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If the RBI decides to make no effort to trace the bank account holders, appropriation of unclaimed deposits is unfair and improper
There are news reports which states that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is proposing to use ‘unclaimed’ deposits from banks for public purpose. Whilst I have no objection with the move, the banks have not done enough to trace depositors.
It was easy to open bank accounts. Many of us had many bank accounts, as we kept moving jobs, cities and houses. And, in some cases, people salted away savings secretly, to keep their immediate family out for some strange reasons.
Banks must introduce a system where they send out a mail to the last known address of their customer, every six months, enclosing a simple slip with the balance, account number, account holder name, beneficiary and nominee. It should be for every kind of account that the banker holds. This will ensure that there are no dormant accounts or at least ensure awareness with family members about accounts of other members. I do not see any breach of privacy in this. If not on a continuous basis, then banks can compulsorily do this if there is no debit operation in the account for more than three months.
I exclude credits because, in many cases, recurring payments keep happening even after the death of the account holder. Sometimes, spouses will not disclose the death of the pensioner till the next ‘life’ certificate is due. So, debits are a useful indicator. Similarly for fixed deposits (FDs), which have matured but not acted upon by the depositor for more than three months, can be actionable time lines for the banks. RBI has to ensure this. Yes, it is possible that some banks will cheat by not mailing, but simply ‘certifying’ that they have mailed. But hopefully, public sector banks (PSBs) will not resort to this.
Regarding the present pile-up of dormant accounts with huge balances, it would be useful if the RBI puts up details like names, dates of birth, last known addresses of such unclaimed money in an accessible website and announce publicity through the radio, television and print media. This will help in locating some survivors or account holders or their heirs who can then claim the money by following a legal process. If the RBI decides to make no effort to trace the account holders, this appropriation of unclaimed deposits is unfair and improper.