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PSBs to unlock chained gates

Public sector banks (PSBs) are in for a major unshackling, this time quite literally so. In a move that would come as a relief to the millions of customers of Government-owned banks, the Government and the Reserve Bank of India are planning to unlock the thick chains that hold together collapsible gates of bank branches restricting free movement.

The move to dispense with the decade-old practice has been prompted by requests by several banks that the requirement to chain the gates for security reasons is not only an unnecessary hindrance for customers, but is also putting them at a disadvantage over private and foreign banks that allow smooth flow to people wanting to access their branches.

"As against the façade of public sector banks those of private/foreign banks co-located in the same market do not have any such restriction, and, hence, appear more attractive and inviting to the client," a note on the issue prepared by the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) has said. The public sector bank chiefs have discussed the issue with the Ministry of Finance and the RBI.

Bankers have pointed out that chains create problems, especially for senior citizens and ladies wearing saris. Both group of customers run the risk of tripping over the chains.

The RBI has, in fact, agreed with the banks that the practice of putting chains should be done away with provided banks come up with alternative methods in the event of miscreants targeting branches. The banking regulator and the Government are keen that the PSU banks adopt measures that are "effective, modern and unobtrusive."

"RBI has said that the chaining of collapsible grill gates may be dispensed with at the discretion of individual banks, if they are able to provide alternative means for restricting the movement of miscreants trying to rush into/out, by way of turnstile doors or glass doors," the IBA note has said.

The practice by PSU banks of putting a chain on the collapsible gate leaving a small opening for a single person to move in and out at a time has been in force since 1996. The system was suggested by a working group that had reviewed the security arrangements of bank branches to ensure that they are able to restrict movement of miscreants during banking hours.

The working group had said that individual banks could, if need be, dispense with the practice. However, senior bankers said that not many banks were willing to dispense with the system on fears of being blamed in the event of any untoward incident.



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