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Thursday, September 14, 2017
By Parth Khatau. Photographs By Santosh Gupta

When a BMC school teacher collaborated with the local SBI to create accounts for his students in order to teach them the healthy habits of saving, no one realized that the experiment would go horribly wrong. For the exceedingly poor students, the accounts became a huge liability when the zero balance terms changed and the students began losing money to the system instead!

SBI changes policy for zero balance accounts, demands minimum balance of Rs 5,000, affecting BMC school children

Students of Ayodhya Nagar Municipal Marathi School in Vashi Naka, Chembur saw a noble move by their teacher blow up in their faces as they werebeing charged a penalty fee for the zero balance bank accounts they opened at their nearest State Bank of India branch.

"In order to instill the habit of savings and to show the students how a bank works, I, along with the help of the previous branch manager helped around 190 students open zero balance bank accounts," said teacher Bhibhishan Shinde. "I always try my best to give my students something to be excited about outside the classroom and hence take them on many field trips and felt that showing them how a bank functions, how to fill forms and how money is deposited, e.t.c. would be a great learning experience for them," he added.

However, since the past few months the students, who come from extremely poor backgrounds, are being charged a penalty as the minimum bank balance to be maintained has been set at Rs 5,000 by the bank. "I felt really bad as I had myself encouraged the students to fill the forms and open bank accounts and hence asked a group of parents to visit the SBI branch and complain," added Shinde. However, the parents were told that in order to close the accounts they would have to have a minimum balance of Rs 3,000.

Zeenat Babu Kadam, a staff member whose 12 year old daughter has a bank account with SBI said, "We barely manage to save a few hundreds a month and our daughter has been going on depositing Rs50 - Rs 100 every month. How can they (SBI) expect us to save Rs 5,000? I got an SMS from the bank that Rs 115 was deducted from my account and that I should maintain necessary balance in order to avoid further penalties in the coming months."

These students, most of whom are slum-dwellers deposit minimal amounts from whatever they save during festivals and the little their parents manage to give them.

The school, which runs classes till standard 8, has received help from various individuals in terms of furniture, stationery and computers. A source on the condition of anonymity said, "The decision to make the minimum balance Rs 5,000 has been taken by the the SBI board and these are high level decisions. The students who opened joint savings accounts with their parents must be affected." On the closing of accounts, the source added, "It is not true that a minimum balance of Rs 3,000 should be maintained to close the accounts. A fee of Rs 575 shall be charged to close an account, that has Rs 575 or more in it and for those accounts that have less than Rs 575 in them, all the money shall be deducted. This is indeed a sensitive issue and my heart goes out to all the students and parents affected. However I am sure SBI shall take up the matter and find the best possible solution."

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