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UPDATE: Banking at Chota Tingrai Tea Estate

John Grams Assam banking Chota Tingrai Tea Estate social projects

What we have accomplished so far

As of January 15, we have managed to open bank accounts for all Chota Tingrai’s permanent workers. Additionally, 85% of casual workers now have accounts. We hope to complete casual worker bank account enrollment in a few weeks.

The credit for this progress goes to our banking correspondents. They have worked tirelessly, helping workers fill out applications. They have met with bank officials innumerable times to ensure the bank understands workers’ needs. Thanks to the banking correspondents, the bank has agreed to install ATMs with biometric identification. This will eliminate the potential of pin number theft, and ease access to cash.

Chota Tingrai Management has constructed this new shed for the ATM.

Shed for the new ATM at Chota Tingrai Tea Estate

When complete, the shed will have a tile floor and air conditioning for the comfort of customers, and a 24/7 guard for security.

Also, Mana staff and the bank correspondents completed a needs assessment for financial literacy program. Tea workers have never had access to formal financial services. Therefore, they have many questions about interest, savings, security, etc. We have collected these questions and started designing demos regarding how to use ATMs and banking services.

Mana staff and Bank Correspondents leading Q&A session regarding bank accounts

Our banking correspondent, Priyanka, leading banking Q&A sessions

Where the problems still lie

Unlike our correspondents and the Chota Tingrai management, the bank has fallen short. Despite our constructing the ATM shed to the exact specifications, the bank has failed to install the ATM by their own deadline. We have yet to hear when the ATM will arrive.

Also, the bank has yet to answer many of the procedural questions raised by the banking correspondents, management, and workers. For example: how much money will they stock in the ATM and in what denominations, what about backups to the biometric system, etc.

The pending issues make planning a smooth transition of worker pay from cash to direct deposit difficult. Mana and Chota Tingrai management call the bank everyday trying to get solutions. We hope that the bank provides the required clarity soon.

The Bigger Picture

Despite the issues mentioned above, we are excited that every Chota Tingrai Tea Estate worker, really every tea worker in India, will soon have a bank account. We believe that this surge in financial inclusion will benefit workers and the economy.

Workers currently put save in cash, or “under the mattress.” By shifting their savings to cash, workers will benefit from increased security and by receiving interest.

The economy will benefit from the cash infusion to banks. As millions of new accounts start accruing savings, banks will have larger reserves to loan. This increased supply of cash available for loans should reduce borrowing costs. This will enable governments looking to finance infrastructure development, and businesses looking to expand. This investment will spur economic growth, increasing both output and income per worker (for more information check out the Solow Growth Model).

Everyone at Chota Tingrai looks forward to getting these final banking issues worked out. Workers tell us every day how excited they are to get an ATM card and start banking!


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