RBI puts off banking outlet target in every village by a year

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had, during his budget speech this year, announced plans to provide banking facilities to such habitations by the end of March 2012. However, the apex bank had earlier formed a sub-committee to draw up a roadmap "to provide banking services through a banking outlet in every village having a population of over 2,000, by March 2011."

This roadmap followed a report in August, 2009, of a high level committee on Lead Bank Scheme constituted by the RBI with Usha Thorat as Chairperson.
"It is advised that the date of providing banking services through a banking outlet in every village having a population of over 2,000, is revised to March 2012," the Reserve Bank of India said in a notification.

However, the date of March 2011 has been kept by the RBI as an intermediate target. In his budget speech, Mukherjee had said: "It has been decided to provide appropriate banking facilities to habitations having population in excess of 2,000 by March, 2012."

The Thorat-led committee had found that there were 129 un-banked blocks in the country. By February 2010, the number of such blocks had declined to 93. Low population density, inhospitable terrain, law and order problems and non-availability of basic infrastructure had been indicated as the main impediments in providing banking facilities in these areas.

"Such banking services may not necessarily be extended through a brick and mortar branch but can be provided through any of the various forms of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) based models," the second quarter review of the monetary policy 2009-10 had said. The latest RBI notification also said there has been inconsistency and lack of uniformity in data provided by the state level banking committees.

"In view of (this)...it has been decided to modify the format of the statements so as to obtain detailed information about allotted villages and progress in opening banking outlets in the allotted villages," it said. The apex bank also plans to undertake quarterly monitoring of the progress in opening banking outlets in un-banked villages.

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