As much as Rs 26,697 crore was lying in dormant accounts of banks, including cooperative banks, as on December 31, 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
This money is lying in nearly 9 crore accounts which have not been operated for 10 years.
As per information received from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), as on December 31, 2020, the total number of such accounts in Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) was 8,13,34,849 and the amount of deposits in such accounts was Rs 24,356 crore, Sitharaman said in a reply.
Similarly, she said, the number of accounts not operated for more than 10 years and the amount in such accounts with Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) was 77,03,819 and Rs 2,341 crore, respectively, as on December 31, 2020.
"The number of deposit accounts (i.e. public deposits matured but remaining unclaimed for 7 years including the year in which they have matured) and the amount in such accounts with Non–Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) was 64 and Rs 0.71 crore, respectively as on March 31, 2021," she said.
As per the instructions issued by the RBI to banks vide their Master Circular on “Customer Service in Banks”, banks are required to make an annual review of accounts in which there are no operations for more than one year, and may approach the customers and inform them in writing that there has been no operation in their accounts and ascertain the reasons for the same.
"Banks have also been advised to consider launching a special drive for finding the whereabouts of the customers/legal heirs in respect of accounts which have become inoperative, i.e., where there are no transactions in the account over a period of two years," she said.
Further, she said, banks are required to display the list of unclaimed deposits/ inoperative accounts which are inactive / inoperative for ten years or more on their respective websites, with the list containing the names and addresses of the account holder(s) in respect of unclaimed deposits/ inoperative accounts.
As regards action taken on deposits in such accounts, she said, pursuant to the amendment to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and insertion of Section 26A in the said Act, the RBI has framed the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund (DEAF) Scheme, 2014.
In terms of the Scheme, banks calculate the cumulative balances in all accounts which are not operated upon for a period of 10 years or more (or any amount remaining unclaimed for 10 years or more) along with interest accrued and transfer such amounts to the DEAF.
"The DEAF is utilised for promotion of depositors' interests and for such other purposes which may be necessary for promotion of depositors' interest as may be specified by the RBI. In case of demand from a customer whose deposit had been transferred to the DEAF, banks are required to repay the customer, along with interest if any, and lodge a claim for refund from the DEAF," she said.
Replying to another question, she said, the RBI as per its master circular has authorised the board of each housing finance companies (HFCs) would adopt an interest rate model taking into account relevant factors such as cost of funds, margin and risk premium and determine the rate of interest to be charged for loans and advances.
The rates of interest and the approach for gradation of risks, and penal interest has to be disclosed to the borrowers in the application form, and in the sanction letter besides making available on their website or published in the newspapers.
Further, HFCs have been advised to put in place an internal mechanism to monitor the process and the operations so as to ensure adequate transparency in communications with the borrowers.
Photograph: ANI Photo