Rs 4.5 crore cash, largely deposits in savings bank accounts, have been withdrawn in panic from the Kayalpattinam branch of the Central Bank of India in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin district since Saturday - a figure that is six times higher than normal. An advertisement on January 11 that called for mandatory submission of National Population Registry letter as part of its Know Your Customer or KYC drive has touched a raw nerve and those opposing the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) are protesting this way. Many say they are also scared that their money could be blocked.
An officer in the bank told NDTV, "Normally we would have a withdrawal of around 25 lakh every day. Now this has shot up by six times. People are just leaving minimum balance in their accounts."
Ahmed Shah, a lawyer, has transferred Rs 3.5 lakh to his account with a private bank. He says, "We are not even accepting NPR and why should we even show it? We will even close all our accounts if Central Bank of India does not withdraw its advertisement."
Bankers say the Reserve Bank of India has given instructions to banks in this regard and has triggered panic even before the exercise has begun in Tamil Nadu and many other states. It is expected to be given only during the next census exercise which is likely to be modified as NPR.
Senior officials from the bank met customers on Tuesday in a bid to diffuse the situation. An official said, "This is a branch with plenty of NRI accounts. Today the withdrawals have slowed down."
Some Muslim groups and parties like the MMK are up in arms. Many fear it is a move to normalise the submission of the NPR letter. Many protested outside the RBI blaming it for the confusion and have called for a boycott of the Central Bank of India for hasty implementation amid public protest. Professor Jawahirullah, Founder, MMK who led the protests today, said, "What we demand is RBI should withdraw this circular demanding NPR as one of the components of KYC as we fear in the next step NPR will be the only one document which they may need."
Hit hard, the bank has made a U-turn. In a revised advertisement on January 19, it has made the submission of the NPR letter optional, asking customers to submit any one of the documents as proof. They claim the earlier advertisement that made the submission of the NPR letter mandatory was a mistake.