Monday, October 4, 2010

Private banks for Minorities

The announcement by the minority affairs ministry to instruct private banks for opening more branches and conducting development programs in the minority communities areas will be counterproductive as interest based loans will ruin the lives of people.

The Union Minister of Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid has been announcing a slew of schemes meant for the welfare of minorities since he took charge of the portfolio. Tragically, after more than six decades of Independence, the minorities in India still need various schemes for their upliftment.

The Sachar Committee formulated to analyse the economical, social and educational condition of the Muslim community found during its survey that the community is far backward in most fields. In the report, Justice Sachar recommends some immediate steps be taken to bring the community in the mainstream. The promise of implementing these recommendations by the secular Congress government has been serving as an election agenda to lure the minorities and get their votes.

Recently, Mr.Salman Khurshid took a step towards implementing the committee’s recommendations. His ministry has set up a national data bank along with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The stated objective of this step is to collect statistics for different social, economical and basic amenities of the social and religious minorities.

He also said that among the total 2573 schools to be established under Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, 453 are for the blocks dominated by minorities. Besides this, Mr. Salman Khurshid said that the government has approved development of various facilities in education departments of 90 minority dominated districts. So, in those districts, 559 schools, 6679 additional classes, 37 hostels and 34 laboratories for primary, secondary and high school standard education will be constructed. These all are positive developments taking place in the ministry for the minorities.

One initiative of the ministry is a cause for worry among the muslim community. The ministry has directed the private sector banks to open more branches in the Muslim-dominated districts and introduce various development programs there. This is not considered positive considering that the private sector banks are purely profit oriented enterprises. While the good intention of Mr. Khurshid-that of development of the minorities-is beyond doubt many wonder whether this initiative will yield the sought out results.

When the government really wants that economically backward Indians to live a dignifed life, have a source to earn their livelihood and also have a house to live in, it launches schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojna, and Indira Awas Yojana ,etc. There is no involvement of the banks in these schemes.

The finance ministry under “Prime Minister’s15-Point Programme” opened 1759 branches of public sector banks in 2007-2008. These banks during the period distributed Rs. 2, 31,223 crores as loan to the sectors where minorities are not the dominating population.

Developmental programs initiated by the banks require the beneficiaries to take interest based loans from them. In reality, such programs instead of making people prosperous mar their lives.

It is a fact that only those resort to bank loans who lack financial resources to meet their needs or who want to benefit from a certain scheme but do not have financial means. The subsequent burden of interest levied due to inability to pay the debt in time, compels them to take extreme step that include even ending their lives. There is no denying that thousands of farmers in our country are committing suicide owing to these reasons.

In the past too, poor would take loans from rich but there is hardly any occurrence in which a person had committed suicide due to debt. But, nowadays, it is a trend.
Welfare programs initiated by the private banks cannot serve as a solution to economic problems the minorities face. Schemes without the burden of high interest bank loans should be introduced for these areas. If not then zero-interest loans should be made available.

Staff Writer

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