Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sibal says keen on getting banking licence for India Post.

Mumbai: Faced with opposition from the Finance Ministry to India Post getting into banking fray, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said his department will battle it out to ensure that it gets a lender's licence.

"We have been trying very hard to persuade the Finance Ministry and we are yet to go some way to convert the Postal Department into a post bank. We have been fighting this battle and we are not going to give it up till we reach a logical conclusion," he told reporters after inaugurating the Postal Department's National Data Centre at Navi Mumbai near here.

When asked about the Finance Ministry's opposition to the idea of India Post turning into a bank, Sibal sounded optimistic of reaching a favourable conclusion, saying his Ministry will take this to the Cabinet which will resolve the issue. But he did not say when he will do so.

The RBI is processing applications for banking licences from among 25 entities, including the Department of Posts and top corporates like Aditya Birla Groups and Anil Ambani Group.

The Postal Department's contention is that it can leverage its reach of over 1.55 lakh post offices across the country. Of these, 1.4 lakh are in rural areas.

"The only department that can do financial inclusion is the Postal Department," Sibal claimed.

Sibal said a host of services like insurance premia payments, wages distribution and most importantly, avenues of saving will be possible as a result of banking foray.

Sibal also announced that on February 5, India Post will be launching automated teller machines for postal savings bank account holders in New Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

The Postal Department's National Data Centre, spread over 3,000 sq ft and located at the Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City, will act as the nerve centre of all postal services, including savings, insurance and speed posts tracking.

As of March 2013, the postal savings stood at a whopping Rs 6.05 trillion, which is half the deposits of the largest lender State Bank of India, and double that of the largest lender ICICI Bank.

Padmini Gopinath, Secretary in the Postal Department, said irrespective of the fate of its banking licence bid, the number of ATMs will be ramped up to 3,000 by September 2015.

She said initially, ATMs will be limited to being used by the postal department savings scheme. But within six months of the launch, the department is hopeful of getting inter- operability and join the national financial switch.

"Within six months of the launch, you will be able to use other banks' ATM cards to withdraw from our ATMs and our account holders to go to other companies' ATMs."

Asked about the progress on its banking licence and if her department has heard anything on it from RBI, Gopinath replied in the negative. She, however, said there is no point in taking any outcome for granted.

The department, which has hired consultancy firm Ernst & Young to prepare its banking foray blueprint, will make a representation wherever required, Gopinath added.

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