India’s central bank and major lenders are working on a plan to close most branches during the country’s lockdown, aiming to prevent tens of thousands of employees from becoming infected with the coronavirus, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The world’s second most populous nation with 1.3 billion people is still very much a cash society and banks have been exempted from a 21-day lockdown that began this week as they are considered an essential service.
Under the plan, there would likely be only one bank branch open every five km (three miles) in major cities, the sources said, declining to be identified as the discussions about the closures have not been publicly disclosed.
A finance ministry official, however, said 90 percent of banks and ATMs were functioning normally and that he was not aware of any plan to shut them down. “The government is monitoring the situation daily,” the official said.
The official referred to an order issued by the federal interior ministry exempting personnel involved in banking operations including IT firms supporting banking operations and cash management agencies from the lockdown orders.