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Banking on wheels

Besides other services, BoB’s van is also used to deposit cash for safekeeping 

Bank of Bhutan: When a 70-year-old woman asked if she could buy some eatables from the van that resembled a food stall yesterday in Punakha, people behind the glass counter broke into laughter.

She wasn’t the only person to be mistaken, as scores of pilgrims stopped by the Bank of Bhutan’s ATM mobile van stationed above Thangzona, where the Chakrasamvara (Dechhog Khorlo Dompai) wang is underway.

The van was parked near the wang’s venue on December 20 when the wangchen began.  One of the devotees, Kinzang Loday, observed that the van resembled the waste collection truck. “It’s hard to believe that such vehicles have banking services,” he said.

Another pilgrim, Pema Dendup was one of the first customers to deposit Nu 5,000 through the van’s counter. “The money may get lost in the crowd, had there been no such services,” Pema Dendup said adding, “I could have availed banking services from Khuruthang, but going there would take time.”

A monk, Phurpa Dorji of Dodeyna, said that carrying cash in a gathering was unsafe. “We can’t afford to spend our time running to banks instead of attending the wang,” he said.

The van’s cash counter has two cashiers to help their clients, while an ATM machine is attached in front of the van. “All financial transactions that our bank offers are available in the van,” said the bank’s official, Tshering Lham.

Apart from ATM services, the van also provides withdrawal and deposit facilities within and outside Bhutan.  It operates with the help of electricity and the internet.

Bank officials said the van would have adequate money to cater to the devotees during the wang. “In case we run out of cash, we’ll get it from the Khuruthang bank,” said one of the officials.

On the first day, financial transactions worth millions was already done through the van.  The services remain open from 9am until 3pm, when the wang ends for the day.  Bank employee, Sonam Dorji, said it cost the bank more than Nu 8M to buy the van from Thailand. “We introduced the van last year, but not many people availed the services,” Sonam Dorji said.

By Tenzin Namgyel, Punakha

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