Monday, May 21, 2007

RBI widens ambit of priority sector lending; adds minorities

RBI widens ambit of priority sector lending; adds minorities

Mumbai, May. 21 (PTI): In order to enhance financial assistance to minority communities, Reserve Bank has included them under the ambit of weaker sections to whom domestic commercial banks are mandated to lend 10 per cent of their total loans sanctioned.

Weaker sections, which comes under priority sector for lending purposes, hitherto included scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, small and marginal farmers, artisans and distressed urban poor indebted to non-institutional lenders.

Domestic commercial banks have to lend 40 per cent of net loans to priority sectors, while foreign banks have to provide 32 per cent to these sectors.

Within priority sectors, domestic commercial banks have to give 10 per cent of their net lending to weaker sections, but no such specific target is set for foreign banks.

In the recent notification, RBI said in states, where any notified minority community/ies is, in fact, in majority, then only other notified minorities will be included in weaker sections.

These States/Union Territories are Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Sikkim, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep, the guidelines added.

RBI, however, has not fixed any specific target for lending to the minorities - Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi.

The new guidelines came after the Finance Ministry asked the Reserve Bank to amend the priority sector norms to include minority communities under "lending to weaker sections".

The issue was raised at Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s meeting with public sector bank chiefs and Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Usha Thorat last month.