same day. However, the manager had assured her that he would visit the woman’s house the next day. Before he would visit, the woman had dragged her mother on a charpoy to the bank,” Sahoo said.