Money deposited in a bank account is generally considered safe. Holders of State Bank of India-issued Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) have apparently been charged INR 990 each for provision of weather information.
Nationwide, one crore one lakh KCC-possessing farmers are seeing deductions totaling INR 990 crore, including INR 60 crore from the accounts of 6 lakh farmers in Madhya Pradesh. The facility towards which these deductions are being made (viz. weather information) is which the central government is already providing farmers free of charge, through a toll-free number.
This mess came to light when Hazarilal Sharma, a farmer living in the Nauraj Khedi village of Vidisha’s Nateran Tehsil received a call from his bank informing him of a deduction of INR 990 towards a service providing weather information. Sharma filed a complaint in writing, but the bank management did not reimburse the amount. Talking to the manager of the Nateran branch of the SBI, B.S. Baghel, revealed the complete picture.
Baghel elaborated that the SBI headquarters in Mumbai had deducted, through the various branches, the amounts from the accounts of farmers nationwide without their permission. Meanwhile, even the chief general manager of SBI’s agricultural branch, Jitendra Sharma agreed that the bank had deducted amounts in the name of providing weather information, but insisted that only after obtaining consent forms from the farmers – something farmers like Vishnu Dangi, Natthu Singh Raghuvanshi, among others, have vehemently denied. According to them, they are receiving SMSs from the bank with weather information while the banks are deducting INR 990 for the same.
Breaking down the INR 990 crore mathematics
As per the SBI’s website, there are nearly 1 crore 1 lakh KCC holders. If even 1 crore of these farmers have been charged for the weather information service, it would imply that a sum of INR 990 crore has been thus collected.
Service already available in 500 branches through RML
The SBI has contracted Mumbai’s RML Company for providing weather and crop-related information to farmers. Per RML, customers linked with 500 branches of the SBI across 16 states are receiving this service. Different price levels have been fixed for the various services available. Of these, the SMS service is priced at INR 990 per year.
Translated from original report in Hindi at Jagran