In a landmark development the country on Tuesday got its first all-woman bank, which will be universal in nature, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launching the Bharatiya Mahila Bank as a step towards empowerment of women.
The bank, a pioneering initiative announced in the Union Budget, was launched with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore and will have seven branches in major cities to start with.
It has drawn on a majority of cadre from state-run lenders, with Usha Ananthasubramanian as the Chairperson and Managing Director. She was earlier the Executive Director with the Punjab National Bank.
In another first, it has an all-woman, eight-member board. The board consists of a business graduate sarpanch from Rajasthan, Chhavi Rajawat, Dalit entrepreneur Kalpana Saroj, who turned around a tubes business, retired public banker Nupur Mitra, academic Pakiza Samad, private equity professional Renuka Ramnath, Godrej Group executive Director Tania Dubash and Priya Kumar, a Government nominee.
The bank, headquartered in New Delhi, started operations with immediate effect with seven branches and as many automated teller machines (ATMs). It has targeted setting up 25 branches and 100 ATMs by March.
Coinciding with the 96th birthday of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the first branch at a function in Mumbai in the presence of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, coalition leaders Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah, besides Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Singh said women lag behind men in areas such as entrepreneurial skills, employment, literacy and health.
“The setting up of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank is a small step towards economic empowerment of our women,” he said adding that the sad reality is that women in India face discrimination and hardship at home, school, at their places of work and in public places. Women’s social, economic and political empowerment remains a distant goal.
“We have gathered here to witness the beginning of a unique institution, Singh said, adding that “the bank will provide financial services predominantly to women and women self-help groups”.
Chidambaram said that the bank will be a universal bank which will have unique products designed for women and devote special attention to the funding needs of over 60 lakh self-help groups.
Pointing out that women account for a paltry 7.3 per cent of total credit in the financial system, Congress President Sonia Gandhi hoped the new bank would emerge as a catalyst for gender justice and equality.
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