The tribal people, who are generally on the margins of the financial system, will soon have easy access to ATM services in Gujarat.
Around 40 locations have been identified in Gujarat's tribal belt where ATMs (automated teller machines) will be installed by banks in the coming months, state tribal development department secretary Ramesh Chand Meena told PTI.
"Our aim is to provide the basic banking facilities to thoseliving in some of the most remote pockets of the tribal-dominated districts, where ATMs are not available. A large population is these areas is forced to travel a great distance to deposit or withdraw cash," he said.
The state government has signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with leadingbanks to set up ATMs at 40 locations in remote places of the tribal belt, which stretches from Tapi district in south Gujarat to Sabarkantha district in the north, Meena said.
"We conducted a survey and found that one ATM can serve a population living in its vicinity of around 20 km.
This way, these 40 ATMs would cover a large population. The ATMs will solve their problem of getting instant cash and also allow them to deposit cash," he said.
These ATMs, he said, will be located near 'haats', thetraditional market places thronged by tribals frequently.
Sincewages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and other subsidies are deposited directly inbank accounts by the government, the tribals will soon be able to withdraw itdirectly through ATMs without visiting banks, the official said.
One of the key features of this financial inclusion initiative is the overdraft facility of Rs 2,000, wherein the tribal account holders can withdraw that much cash more than the actual deposits in their account, he said.
For this Rs 10 crore project, the state and the Centre have allocated Rs 5 crore each, he said, adding that tribals in the remote pockets were recentlyimparted training by banks on how to operate ATMs.
"As per our agreements with banks, the state governmentwill bear 50 per cent infrastructure cost of setting upthe ATMs. The government will also support banks inmaintaining these devices for five years," he said.
The government will also provide space to open ATM centres at state-run schools or panchayat offices, thus saving banks from the hassles of finding locations in the remote pockets, Meena said.
Some of the remote talukas and towns in Sabarkantha, Dahod, Chhota Udepur, Narmada, Tapi and Dangdistricts will be among the places covered under the project, he added.