Kolkata gets its first Mahila bank

The country's banking industry started a new chapter with the launch of first Bharatiya Mahila Bank in Mumbai today, inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the presence of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union finance minister P Chidambaram.

To coincide with the birth anniversary of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, the inaugural of BMB branch at Nariman Point was one among the seven. The other branches, launched across the country simultaneously - came up in Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Guwahati, and Kolkata (at Park Street). Two more branches - Delhi and Indore - could not be inaugurated as it would have violated the election code of conduct.

The aim, officials say, is to extend financial services to women in general and women self-help groups in particular.

Manager of the bank, Sujata Barua said of the six-member staff, which includes her, the male-female ratio is 1:1.

"Even though the bank will cater to all customers, priority will be given to women. Financial inclusion among women is very poor. We will organise events and workshops to generate awareness among them," she said, and added that they intend to take help from the NGOs to reach women from the minority and backward class.

India's first women's bank is an initiative to increase the mere 26 per cent bank coverage among women in India. Chidambaram said that the per capita credit for women was 80 per cent less than that of men.

Dr Shasank Saxena, director, department of financial services, RBI, said the bank is a public sector enterprise and would stick to all the RBI rules.

Senior citizen Geeta Bhatia, one of the five women to get welcome kits for their savings account with the bank, said that often public sector bank employees did not cooperate. "With focus on women and a female manager at the helm of affairs, I would like to imagine that this bank would at least be compassionate with and extend cooperation to senior citizens such as me," she said.

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