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At this UP village bank, over 100 line up daily for cash but there isn’t enough for everyone

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Residents of Piswan in Sitapur, UP, lined up outside Aryavart Bank Monday
Residents of Piswan in Sitapur, UP, lined up outside Aryavart Bank Monday | Praveen Jain | ThePrint


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Sitapur: Nearly 150 people, including six women cradling their infants, are queued up outside the local branch of Aryavart Bank at Piswan village in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh. All of them are waiting for money — be it wages under the rural employment guarantee scheme, MNREGA, welfare aid under the Ujjwala scheme for LPG cylinders, or dues for sold crops such as sugarcane. 

Then there is a crowd triggered by the reverse migration — migrant labourers who have returned home from cities in the absence of job and income opportunities during lockdown lining up to withdraw savings to get by this period or crisis.

For many of them, the wait has continued for a week — the days they have spent camping outside the bank from 6 am, through afternoons under the scorching sun, until 5 in the evening. But bank officials claim they are equally helpless. 

The rush of withdrawals since the 21-day Covid-19 lockdown kicked in is new for Aryavart, a government-run regional rural bank that serves as the sole bank in Piswan. It often runs out of money and the server frequently malfunctions, the employees say.

While officials at the bank claim they are working ever-longer shifts to cater to the rush, the queue of customers only grows longer. Amid this chaos, social-distancing norms go for a toss and local police officers say they have thrown up their hands trying to convince the villagers to maintain distance. 

The wait continues

Netram, 58, is one of the people waiting outside the bank, hoping to withdraw his MNREGA wages. He used to work as a daily wager at the mandi (market) nearby for additional income to provide for his family of six, but it has been closed on account of the lockdown, leaving him running to the bank for his MNREGA wages — the money he claims to been chasing for over four months now.

“I have been running from pillar to post for the last four months to withdraw my MNREGA income, but sometimes the bank says the server is down and other times it claims the money hasn’t been credited.

“My savings and rations got over two days ago with no employment in the village because of the mandi closing down… and other labour work drying up,” he tells ThePrint, waiting outside the bank. “My family has been forced to borrow rations from neighbours, but even they are running short of supplies.”

Prabhu Singh, a sugarcane farmer, says he had to struggle eight days to find a buyer for his produce. “My family and I also cultivate vegetables, but because of the lockdown they are selling for merely Rs 5-7/kg… This is not enough to sustain my family of eight,” he adds.

Another day of wait outside a branch of Aryavart Bank, a regional rural bank, in Piswan
Another day of wait outside a branch of Aryavart Bank, a regional rural bank, in Piswan | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

He tells ThePrint that he did finally manage to find a buyer, but the cash shortage at the bank was holding up his money.  

“I finally managed to receive Rs 13,000 by selling my sugarcane to a mill… This money will last for a couple of weeks but the bank is telling me they have no cash,” says Prabhu.

Bank staff ‘helpless’ 

India’s network of regional rural banks came into being in 1975, with a view to developing “the rural economy by providing, for the purpose of development of agriculture, trade, commerce, industry and other productive activities… credit and other facilities, particularly to small and marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, artisans and small entrepreneurs”.

They are owned in partnership by the central government, the state governments and sponsor banks.

Aryavart Bank is one of the multiple regional rural banks, which together have thousands of branches, and is sponsored by the Bank of India.

Asked about the long queue outside, bank staff in Piswan cited cash shortage, which they blamed on a “30-40 per cent surge” in withdrawals across rural Uttar Pradesh since the lockdown. They say they receive cash supplies every day or two, but they have proved insufficient amid the lockdown. 

“Due to the closure of employment opportunities in nearby areas, the villagers have to resort to whatever savings they have in their accounts or the money they receive from central and state government schemes,” says a bank official. “Additionally, the people who have returned from cities are coming in large numbers to banks to see if there’s any money to spare in their home account here.” 

“But there’s only a limited amount of cash that is allocated to us, so we can’t do anything about it,” the bank official adds, saying the extra hours of work meant an “intense risk of coronavirus infection”.  

Social distancing violated

The crowd of 150 outside Aryavart Bank includes 50 women, six of them holding their newborns. 

Manju Devi, 39, cradles her four-month-old daughter as she waits to withdraw the money that has been credited into her account under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, a flagship scheme of the Modi government to ensure gas connections for all households. 

Manju says she had been waiting outside the bank since 9 am — sometimes on her feet, seated at other times — but eventually felt compelled to seek the shade of a tree nearby with eight other women sitting by her side.

Piswan residents often sit down outside the bank when the wait lasts too long
Piswan residents often sit down outside the bank when the wait lasts too long | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

“The cylinder money is credited by a delay of a couple of months every time,” she says. “We book a cylinder and… on top of that, there is a struggle to to get our own money from these banks.”

She says she had no trouble waiting in the scorching sun, but worried for her daughter.

“That’s why I have to sit here in the shade, at the risk of losing my spot in the queue,” she adds. Manju Devi says she knew about the need for social distancing amid the pandemic but had no option but to sit together under the shade. All the waiting under the sun, she says, leaves them too tired. 

Vinod Kumar, a local policeman posted outside the bank with other personnel to manage the queue, says they are struggling to enforce social distancing. “There is already a shortage of cash in the bank and, on top of that, the server fails after every two withdrawals… It is restored only after half an hour, which leads to a crowd outside,” he adds. 

“I am tired of instructing these people… I have made repeated requests since morning that they maintain distance from each other but they are not listening now as they are too tired,” he says. 

His fellow police personnel are no different, Kumar adds, pointing towards a shop nearby. Tired from managing the crowd all day, the police personnel have found a spot of shade to stand together.

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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