A few weeks ago a new branch of a nationalised bank opened practically next door. We thought it would be very convenient to open an account here, because of the proximity. I felt that my mother too could benefit by it. And so we went, and opened two accounts, one for my husband, and one for my mother, after depositing Rs. 1,000 each, giving copies of our ration card, passport, and whatever else was required, (no, they didn’t want our birth certificates or marriage certificates, nor our school leaving certificates) and our photographs (two copies each, please). The manager was very nice, friendly and helpful. He told us we would receive the cheque book and ATM card by post soon.
Once upon a time it was a small matter to open an account in a bank. In fact, I remember once that bank officers/ employees, visited us to inform us that their bank was opening a branch in the neighbourhood, and why did we not open an account with them.
Fully flattered, we smiled and nodded, and went to start the account. It was as simple as that. We just had to deposit a minimum amount (Rs. 5, I think it was then without cheque book facilities) and lo! you had an account with them. They smilingly handed over your passbook, and a cheque book with 20 leaves – for this, however the minimum amount required was Rs. 50 or so.
Alas, life did not remain so simple. As technology advanced, so did our con artists’ technique - like stealing cheques from the post. My husband has told me about numerous occasions when PF cheques were stolen and deposited in another bank under a fictitious account, using the name in the stolen cheque. So then was introduced the system of getting introduced to the bank by an existing account holder, if you wanted to start an account. And gradually the minimum account increased to Rs. 500, if you needed a cheque book.
At some point a system of paying for the cheque book was introduced, depending on the number of leaves you used up. (Maybe the bank wanted us to keep the money there, and not spend it?). So one used cheque leaves sparingly, and using the renewal leaf in the book, kept acquiring fresh cheque books.
It was a very simple system – you deposited money, you spent money, all was recorded in the pass book, and no confusion anywhere. Now I need an accountant, or at the least a more informed mind than mine to interpret my bank dealings from the pass book or the computer print outs.
It is more than a month now since we opened the accounts in the nearby branch, and we have not started operating the accounts. Why? Because we still haven’t received the cheque books.
Why? The manager is helpless. “It is the core banking system,” he says.
For an account opened in the neighbourhood, the cheque book has to be mailed from Mumbai ! And it is contracted to some people who will probably do it in their own good time. Till then we cannot withdraw money from the bank.
An incident my mother told me comes to mind. When she was very young, about five or six, one day the driver of their car was wearing a slightly torn shirt. My mother asked him, “Why are you wearing a torn shirt? Are you poor?” He said “No, I have lots of money in the bank. But a very rich man has put his money in the bank, on top of mine. So till he takes it out, I can’t withdraw my money.”