ATMs, coming soon to a post office near you

Written by Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 28 2011, 06:49am hrs
Indias post offices, yet to shed their old-world image, are set for a makeover. Over 1,000 post offices in metros and bigger towns will soon have their own automated teller machines (ATMs) to service hundreds of thousands of customers holding post office accounts. Over the next five years, all 144,000 post offices in the country will boast of ATMs. A department of posts (DoP) proposal in this regard has already received the requisite approvals from the government, including the Planning Commission.

The department holds R5.6 lakh crore deposits across its post offices and the move is aimed at taking the benefits of ATMs to every nook and corner of the country.

Through ATMs, millions of consumers of postal services will be able to manage their monthly income schemes (MIS), savings accounts, public provident fund, postal life insurance premium payments, pension payments and money transfer services, among others, official sources told FE.

The move aims to reduce transaction time while offering modern facilities to lakhs of customers, a government official said. The DoP is in the process of floating tenders seeking bids from ATM suppliers, the official added. These ATMs will be later linked to public sector banks' ATMs as well. The network will comply with all Reserve Bank of India guidelines.

The DoP has asked head post masters at all major post offices in metros to start scanning signatures of all account-holders in their respective post offices. A central server, to be installed possibly at Ghaziabad, will automatically access data from head post offices when transaction details are entered, a senior official said.

Also on the cards is a Post Bank next year, besides prepaid cash cards. Card-holders can load R1,000-50,000 and transact up to four times a day. The daily withdrawal limit will be R10,000. The card can be used at merchant establishments and ATMs.

The Post Bank scheme will benefit workers of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, in which payments for 250 million workers are credited to post office accounts.

The fixed working hours of post offices was an inconvenience for millions of these account-holders, department officials said. According to sources, Post Bank will be maintained as a separate entity but under the DoP.

The Planning Commission recently approved the departments proposal and decided to sanction funds in the 12th Five-Year Plan for installing ATMs in each post office.