The presence of large numbers of customers leading to the crowding of bank branches in Ukhrul is a concern for many citizens in the town due to the possibility of Covid-19 transmission. However, the bank officials are finding it difficult to maintain safe distancing and other safety protocols.
Chuingashan Chamroy, Branch Manager, State Bank of India (SBI) at the Mini Secretariat expressed helplessness over the current situation stating that the customers have been crowding the branch on almost every working day. In an interaction on Monday, he commented, “But we are helpless as there is nothing we could do to avoid the crowded situation”.
According to Chamroy, there are approximately 40,000 registered customers who have accounts in the branch from across the district. Most of the customers are coming to the branch to avail banking services and this makes overcrowding inevitable.
Scenes of serpentine queues outside banks in Ukhrul is a regular sight to see even during this period. The crowds outside banks such as SBI, UBI/PNB and ATM booths do not follow safe distancing and are a health hazard for the community at large. Many citizens have expressed safety concerns regarding the overcrowding outside banks and ATMs, while some others also blame the inadequate banking facilities in the town wherein customer are forced to risk their health to come to the bank for their transactions.
Chamroy indicated that increasing the number of ATMs could help. He said, “We have three functional ATMs at Mini Secretariat complex, Police Reserve Line and Somsai AR cantonment. We want to increase the number of ATM here but there are certain technical difficulties at the moment”. Responding to a query over senior citizen’s safety, he responded that it is not currently feasible to open a separate counter for them, however, he added, “But we have considerations for them and attend to their needs ahead of others to avoid their standing in the queue for too long”.
He mentioned that the branch has four officers and four clerical staff who are efficiently handling the situation to the best of their abilities. “We have also opened a dozen of kiosk banking facilities spread across different parts of the district”.
Meanwhile, the bank officer informed that a new SBI branch would be shortly coming up at the previous site of the bank inside the Assam Rifles (AR) cantonment at Somsai where an ATM is already installed. Currently, Ukhrul town is serviced by three public sector banks viz. UBI/PNB, SBI and UCO.
Overcrowding outside the UBI/PNB bank branch at Viewland Bazaar is also a daily event with a large number of customers queuing up outside the bank entrance much before the brank opens at 10 AM. There are no separate queues for senior citizens, and they have to suffer in the long lines. One pensioner coming from his village said that it was much easier for him to withdraw his monthly pension from banks at Imphal, which is more than 80 kilometres away from Ukhrul. The pensioner complained, “Everytime I come to UBI Ukhrul branch to withdraw pension, I have to go through the inconvenience of standing under the sun or rain for too long”. He suggested that banking infrastructure and branches be increased in the district.