After more than one 100 years of keeping its cash safe in mammoth, iron chests, the South Western Railway (SWR) has finally decided to modernise.
Railway officials and Railway Police Force personnel will no longer have to break their heads over safety of the cash generated daily in their custody as banks will arrange for the money to be collected from all the 321 railway stations of Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubballi Railway Divisions.
Wednesday (January 13) marked a historic moment for SWR and Bengaluru Division when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between officials representing the State Bank of India, Bengaluru, and top railway officials including Dr V Chandrasekhara Rao, Financial Advisor (FA) and Chief Accounts Officer, SWR, Hubli and Divisional Railway Manager Sanjiv Agarwal at the DRM’s chamber.
“The Railways will be handing over anything between `3 crore and `4 crore a day at SBI,” Rao said. “It is a win-win situation for both parties. We pay SBI `21.8 lakh as annual service charges. In the process, SWR saves anything between `60 lakh and `70 lakh per year that is spent on transportation and staff deployment,” Rao added.
Individual railway divisions like the Pune railway division and Hajipur railway divisions have switched to banking and the Nagpur railway division is planning to do so but it is the first time in the country that an entire Railway zone is getting modernised at one go, he added.
The MoU will come into effect on January 20 at railway stations all over the State.
SBI will arrange for the money to be collected from the stations through their outsourced agency. “It will be anytime between 9.30 am and 2 pm just to ensure the cash is deposited before 3 pm at the banks,” the FA added.
“Six banks vied for the contract and finally a choice had to be made between IDBI and SBI and we chose the latter,” he said.
There are seven railway chests presently housed on platforms 5 and 6 at the City Railway Station. When asked about the fate of the chests here and across the Zone, Agarwal said a few chests would be showcased in railway museums bearing the nostalgic factor in mind.
“We will sell the remainder as scrap as the chests are made of solid, hard iron,” he said.
“The station master no longer needs to worry about the safety of the cash. Smaller stations send their cash in leather bags placed in the guard’s room to bigger stations. That can also be done away with,” the DRM added.
It is relatively safer down South but there have been many instances in North India where the trains have been attacked by dacoits for the cash they have transported, Rao said.