The Assam government on Monday directed banking authorities to ensure opening of bank accounts for each and every tea worker in the state to facilitate disbursal of their weekly wages through these accounts within a fixed time-frame.

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The banking authorities have agreed to complete opening of bank accounts of left out tea workers within December 5 this year to ensure disbursal of wages through such accounts from December 15 onwards.

In a high level meeting, attended by top bank officials and representatives of tea associations, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said tea workers should not face any inconvenience in getting their wages on time.

“Banks must put up a system to ensure that the tea garden economy and its network of businesses do not suffer due to non-availability of adequate fund for payment of wages,” exhorted Sonowal. He further said each bank must take steps for opening of bank accounts of tea workers who are still left out as per list prepared in-coordination with the tea garden management, and start wage disbursal through such accounts.

The chief minister also took stock of the presence of banking institutions in tea garden areas of the State and directed the bank authorities to set up sufficient number of ATMs so that the account holders can transact money locally in hassle-free manner.

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Reiterating that financial literacy amongst tea workers is the need of the hour, Sonowal urged bankers to expedite such literacy programmes in more intensive manner.

The chief minister also appreciated the active role played by banks in tiding over the crisis, especially in timely payment of wages to tea workers, which emerged due to demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. He said the ‘Team Assam’ spirit exhibited by the banks needs be replicated to put a new mechanism in place for heralding cashless economy in the state.

In turn, the banking authorities praised the state government’s proactive role and novel measures for disbursing wages to tea workers in the wake of demonetization. “The Assam model has received nationwide attention and all the tea garden intensive states are emulating the same in letter and spirit,” said SBI chief general manager PVSNL Murty.

It was also decided that all banks would open ATMs in tea gardens where there is sizeable population of workers. Banks would also introduce lobby ATMs through customer service providers (CSP) and banking correspondents (BC), while the space for such ATMs would be provided by respective tea garden managements.

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