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HDFC Bank officials openly flout Modi’s Jan Dhan Yojna rules, deny poor its benefits, create hurdles in opening accounts

The much touted Financial Inclusion Plan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have been even a bigger success but for the bank officials who are working at cross purposes with the objectives of the Government of India and the Prime Minister.

If you look at the rules of the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) and the RBI directives anyone anywhere can open a bank account in the branches of the banks that are part of the programme even if one does not have the valid documents. One can walk into a bank building empty-handed and open an account.

Here is a case study related to one of the most prestigious private sector banks that is part of PMJDY and whose Chairman & MD Mr. Aadity Puri is one of its vocal and ardent supporters.

HDFC Bank’s branch located at Raheja Township, Malad East, Mumbai, has been turning away the marginalized classes from it door flouting the rules that have been prescribed for the opening of PMJDY accounts. It’s ironical that the Bank’s web site talks about these rules, but the bank officials don’t go by it. HDFC BANK PMJDY FAQ

Nandlal, a poor barber, comes from Gopal Ganj, Bihar.  He has his Aadhar card as well as the passport. The address on both is that of his native place. As per the rules he can still open his account in Mumbai, giving a self-certified letter of the change in his address. In fact he can even open a ‘Small Account’ without the necessary documents as per the rules and RBI directives. Interestingly, Nandlal even has a PAN card. The documents carry his Gopal Ganj address.

He could not do so at the HDFC Bank Branch at Raheja Township, Malad, East, Mumbai. He was told that his Aadhar Card be connected with a local address. I accidentally learnt about it when he came to cut my hair at my residence on 7th October 2014, in the morning. I asked him if he had opened the Jan Dhan Account, which is primarily meant for self-employed skilled workers like him.  He said he actually went to the HDFC bank branch and was turned away at the doors itself since he did not have an ID proof with the local address. This surprised me and I decided to do something about it.

I went to Twitter and posted my comments tagging @HDFCBank_Cares. I knew that HDFC bank had a Social Media cell and had heard its head talking about it at the Social Media Week 2014, Mumbai, just a week ago. @HDFCBank_Cares responded promptly through Anya. They wanted me to DM (Direct Message) my number to them, which I did promptly, also informing them that the issue concerned Nandlal, who was actually denied access to the Bank and gave them Nandlal’s number as well.

After a few hours I got a call from the concerned branch. Some lady officer was on the line and I explained to her that she should be talking to Nandlal and she confirmed that she had his number and would get in touch with him. I was happy that the bank had responded and called Nandlal later to find out if he was contacted. He said none contacted him. This upset me. I called up the bank’s landline number (+91 22 28773847) that was in my last call list and was told that someone would call me back. None called me back so I called up again. This time I was put through to one Mr. Arun Dubey who said he was the officer looking after PMJDY. I asked him if the Branch Manager was around and was told that he/she was not available and I could tell my problem to him. I told him about Nandlal and Mr. Dubey said that they needed an ID with the local address to open the account and there was no other way the account could be opened.  This was needed to post the documents. I told him that Nandlal would give a signed and self attested letter certifying his local address. Mr. Dubey said that it was of no use. I asked him if he would give this in writing and he said he would.

I sent a DM to @HDFCBank_Cares and was immediately replied to. They would look into the matter and would need 48 hours to sort it out.

I came back home perturbed about this and took the trouble of checking out a few things and what I found on the net was so shocking. The HDFC Bank site clearly mentions the rules about opening of the PMJDY accounts and the bank officials were brazenly flouting their own rules and that of RBI and denying access to poor people like Nandlal to a service they had every right to avail. Why were they doing so? They are actually supposed to help and educate the poor and the tribal people about PMJDY.  They are doing just the opposite putting illegitimate obstacles in their way. 

Are they class-conscious? Did Mr. Dubey think that a low-caste barber did not deserve access to a high-class bank like HDFC bank? I don’t know. How can he be so ignorant of the rules of his own bank that are clearly enunciated on the Bank’s site?

And what really appalled me was the response of @HDFCBank_Cares. They are obviously not geared to deal with PMJDY clients. If they were, they would not have asked for 48 hours. This should have been addressed instantly. Yet it did not happen. The 48 hrs time asked by the community manager at the bank was apparently a routine response.

The question is why is the HDFC Bank or any other bank that is not necessarily interested in the marginalized people of India part of PMJDY? I also realized that enthusiasm of HDFC head honcho Mr. Aaditya Puri in his interview with Sanjay Pugaliya of CNBC Awaaz was hypocritical and was designed to please the present regime and lacked serious intent. Had he really been serious about it, he would have ensured compliance of these rules by his officers at grass roots by issuing strict advisories.

According to reports nearly 4 crore PMJDY accounts have been opened so far. I am also certain that nearly the same number of marginalized Indian citizens have been denied the opportunity to open their accounts by the bank officials.

I also fear that the banks like HDFC are doing it deliberately, using informal tactics and tricks and Mr. Dubey was under instructions to forward his specious argument. The pathetic response of @HDFCBank_Cares further reinforces this doubt.

What is going on? Are the poor going to be denied their rights like this forever and it’s happening in the regime of a poor Chaiwala. I hope the PMO and the finance Minister take note of this and act quickly to salvage PMJDY from the abjet apathy of banks and bank officials.

Rajesh Kumar Singh