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SBI turns to shared ATMs in strike

April 4: The money-spewing machines that never sleep have gone bankrupt.

As the indefinite strike by State Bank of India employees and officers entered its second day, the 280-odd ATMs the bank has in the state ran dry after panicky customers rushed to withdraw money.

But they needn’t worry so much.

SBI today said its customers can use free of charge ATMs of partner banks and of those with which it has arrangements. “Customers can use the ATMs of our associate banks. Besides, SBI has arrangements with other banks for shared ATMs. Customers can withdraw money from these partner banks’ ATMs also,” said an official of SBI’s Bengal Circle office.

SBI has tie-ups with UTI Bank, Andhra Bank, HDFC Bank, Corporation Bank, Indian Bank, IndusInd Bank, Uco Bank, Punjab National Bank and Dena Bank for ATM-sharing facilities. Usually, an SBI customer has to pay a fee of Rs 20 for every withdrawal of cash from a shared ATM of another bank.

“The usual charges otherwise levied under the shared ATM arrangements will be waived or refunded for the transactions done during the period of the strike,” SBI said in a statement in Mumbai.

“Besides, SBI customers can also use the ATMs of our seven associate banks such as State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Hyderabad and others,” the SBI official added.

By the time the announcement came, quite a few customers had gone back empty-handed from ATMs. Among them was Ambarish Mukherjee, who had joined the panic rush to the nearest teller machines.

The 67-year-old had gone to withdraw money from the ATM at SBI’s Behala main branch. With over half a million account holders on its rolls, the branch is the biggest in Asia in terms of customers.

“This (the strike) is causing much hardship,” Mukherjee said as he emerged from the ATM booth.

Today’s announcement by SBI will to an extent ease the hardship but the problem is unlikely to go away in semi-urban and smaller cities where not many banks have branches. “The SBI is, perhaps, the only bank in many rural areas. People in these areas are the hardest hit because of the strike,” said an official.

Although the bank’s operations remained crippled across the country, the government made it clear it would not oblige the employees who have struck work demanding higher pension.

The demand will not be entertained as it would lead to similar demands by employees of other banks, a finance ministry official said in Delhi, where SBI unions and management representatives are scheduled to meet tomorrow for talks.

The official, however, admitted that the strike had hit retail operations of the country’s largest commercial bank, which handles 19 per cent of total deposits and 30 per cent of customers in the banking industry through its 9,000 branches.

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