MUMBAI (TIP): Bharatiya Mahila Bank, India’s first women’s bank, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today. The bank’s chairperson Usha Ananthasubramanian said the institution would lend exclusively to women. “Our target customers are individual women, selfhelp groups and business establishment owned by women,” Ananthasubramanian said after the inauguration function. The bank has an all-women board of directors, including prominent bankers such as Nupur Mitra, former CMD, Dena Bank; Renuka Ramnath, formerly with the ICICI Bank; MBN Rao, ex-CMD Canara Bank; industrialist Tanya Dubash; Kalpana Saroj, CEO, Kamani Tubes; Chhavi Rajawat, a sarpanch from Rajasthan; and Priya Kumar, a government-nominee. Lauding the efforts of the finance ministry, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who inaugurated the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB), hoped that the venture would help in improving the lot of the women.
“It is an acknowledged fact that access to finance and banking not only helps to empower women, but also broadensthe social base of development,” Manmohan Singh said. The Prime Minister said the government was working hard to ensure safety and security of women. “We have strengthened the law to provide for harsher punishment for sexual offences against women, but much more needs to be done,” he said. Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who promised to set up the women’s bank in his budget speech, said he had fulfilled his promise. “The BMB was not just a symbol of women empowerment but the substance of empowerment and will provide services to women and self-help groups,” Chidambaram said. He noted that only 26 per cent of women in India have bank accounts. Per capita credit for women is currently 8 per cent lower than that for men.
Chidambaram said it would be a universal bank offering all services like other commercial banks. “Bhartiya Mahila Bank will be a universal bank which will establish branches across India and in due course branches abroad,” he said. The bank would accept deposits and give loans with immediate effect. It will emphasise on funding for skill development to help in economic activity, according to the minister. The bank will have 25 branches by the end of this financial year is expected to open 39 branches by the time it completes one year of operations, officials said.