The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Push to demat postal schemes

Mumbai, Jan. 18: The postal department is determined to give its growing tribe of investors the paperless option — dematerialised certificates — despite the snail-like pace at which the initiative has moved since it was kicked off in some centres three months back.

Within a month, Mumbai alone could have 25 more post-offices offering National Savings Certificates, Kisan Vikas Patras and other schemes in demat form. There are only 10 that are doing so at this point of time.

It comes at a time when growth in postal small savings in Mumbai circle has shown a 40 per cent increase in 2002-03 and indications are that the growth in the current fiscal will exceed that of last year.

The pilot project to give paperless certificates was initiated in October but has received a poor response so far, mainly because investors are loath to accept certificates in the electronic format, said postal department officers.

“We have registered only 425 transactions amounting to Rs 2 crore in the past three months,” Mumbai region postmaster general A. P. Srivastava said. This is very small compared with the gargantuan corpus the post offices collect nowadays. Postal savings have gained considerable ground at the expense of other saving options after interest rates of fixed deposits have plummeted. Scams in co-operative banks and stock markets have pushed small investors to the fold of post offices.

The project has been launched in association with National Securities Depository. “We will give this scheme some time to succeed. In Mumbai, the scheme was introduced in the northeast constituency, after Kirit Somaiya, MP and founder president of Investors’ Grievance Forum, decided to popularise the concept,” he added.

Demat of postal savings like National Savings Certificate, Kisan Vikas Patra and monthly incomes schemes would be a great boon for the postal department as they are struggling to cope with the recent surge in the demand for postal savings.

The department is also battling a huge resource crunch. “Only 20 post offices in the metropolis are computerised,” rues Srivastava. The commissioner of small savings has recently allotted 70 computers for the exclusive use of the department. It gets Rs 102 annually per savings account from the ministry of finance. The small savings business is in addition to its core business of posts.

The Maharashtra and Goa circle alone manages 1.8 crore accounts giving the department an assured income of around Rs 180 crore, hardly enough to manage the corpus.

“The concept of depositories holding the certificates for the clients may take some time to sink in,” Srivastava said.

Analysts also said Kisan Vikas Patras and Indira Vikas Patras have seen a lot of money from the parallel economy finding its way into these investment modes. These investors would not like money in the electronic format as it will attract the taxman’s attention.

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