APROPOS the letter ‘Savings centres’ (April 15) written by an official by the Central Directorate of National Savings. I thank the CDNS for clarifying that not only have the national savings centres been functioning during the lockdown, “thousands of customers…including senior citizens, widows, and pensioners are daily visiting NSC offices to receive their monthly profits…”

The seating area for customers at the centre in Karachi where I maintain my account is not large. Typically, at peak times, between 30 and 40 people are cramped inside this space. Because the NSC system is largely manual, depending upon the number of people in a centre at any given time, it can take up to an hour and more for a customer to receive payment.

In the present coronavirus pandemic environment, where social distancing is quite literally a question of life and death, crowding the most vulnerable segment of the population — senior citizens, most with multiple health problems — in tight spaces clearly puts their lives at risk.

The CDNS should review arrangements at its savings centres to ensure that all safety precautions are taken to prevent human-to-human transmission of the virus, but remain mindful that in pursuit of this objective they do not institute measures that are likely to cause hardship.

Beyond this, the situation once again underscores the significance of NSC abandoning its archaic system of maintaining accounts in ledgers. The CDNS has done little to modernise its functioning, ignoring repeated appeals to introduce automation, thereby depriving customers, most of them frail and weak, the convenience of ATM and online services.

One hopes that Ms Tania Aidrus, who spearheads Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative, will take cognizance of this long outstanding issue, and help the CDNS overhaul its system.

Hasan Pervez

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2020