In a first in the country’s history, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said India would have its first public sector Women’s Bank by this year-end.
Committing an initial capital of Rs 1,000 crore for this bank, Chidambaram even invited all Members of Parliament to its inauguration, once it gets necessary approvals and licence from the Reserve Bank, by October 2013.
“Women are at the head of many banks today, including two public sector banks, but there is no bank that exclusively serves women,” he said.
He said the proposed bank would lend mostly to women and women-run businesses, support self-help groups and women’s livelihood and predominantly employ women.
At present, there are all-women banks in the co-operative sector. For instance, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) set up a women-only bank in 1974. The bank is owned by self-employed women as shareholders, and policies are formulated by their own elected board of women workers.
Then, there is Konoklota Mahila Urban Co-operative Bank Ltd in Jorhat, Assam, which has been operating under a licence obtained from the RBI since 2000.
According to Anand Sinha, Deputy Governor, RBI, the women’s bank would be set up as a PSB and would not require separate guidelines. “It creates a level-playing field,” he said.
Such an institution would go a long way in empowering women, not just financially, but socially too, said Usha Ananthasubramanian, Executive Director of Punjab National Bank.
“Though there is some mention of such a bank (all women) in Pakistan, it has not made a mark. We should ensure that this bank for women emerges as niche, focused entity, and not just a cosmetic body,” Usha said.
Shinjini Kumar, Director, Tax & Regulatory Services, Banking Regulations at PwC, said the financial empowerment of women had a multiplier effect on the well-being of families and the economy.
Rajashree Nambiar, General Manager - Retail Banking Products & Segments, India & South Asia, observed that an all women management structure would promote a superior culture of ethics and integrity.
Syndicate Bank took the lead in starting all-women branches way back in the 1970s in Chennai, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram, said N. K. Thingalaya, former CMD. Those branches ranked very well in taking decisions and mobilising business.
Ajai Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, Corporation Bank, said that such a bank would be more popular in the rural areas.
“Just like how self-help groups have been able to help the community for increasing their income levels as well as their occasional requirements, women’s bank will be beneficial in semi-urban and rural areas to relate better with rural people,” he said.