The largest bank of the urban cooperative banking sector in the country, Saraswat Cooperative Bank is continuing with its services to customers without batting an eyelid, claimed one of the top managers of the UCB, when Indian Cooperative asked him about the bank’s response to All-India lockdown for 21 days as announced by the Prime Minister the previous evening.
“Banking comes in the category of essential services and while exercising all the necessary precaution, all our 282 branches are operating”, he said. The sole exception is Goa where the state govt itself has suspended banking operations of all the financial units, he added.
Giving details of the banking operations, the official, who did not wish his name to be quoted said “we have merely reduced the counter operations for public for one hour; we serve for four hours instead of five hours”, he stated.
“Though the sprawling corporate office of Saraswat Bank has been closed following municipal order, the top management is still active overseeing the operations by visiting branches and video-conferencing among themselves, sources add.
Even though the RBI has allowed closure of some of the branches operating in the same areas, Saraswat Bank has not closed even a single branch so far, said a source privy to the operations of the Bank in the face of the looming corona threat.
Commenting on the strength of the manpower current employed in the UCB, Saraswat Bank official said that there are on average of 50 percent of them, though it varies from branch to branch. At some of the places it is more while at others it may be less, he added.
The advances of all the banks, not only that of Saraswat Bank have been hit severely in the wake of the virus threat as most of the business has stopped. “People do come to collect their deposits but given the fact that the businesses in general are down due to Corona scare, there are no takers of loan, he added.
Reacting to the Nafucb move requesting RBI to allow a leeway in the preparation of this year’s balance-sheet for UCBs, Saraswat Bank official felt that the times are indeed tough and there is nothing wrong if the sector looks up to the Regulator. He expressed confidence in RBI and said ”we are hopeful of positive response from them”.
It bears recall that the Chairman of Saraswat Bank Gautam Thakur is also on the board of Nafcub and is one of the key interlocutors between it and the RBI.