by Dr Mir Mushtaq
Every second or third month and sometimes sooner, a sizeable amount is released by the government in favour of the underprivileged sections of the society. The amount is routed through the banking system. In Jammu and Kashmir this work is being undertaken by the J&K Bank.
Once this transfer of funds takes place, usually towards the end of the day, the onward process of crediting the amounts in the beneficiary accounts begins apace. By late evening lakhs of accounts of social welfare beneficiaries ‘end up credited with amounts from as meagre as a few hundred rupees to around a thousand. These funds are credited on account of various welfare schemes of the central or state government.
Next morning witnesses unusual hustle and bustle at most of the J&K Bank branches. Hundreds of social welfare beneficiaries are seen making a beeline outside these branches to get their sustenance allowance. Many among them come to the bank just to get the entries noted in their passbooks. One may see such a rush at the branches as a disruption of routine business but as one steps inside, it does not take long to realize that even the routine business is going on as usual.
The scene at the branch at this moment looks like a cross section of the social makeup of the state. Right from the lowest strata of the society to its upper most crust, the branch can boast of serving the entire class spectrum of society at the same time and at the same place. Such a unique amalgamation of service delivery from the grossly underprivileged to the high and powerful simultaneously has gradually evolved at the J&K Bank and has become its USP.
Harnessing its huge treasure of experience, the bank has been successfully struck a fine balance between what is termed as social banking and what has come to be known as priority banking… or (class and mass banking)
And just a short stay at any branch is sufficient to gaze into the vitals of what makes J&K Bank the peoples’ bank. The social intimacy between a young staffer manning the counter at some rural outlet and an old wizened lady, who has travelled many kilometres on foot to receive just a couple of hundred rupees, is apparent and striking enough to drive home the point. Many a times when the accounts are yet to receive the funds from the concerned departments, the staffers manning the counter have been seen handing couple of notes even from their pockets to the old grannies so as not to disappoint them after a long journey towards the branch. And there are innumerable instances like these happening at all branches of the bank across the state and beyond.
In the present scenario where DBT has made the flow of funds from the government to the beneficiaries automated and without any manual intervention the scenario has changed much. Nevertheless the post disbursement scenario remains the same to a larger extent and the throbbing activity at the branches continues to repeat itself after every two or more months as soon as the beneficiary accounts get credited.
In the times of manual banking when accounts were maintained on ledgers the story was more or less the same. The concerned government departments would issue debit instructions to the treasury branches for disbursing funds to the beneficiaries. The treasury branches would debit the government accounts and issue credit advices to different branches where beneficiaries would be maintaining accounts. The branches would then credit the respective amounts to the beneficiary accounts and what followed would be an en mass rush of beneficiaries for receiving the funds. The same story continued even when the bank was computerized as the branches still functioned like individual units; only when core banking came into place did the process become simpler and less cumbersome. The bank would brace itself for this unusual rush, and over the time this unusual rush gradually turned into a usual affair as the dexterity and sheer commitment to provide service to the vast spectrum of its clientele made the difficult situations become easy.
Manual or automated, the staff at J&K Bank has always made it sure that they provide good service to the different sections of the society. Catering to the varying needs of the cross section of the society simultaneously is not an easier-said-than-done task, however J&K Bank had almost perfected the process and delivery of the entire funds-credit-service chain.
The point made here is less inclined to shower accolades on the bank and more to urge the larger audience of the state to appreciate these small but endearing acts of duty by the bank staff towards those who have struggled throughout their lives to shape the current generations of this place and have suffered a lot while bequeathing the rich social and cultural legacy to us.
One hopes that the bank staff takes both appreciation and criticism into their stride and best serve their customers to make them feel satisfied rather delighted during and after every interaction with the bank.