State Bank of India must inquire into and take strict action regarding complaints by its customers at Brahmani village in Kandhamal


2nd Feb, 2021: NAPM condemns the reported whimsical policies, callousness and exploitative practices of State Bank of India, Brahmani Branch administration, which has caused unnecessary loss of time and resources, and led to immense discontent among the thousands of people in the Kandhamal region, who are compelled to use its services.  

We express our solidarity the local citizens, many of them working class adivasi and dalit people, including women, who have organized themselves as the Regional Customer Action Committee and the Banabasi Surakhya Parishad, demanding that all pending grievances be resolved by the 8th February.

Grievances against the Bank administration:

In a meeting held on 7th January, 2021, the Brahmani Regional Customer Action Committee called for action to be taken against the gross mismanagement and exploitative practices of SBI, Brahmani village branch, Daringbadi block, Kandhamal, Odisha. Leaders from 8 nearby village panchayats—including Gudrisa Badamajhi, Pawul Mandal, Chitrasen Karji, Rabindra Pradhan, Kailash Sundramajhi, Badesa Sunamajhi, Sarat Malik, Sanil Majhi, Samuel Badamajhi, Rajendra Majhi, Debraj Majhi, Kartik Malik—and Balabhadra Malik of the Banabasi Surakhya Parishad (Forest Dwellers’ Protection Council) submitted a memorandum to the bank authorities, on the 8th January, 2021.

The memorandum details the exploitation and humiliation that the local State Bank of India administration subject the customers to. Having been in existence for over 35 years, the SBI branch is the only nearby bank and the only means for the transfer of various benefits, including MNREGA wages, Indira Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Biju Kudia Yojana, and funds for several other government schemes in 8 village panchayats. Thus, the services of the bank are indispensable for the social and economic well-being of the local people.

However, customers complain that the services of the bank have declined over the years, and have reached an intolerable level of corruption and deceit:

  • A customer who needs to withdraw Rs 500-1,000 is made to run from pillar to post for over 2-3 days.
  • To ensure that their turn comes, customers often arrive at the bank, sometimes even from a distance of 30-40 km, and wait overnight or mark their place in line with bricks, and wait their turn. Even so, the work does not necessarily get done during the day.
  • A new whimsical notice makes it compulsory for depositors with less than Rs 10,000 to use kiosk banking for withdrawal. Customers allege that the kiosk and Aadhaar-linked banking have been misused to siphon money from the accounts of the account holders who are unlettered or partially-lettered.

The mismanagement, which the bank attributes to ‘lack of adequate number of employees and intermittent internet failure’, constitutes a dereliction of duty, at the cost of labour days for the Adivasi and Dalit customers whose lives depend on them. In a situation when many of them, who are small and marginal farmers are not even getting fair prices for their maize and turmeric (haldi) produce due to the exploitative market practices, the additional difficulties they are facing due to banking transactions have only exacerbated their dire situation.

NAPM stands in solidarity with the Regional Action Committee, and the people of the 8 village panchayats who have been subjected to institutional discrimination, harassment and violence, and supports their democratic right to protest in the eventuality that the dismal situation is not addressed by the 8th February. We endorse their demands, including:

  • Address the inhuman conditions in which customers are made to wait for hours in the queue, sometimes throughout the night and/or day in unbearable weather conditions.
  • Immediately withdraw the notice that mandates customers with upto Rs 10000 in their bank accounts to use bank kiosks for services.
  • Ensure that all customers are treated in a dignified manner to access the bank premises and interact with the bank employees.
  • Ensure that the State Bank of India office is maintained properly, and provide drinking water and toilet facilities within its premises
  • Install a passbook printing machine along with a cash withdrawal and deposit machine in the building.
  • Conduct an investigation into the problems arising because of the kiosk and stop compelling customers to use kiosk services.
  • Appoint a high-level official committee to conduct an investigation into all the complaints registered in the memorandum, within a stipulated time period, and ensure a public hearing for all allegations and grievances

The bank administration must provide answers within the time period indicated in the memorandum submitted to all concerned authorities, including the Assistant General Manager, SBI, Phulbani; the Regional Manager, SBI Berhampur; the Central General Manager, Bhubaneswar and the Associate General Manager, RBI, Bhubaneswar.

As a premier public sector bank, SBI must ensure appropriate service to its customers, and investigate the causes of the exploitative, inhuman and discriminatory treatment of its clients, especially those from economically deprived backgrounds and who belong to migrant workers, Dalit and Adivasi communities.

For any further details, contact:

NAPM India