Railways inks Deal with SBI to bid adieu to 100 Year-old Money Chests

The scene of colonial cash chest system that still runs in Railways to fade away shortly!

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Bangalore: At a time when both public and private sectors are pushing for more modern and real time banking system to transfer money via net banking, the 162-year-old Indian Railway is still using the colonial 2.5 quintals ‘cash chest’ to transport cash from small (intermediate) stations to mother station. 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 Rs.3 crore and Rs.4 crore a day at SBI,” Rao said. “It is a win-win situation for both parties. We pay SBI Rs.21.8 lakh as annual service charges. In the process, SWR saves anything between Rs.60 lakh and Rs.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.

Railway Money ChestsThe 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.

Claimed to be theft-proof, the heavy iron chest which resembles a ‘treasure chest’, was first introduced by British government in the year 1853 in Bombay division between Thane and Wadi Bunder station (seaport) to transfer the cash/revenue collection of intermediate stations to end stations. Later, around in 1950s the then central railway which also comprised Jhansi, Bhopal and Jabalpur division started using the ‘cash chest’ system to deliver and stack cash at Jhansi station which has unbreakable British era vault. Many Railway divisions sends its daily cash collection to various destinations in the cash chests only. The chests were mostly built by European craftsman to transport cash and till date we haven’t come across any secure and cheap system to deliver revenue to stations cash vault.

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