27 Dec 2017 16:42 IST

Are banks ignoring extended deadline for Aadhaar linkage?

Customers under pressure to link before Dec 31

The last date for linking your bank account with your Aadhaar number has been extended to March, 31, 2018. You may dismiss this as old news.

But this still appears to be ‘breaking news’ for many banks and their branch managers who continue to bombard unwary customers about the need to have their accounts linked before December 31.

Speaking to BusinessLine, a senior citizen said, “This is nothing but contempt of court”, and urged the media to highlight the inconvenience caused to customers as well as the brazen disregard for the government’s public assurance on the subject.

Bank branch managers are apparently unwilling to take cognizance of news reports that had mentioned the government’s extension of the deadline. They say they have not yet received instructions on the subject from their ‘regional’ or zonal office. Clearly, it appears that in matters of rules and procedure, the writ of the government runs only after ‘instructions’ from the head office.

According to a senior branch manager of Andhra Bank, there is some “ambiguity’’ in circulars from the corporate office. “It is not clear whether the extension of deadline is applicable to the old accounts or new accounts. But we are asking customers to complete the process as early as possible,” he said.

But enquiries with banks reveal that there may be more to it than meets the eye — perhaps even a tactical silence from the banks. Says a seasoned branch manager at a public sector bank, “We will likely receive instructions on December 31 evening. There is some psychology at work here. It is human tendency to wait till the 11th hour and then rush to meet the deadline. If the instructions about the extra time had come in, then even those inclined to link their accounts will postpone it. Why not wait for a few days and see whether we can get a few more people to link up their accounts in the next one week - instead of waiting till March?”

He continued, “You fix any deadline for such matters — and the universal first reaction — whether from staff or customers — is that it can’t be done. We’ll then have to go one step at a time and break down the resistance.”

So, how many customers have actually linked their accounts so far? That’s difficult to say, though the manager hazards a guess that about 40-50 per cent of his South Mumbai branch customers may have updated their accounts and linked it. That's, of course, not indicative of the situation across the country.

Big task

A senior SBI official said Aadhaar linkage is a “big” task as only those accounts which are operative have been linked and it’s a big task to link those accounts which are not being regularly operated. “So, deadlines will not work here as the customers don’t turn up,” he said.

Typically, in branches with 10,000 accounts, only 30 per cent of them will be operational. On average about 30 to 40 per cent of the operative accounts have been linked with Aadhaar so far, he added.

Almost all banks have now installed the software which pops up a message on Aadhaar linkage status the moment an account is opened for any transaction.