To ease the cash crunch situation across the country, the ministry of electronics and information technology (IT) plans to set up 10,000 automated teller machines (ATMs) in common service centers (CSCs) situated in the rural areas.
The development comes after the announcement of demonetisation on 8 November which rendered old Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 banknotes invalid which has led to a severe shortage of currency notes in circulation.
The IT ministry has also taken several measures to promote digital payments and spread awareness to push the country towards a less-cash economy.
“The process for identification and selection criteria for setting up of 10,000 ATMs at rural CSCs has started. There will also be training for installation and operation of micro-ATMs,” said a senior official from the IT ministry on condition of anonymity.
The ministry has also started a website, www.digitaljagriti.in, to spread awareness about various modes of digital payments and has digitally enabled 1,700 merchants in just over a week.
India has a population of 1.25 billion, 60% of which is under-banked or unbanked. About 90% of small businesses in the country have no links with financial institutions while 67% of payments are still made in cash, according to the website.
Card penetration is less than 10% and 20% avail credit through informal channels such as money lenders, and lack of digital financial literacy, especially among the rural population, is a huge challenge for the country.
Another IT ministry official, who also did not want to be named, said about 175,000 CSCs would be mobilised to enroll 2.5 million merchants and 10 million citizens to adopt digital payments and will go through a camp mode approach over a 10-day period. Each CSC will reach to 40 households.
Queries emailed to the spokesperson of the IT ministry on 8 December remained unanswered.
The ministry recently launched a project through CSCs which aims to enable them to become digital financial hubs by hosting awareness sessions on government policies and digital finance options available for rural citizens.
The project will also enable citizens to access and use electronic payment system such as IMPS, UPI, Bank PoS machines and will sensitize and enable merchants at Panchayat level to use electronic payment systems.
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