The first payment bank, a joint venture between Airtel and Kotak Mahindra Bank, was launched with much fanfare by the Union Finance Minister on 12th January. A look at the schedule of charges for various transactions at the bank tells us why and for whose benefit digital payment is being promoted by the Government of India.
Airtel Payment Bank has announced that it will charge 0.65% for cash withdrawals of more than Rs 4000; and between Rs 5 and 25 for withdrawals between Rs 10 and Rs 4000. Transfer of money to another bank will involve a charge of 0.5% of the transferred amount, meaning Rs. 5 for every Rs. 1000 transferred. It is even proposed to charge Rs. 50 to close an account in the payment bank.
Besides Airtel owned by the Mittals, Reliance Jio of the Mukesh Ambani group, Idea Mobile of the Birlas and Paytm owned by the Tatas and the Chinese Alibaba group have all obtained licences for operating payment banks.
The proposal to charge a fee per transaction exposes the lying propaganda that the Note Ban is allegedly aimed at taxing the corrupt and bringing more money into the hands of honest hardworking people. The fact that the new payment banks want to charge transaction fees shows that hardworking and honest people are going to get robbed further, for the sake of ensuring maximum profits for monopoly capitalist companies providing digital payment services.
Customers are being lured by the new payment banks by offering higher interest rates on deposits, as compared to the established commercial banks. Once caught in their net, people will be charged a fee every time they withdraw their own money or transfer money to someone else’s account.
While “digital India” is being promoted as a technological advance and a vision of progress for all, the hidden agenda is to enable capitalist monopolies to reap maximum profits by making people pay for services which have so far been available free of cost.
The State, instead of fulfilling its duty of making adequate money available for public use, is forcing people into digital payments, and making them pay to enrich the wealthiest capitalist monopoly houses of the land.
Forcing people to making digital payment is an attack on their rights. People should demand that they must have the freedom to decide on how to make a payment and banking services, available so far free of cost, cannot be charged.