Is Your Bank Taking Care of Seniors and People with Disabilities? If Not, It Is Violating RBI Directions
It is a fact that India continues to seriously lag behind in public amenities and facilities for senior citizens and people with disabilities. In fact, we take the absence of special facilities so much for granted that not many people know when there is a special mandate or direction to ensure special services.
For instance, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) circular of 9th November spells out how these groups should be treated by banks (DBR.No.Leg.BC.96/09.07.005/2017-18
).This covers issues that have long been a concern for both target groups. Here is what the RBI now requires banks to ensure -
Banks need to have identifiable dedicated counters or give preference to senior citizens and differently-abled persons, says clause 2(a) of the circular.
Ease of Submitting Life Certificate
In addition to the facility of digital life certificate under the 'Jeevan Praman' scheme, pensioners can submit physical life certificate form at any branch (i.e., even a non-home branch) of the pension-paying bank. The receiving branch should update it promptly in the core banking solution (CBS) system to avoid any delay in the credit of pension, says clause 2(b).
There are innumerable complaints about seniors being asked to approach their home branch for submitting life certificates even today. This clause makes clear that since all branches under CBS are connected, there is no reason why a pensioner cannot submit a life certicate to a non-home branch. Banks are not only expected to accept the life certificate but should also update it on the CBS to ensure there is no interruption in receiving pension.
Cheque Book Facility (Section 2c)
Banks are expected to provide cheque books with 25 leaves free of charge every year for savings account-holders on submission of the requisition slip.
Banks shall not insist on physical presence of any customer, including senior citizens and differently-abled persons for getting a cheque book.
Such facilities should also be provided to the basic savings bank deposit accounts (BSBDA) customers in these categories. Or rather, they cannot be denied these facilities on the grounds that they have an BSBDA account.
Automatic Conversion of Status of the Account (clause 2d):
All fully KYC compliant accounts should automatically be converted into ‘senior citizen accounts’ on the basis of date of birth mentioned in the KYC documents. The customer does not need to inform the bank on change of status. Clearly, CBS software has to take care of this.
Facilities to Visually-impaired Customers (clause 2-e)
RBI already provides certain facilities for people with disabilities as well as sick, old and incapacitated persons through a circular issued on 1 July 2015 (Master Circular DBR. No. Leg.BC.21 / 09.07.006 /2015-16). This provides that such persons can operate their accounts by identification through thumb/toe impression with two independent witnesses and authorising a person who would withdraw the amount on behalf of such customers. This facility is now being extended to visually-impaired customers.
So a visually-impaired person can provide a thumb/toe impression or authorise someone to withdraw money on her behalf in the presence of two independent witnesses.
Ease of Form 15 G / H (clause 2h):
In April every year senior citizens are required to fill up form 15 H, others need to fill form 15G, to ensure that those outside the taxable limits do not have tax deducted at source on their term deposits with the bank, so as not to recover tax deducted at source (TDS) from interest on deposits. Since this is a declaration about annual income, it should be submitted only by eligible persons, i.e., account holders whose total annual income is below the tax threshold limit.
The RBI circular says that senior citizens and differently abled persons should be provided these forms so that they can be submitted within the stipulated time.
Door Step Banking (clause 2g)
RBI has asked banks to go the extra mile to help senior citizens above 70 and people with disabilities, as well as sick, ailing and infirm persons (those having a medically certified chronic illness or disability) by making a concerted effort to provide basic banking facilities, such as pick-up and delivery of cash; pick up of instruments against receipt, delivery of demand drafts, submission of KYC documents and Life certificate at their residence.
(Mr Abhay Datar is a retired banker and also a well-known consumer activist. He volunteers his time every Thursday to guide members of Moneylife Foundation on consumer issues, banking and insurance matters).