Contribution of Unbanked Rural Centres (URCs) during the lockdown

At Sulepeth village in Chincholi panchayat of Karnataka, Raghvendra started his day with cash withdrawals for customers who had received funds through the Government of India’s DBT architecture under government schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). Group of women and men were already queueing up outside his house to withdraw cash, money transfer, and check account balance, as he was not able to open his shop due to lockdown. Raghvendra is a merchant with Bharat Money Store, BC of the IndusInd Bank who runs the URC and fills the last-mile gap between the bank branch and his village. He provides basic banking services using his mobile phone and the biometric authentication device to carry out transactions for the people in the village, an unbanked rural area before.

An ‘Unbanked Rural Centre’ (URC) is a centre/ village with a population above 5000 without a brick and mortar structure of a bank for customer-based banking transactions. Customers in Unbanked Rural Centres have no access to banking facilities and usually travel to nearby towns to operate their banking needs. Over the last few years, the Government of India has ensured that banking reaches rural areas to make the population financially inclusive. The Reserve Bank of India has mandated banks to open 25 percent of their new branches in unbanked rural areas, co-terminus with the financial inclusion plan.

Like the situation in Sulepeth, many rural areas across India are facing issues related to banking facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire country is under lockdown from March 22. Essential services such as food, medicines, and the media have been allowed to operate, access to financial services is still a challenge for people residing in rural areas compared to the urban population which has the option of accessing financial services digitally.

The URCs operated by the Bharat Money Store, an extension of Bharat Financial Inclusion Ltd. and IndusInd Bank, are playing a key role in filling the last-mile gap. They are making banking services available to the rural public who had to travel long distances earlier just to withdraw money. They can easily transact, withdraw cash, or transfer money. These last-mile channels or URCs are not only providing regular banking services and purchases but also crucial in ensuring that aid provided by GOI reaches the people it is meant for, in these difficult times. During the month of April, our URCs have made record transactions in terms of cash withdrawals, IMPS, and deposits. We have recorded the growth of more than 22% in such transactions.

“We had no means of banking services available in our village for all these years. Since BMS through IndusInd has opened its branch, life has become very convenient. Now we do not have to travel long distances to the bank. We can easily get cash deposited in my IndusInd Bank account by the government using my AADHAR. I am thankful to Raghvendra, BMS, and IndusInd bank to make these services available to us.” said Madhumati who uses the facility to withdraw cash received from GOI under PMJDY.

With multiple initiatives ranging from providing BC letters and posters to URCs, to motivate them to do their bit for the country and provide banking facilities to people in need, it is our responsibility to stand with the nation in solidarity making sure banking services are open. We aim to get more unbanked customers into the banking system and help them become a part of Digital India.

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