Banking facilties for farmers are going to see a facelift. It is most likely that both small and big farmers will get plastic smart cards. These cards can also be used in ATMs, POS terminals for withdrawing cash as well as making payments.
Indian Banks' Association has been asked by the finance ministry to design a plan in this regard which can convert more than 53 lakh kisan credit cards in circulation to smart cards. The cards can then be used as normal credit cards.
Kisan credit cards refer to the conventional passbooks which are issued to the customer by public sector banks having all loan details on which credit and debit entries are regularly updated.
"We have asked IBA to look into the issue of converting KCCs into technology-enabled smart cards that would facilitate easier banking transactions by the farming community whether through ATMs, merchant outlets or banking correspondents in villages," a finance ministry official said.
All security features also need to be incorporated in these smart cards so that they dont get misused by anybody.
"This is an issue that needs to be looked into. There would be options such as biometric identification that can limit the misuse of cards by others," they said.
"If rural people have been able to punch in 10 digits while making calls on mobile phones, there should be no problem in punching in the four-digit personal identification numbers in ATMs," the official said.
Allen CA Pareira, chairman and managing director of Bank of Maharashtra, said the smart-card system would help banks meet farmers' needs. "We are examining the feasibility of moving over to the smart-card system. The card would help in storing land records and determining the eligibility and fresh limits for farmers more easily," Pareira said.
Gobinda Bannerjee, general manager of Punjab National Bank, who deals with agriculture loans, said, "The move would reduce crowding in bank branches since farmers would not have to go to bank branches for cash withdrawals. There are ATMs of banks in rural areas. Many merchants in towns where farmers go to purchase inputs have swipe machines. Smart cards would also eliminate the hazards associated with carrying cash for purchases."