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Help banks, ATMs distribute financial package to poor, centre tells states

Taking note of non-functioning of banks in various places during the lockdown, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla directed states and UTs to ensure bank branches remain functional, and cash management and maintenance agencies of ATMs are allowed.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 01, 2020, 12.18 AM IST
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Bhalla---Agencies
Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla
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NEW DELHI: The Centre has written to states and Union Territories asking them to allow bank branches, ATMs and business correspondents to distribute the financial package it had announced last week for about 800 million people worst affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Taking note of non-functioning of banks in various places during the lockdown, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla directed states and UTs to ensure bank branches remain functional, and cash management and maintenance agencies of ATMs are allowed.

“Department of Financial Services has informed that many states have issued instructions with reduced working hours, functioning of limited number of branches, restriction on movement of personnel related to filling of cash into ATMs, maintenance of ATMs,” he wrote in the letter sent on Tuesday. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had last week announced a financial package of Rs 1.70 lakh crore for the poor to help them fight the coronavirus outbreak and the countrywide lockdown to contain it. It includes Rs 27,500 crore under the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Yojana to be disbursed in the first week of April among workers under rural job guarantee scheme MGNREGA, Jan Dhan account holders, and about 30 million poor senior citizens, widows and disabled.

To ensure the package reaches all the beneficiaries in time, banks should “be permitted to remain open and functional for extended working hours, if necessary, for their annual closure and government business”, the home secretary wrote. Local administrations and police should “coordinate with banks during the disbursement of money to the people covered under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana”, he wrote.

The government will also pay Rs 2,000 each to about 87 million farmers in first week of April under the PM Kisan Yojana. Officials said the services of bank branches will be crucial in direct transfers into the accounts of beneficiaries that include 200 million women Jan Dhan account holders who will be paid Rs 500 per month for the next three months, and some 136.2 million MGNREGA families who will receive wage of Rs 202 per day, up from previous Rs 182 per day.
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