A neatly-dressed man is surfing the internet on his smartphone. A customer is swiping his debit card to pay for his purchases at a shop. Youngsters sport chic mobile handsets and are checking their social media updates. It is a normal day, or is it? Welcome to Khandalavadi, a village along Chennai-Tiruchy National Highway, in the district.
This nondescript village is now the apple of Cashless India dreaming eyes. On Tuesday, when people queued up outside ATM centres for a precious commodity that turned scarce after Modi’s demonetisation drive, villagers here were attending a function chaired by collector and senior officials of the State Bank of India to declare Khandalavadi the first cashless village in the Tamil Nadu.
With the Union government pressing for cashless transactions, the SBI decided to lay the path towards Digital India by adopting Khandalavadi.
Home to around 2,000 people, the facelift has given by the public sector banking giant has transformed the lives of the residents for better. In the run-up to Tuesday, the bank laid the groundwork for a mega transition by fixing WiFi routers at vantage points across the village for providing free internet connectivity.
The officials also installed solar lamps across the village to ensure uninterrupted power and internet services.
Next step was tricky. The officials had to ensure 100 per cent account coverage in the village. For this, special counters were opened to handle the rush. In a matter of weeks, 99 percent of the village residents had bank accounts with debit cards.
The transition was smooth. Going the extra mile, the bankers ensured that the big shops in the village too were roped in by issuing three POS machines. The shopkeepers and villagers were given proper training and insight into their new gadgets.
Once the officials were sure that the villagers were ready to take baby steps towards Digital India, they organised a function, chaired by Villupuram collector L Subramaniayan and SBI Chennai Circle Chief General Manager (CGM) B Ramesh Babu, to give the State its first cashless village.
Addressing the gathering, L Subramaniyan said that it was a very special day for the country and the State. Showering praises on the villagers for their interest in transforming their lives, the officials thanked the SBI officials for ensuring a glitch-free transition.
The collector exhorted the bank officials to go further in their drive to ensure cashless transactions by giving loans to students and farmers. “The transition has taken place in one of the most backward districts in the State. To get rid of this backward tag, it is necessary to uplift the lot of the farmers and children. Banks must come forward to help them,” the collector added.
Later, CGM Ramesh Babu said that the SBI decided to adopt Khandalavadi after assessing the creditworthiness of the residents. According to him, the residents of the village were very forthcoming when it came to repaying their loans.
“We have given them a start. Now, it is the responsibility of the villagers to ensure the success of the movement. This growth must be exponential,” he added. Quelling fears over security of digital transactions,
Babu said that the SBI had left no stone unturned to ensure that the data of the users were not compromised.
With a view to promoting cashless transactions, the SBI disbursed loans worth Rs 86 lakh to the villagers. The bank also donated Rs 12,000 to a school to buy footwear for its students. Officials, including SBI Chennai Circle general manager Indu Sekar Dantu and regional manager Haridoss, were among those present.