T S Haokip
As the country enters into the 2nd phase of National Lockdown, the fight against Corona Virus is far from over. The statement ‘we are in a crucial phase” continues to hold true. Though staggering is the number of 12000 people affected by the disease, there are noteworthy efforts in this united fight against the common enemy. The healthcare staff, sanitary workers, security forces and personnel of essential service providers have done a tremendous job in their capacity. It melts our hearts to read about doctors dying on the line of duty. It is disturbing to learn that police and security personnel bear the brunt of irritated individuals flouting lockdown norms. In the midst of all these, somewhere in the nook corner, away from the limelight and media attention are the bankers, who have so far diligently rendered their service towards providing undisturbed financial services to the nation.
It goes without saying that the sacrifices made by all the workers of essential service providers deserved emulation, acknowledgment, and respect. Indeed we have important personalities and the general public applauding the healthcare workers and security forces on various platforms. It must have boosted their morale. Agreed, workers belonging to these sectors have to attend to their works when required. But it is worth accrediting that when they can take leave or choose to stay safe at home like all of us, they instead chose to attend their solemn duties even if that means risking their own lives. It is more than the monetary obligations, rather the desire to justify the inner call of doing something better for the nation – that makes security personnels not just stand but charge at those violating isolation norms, and that makes doctors volunteer themselves to work in containment areas like slums.
The banker fraternity has brought accolades to the nation by fetching Guinness world record for the maximum number of Bank accounts opened in one week, when implementing Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. They worked on holidays to ensure that the targets were achieved. The extraordinary effort of Bankers during ‘Demonetisation’ is a well recorded fact, which all bankers took pride in it. When on the 24th of March, 2020 the PM announced for lockdown, people were asked to stay home. Bankers, on the contrary, geared up to attend their duties at Branch. All the branches in India remained open for the public. Like those others fighting in the frontline, Bankers too have lost their men to the disease. They too have sacrificed their obligations to look after the family. They know they have contributed to the nation but, ‘does the nation knows?’ is the larger question.
The Prime Minister’s recent initiative of granting Rs. 500 to all the female account holders of Jan Dhan Account has seen many beneficiaries thronging Banks in the past few weeks. According to LB Zamminthang, a Branch Manager of Union Bank of India, Jowai, Meghalaya, “We believe in doing something for the country. Even I wanted to #StayHome like everyone. But I consider my service as attending the call of duty when people needed me most. In an environment of an ever increasing fear for the virus, the least would be to burden people with additional worries like- being unable to access their funds to buy essential items. Regarding the assistance provided to PM Jan Dhan account holders, people don’t mind standing in queue for hours to withdraw the amount. It would be a disservice not to attend them. As the country fights the virus, the poor continue to fight poverty. We have special credit schemes for SHGs and Small medium enterprises.” Regarding the recognition that bankers deserved, Mr. Zamminthang added, “We are only executing our duty. Bankers would have stopped doing their duty long ago if they have waited for recognition. But then people should realise that we are human too. A small note of appreciation will go a long way in boosting our morale. Having said that, we are bankers and people can bank on us any day. We will always be there.”
If security forces are on the roads to ensure the lockdown, there are bankers at Branches to deliver emergency financial services. If there are doctors in the containment area, Bankers attend their duty even in slum areas like Dharavi just to ensure that no one is deprived of financial services at this juncture. In the words of Mr. S Gou, an Officer of Indian Bank posted at Dharavi Branch, “When the Government announced that Dharavi Area is under containment zone, we were waiting for instructions from higher Managements whether to open or close the Branch. It turned out that the Branch would be opened as usual, of course with social distancing and basic preventive norms in place. I travel 20 km daily to attend my office. But I am not disheartened. We have taken it as service to the nation by being able to contribute during these trying times. While most financial services and products could be accessed through Alternate Delivery channels, there are still people requiring Branch visits. It is a privilege to be able to contribute.”
The next time we clap or sing praises for those who fight at the frontline, let us remember not to forget the Bankers. They may not be doing a better job, but they surely are not doing any inferior service either. In this #unitedfight against the virus, let us play our part by obliging the directives given by concerned authorities and most importantly, considering the fact that we still have a long way to go in this fight against COVID-19, let us ensure that our frontline workers, including bankers, have our best wishes, so that when they march towards the battlefield, they could hold their heads high with a knowledge that the nation is with them and they are the #Heroes not forgotten.