Banks close branches in Valley amid police ‘hassles’ to staff on their way to office

Published On: August 20, 2020 02:59 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

 Banking services listed as essential also get halted

KATHMANDU, Aug 20: Banks and financial institutions (BFIs) have closed their offices and branches in the Kathmandu Valley after police reportedly obstructed the movement of their staffers on the way to their offices on Thursday. 

Though banking service is listed as an essential service, BFIs have decided to close their branches in the Valley after police stopped their staffers on their way to office on Thursday morning despite local administration’s initial promises to facilitate their movement.

The decision to shut down banks’ branches in the Valley has halted even minimum banking services that BFIs were planning to provide to their clients through their limited staff during the lockdown.

Nepal Bankers’ Association (NBA) — the umbrella organization of all 27 commercial banks — has asked its members to close their offices due to the ‘hassles’ the bank staff have been facing from police.    

It is not clear whether BFIs will close their branches throughout the lockdown or resume them from tomorrow.

“It will depend on how strict the movement of staff will be made. If police cooperate and facilitate the movement of our staff, we may decide to resume some branch offices and headquarters. Otherwise, it is not possible to resume even minimum banking services from offices,” Ashok Sherchan, the CEO of Prabhu Bank Ltd, told Republica.

In line with the instruction from the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), BFIs were planning to open some branches in the Valley with their limited staff on a rotational basis to provide minimum banking services. However, BFIs have now backtracked on their plan and shut down their branches. Almost all branches of BFIs in the Kathmandu Valley are now closed. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the NRB had asked BFIs to provide minimum banking services during the lockdown period for the continuity of basic banking operation complying with prohibitory orders issued by local administrations. The NRB has also directed BFIs to ensure enough ATM replenishment and arrange regular monitoring of the availability of cash in the vending machines. 

Similarly, BFIs were told to make arrangements to operate draft, TT, letter of credit and bank guarantee services to ensure the supply of essential goods. NRB also instructed BFIs to open a minimum number of branches with minimum staff on a rotational basis in collaboration with local administrations to provide basic banking services like cash deposit, bank transfer and check clearance. 

Even the official notice of the District Administration Kathmandu states that banking and financial transactions as an essential service will be allowed to remain open during the one-week lockdown.   

However, police say that they have not obstructed bank employees from traveling. 

Superintendent of Police (SP) Bam Dev Gautam, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, Kathmandu, said that they have not stopped the movement of bank staff. “The accusation that we have stopped bank employees is not true. We have to check the identity card before allowing anyone to travel. That may cause a slight delay, but it’s not that we have stopped them,” Gautam.

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