ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Disability and Denial of Banking Services

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On 5 September 2012, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular to all scheduled commercial banks, except regional rural banks (RRBs), in the country to provide banking facilities to customers with disabilities at par with non-disabled persons. The circular stated that persons with disabilities (PWDs) are legally entitled to enter into contracts, and therefore cannot be denied banking facilities on grounds of disability. Despite the RBI’s guidelines, a majority among PWDs experience humiliation in the banks. A majority of commercial banks have archaic rules in their statute books, which debar PWDs from opening independent accounts. The bank managers and other officials knowingly violate the RBI’s circular and harass disabled customers with impunity. PWDs are compelled to produce witnesses every time they visit banks to make an online transaction through the real time gross settlement (RTGS) and national electronic funds transfer (NEFT) systems.

Banks in India often construe PWDs as ineligible for banking facilities. In a growing technological age, banks have embarked upon a slew of innovative strategies to woo the general public. We have been witnessing a lot of tailor-made financial products and services for general customers. Contrary to this, there is a common perception among bank officials that PWDs do not require banking products and services, and hence most of the bank websites are inaccessible. The majority of bank websites require usage of graphical captcha to proceed on their websites, which makes it impossible for a blind person to access their services. Moreover, disabled customers are construed as dependent on their family members and “lacking independent agency” to take decisions. For instance, if a visually-impaired person walks into a branch for opening a bank account, instances abound that most of the bank branches do not open their current/savings bank account, particularly in rural areas. Bank officials often insist that they should open a joint bank account with a sighted person, or open a bank account with no ATM card/cheque book facility, or both. The denial of banking facilities is a graver issue for people with hearing impairment and those who have intellectual disabilities. If a person who is deaf visits a bank branch for availing benefits of a scheme or service, the branch does not have the equipped manpower to understand or interpret sign language. Persons with psychosocial disabilities are the worst hit, as they require a guardian to contract on their behalf. The norms are that such persons can open only joint accounts, with a guardian, who will operate and maintain the account, including signing of cheques.

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Updated On : 3rd Mar, 2017
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