PNB marches on road to financial inclusion; 1 mn no frill A/c's soon

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New Delhi, Jan 3 (UNI) To take a big jump at achieving financial inclusion, Punjab National Bank (PNB) today announced that it will open one million no frill accounts by March 2008 and continue to make strides in bringing new districts under the ambit of banking.

It also avowed that it will cover 30,000 villages, 15 million households and 75 million people under the ambit of financial inclusion by 2010.

The Finance Ministry has mandated Public Sector Banks to leapfrog into making availablity of financial services inclusive. The realisation has dawned that the banking sector has by and large bypassed the poor.

Several important Commitees had recently drawn the attention of the government to this disturbing phenomenon.

Under the project on financial inclusion, PNB has opened four lakh no frills accounts. These accounts are operated under the 'PNB Mitra Scheme'. The Bank uses business facilitation and technology to achieve the goal of bringing the poor under the umbrella of the banking system.

As a practical step, PNB CMD K C Chakrabarty launched a pilot project on financial inclusion in district Saharanpur in Western Uttar Pradesh. The district has 1,278 villages covering a population of 29 lakhs.

Out of 4.5 lakh households in the district, two lakh families are not without any bank account.

The aim of PNB is to bring these families under financial inclusion project launched by it sometimes ago, Mr Chakrabarty said.

Mr Chakrabarty supervised the opening of 1,200 smart cards to the uncovered customers in Saharanpur. Besides, financial assistance was given to 15 Self Help Groups (SHGs). Five farmers were given money to buy tractors. Assistance was also given to open two agri-clinics, two education loans were provided and funds for procuring five vehicles that would be required for agricultural use.

The Bank's Chief pointed out that 60 per cent of the rural populace does not have access to bank accounts. He said his bank was out to prove that the poor are bankable as they have high recovery rate.

He said as far as possible, the bank will make every individual, no matter how so poor he or she is, a customer in the districts that it has earmarked for financial inclusion. He said a bio-metric card will be issued to all such customers.

The other programmes which PNB plans to launch in this regard include ten pilot projects in seven states in the Indo-Gigantic belt this month itself. It will also set up Financial Literacy Centres in all 57 lead districts reserved for the Bank.

Apart from this, the Bank will introduce new products such as health insurance and micro-insurance in the next phase.

The Bank has already completed financial inclusion in 13 districts of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Work is also going on in 163 other districts identified for financial inclusion by the State Governments.

UNI GS-BJR SBA RK1631

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