Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday sought the help of the banking community to achieve his goal of rapid and inclusive growth of the state by improving their micro-level functioning. He said banks proved to be a big hurdle in reaching out to the poor through various welfare schemes of the state.
He was delivering the valedictory address at a conference, Bihar: Banking on Inclusion, organized by Governance Now in Patna in collaboration with the department of planning and development, the government of Bihar, and the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI).
“With pain in my heart I urge you to help students to study and the poor to progress,” he appealed to the bankers attending the conference. He thanked Governance Now for organising a day-long discussion on the issues of inclusion and said: “The magazine which has organised this conference is called Governance Now. We are saying Development Now. And my appeal to the banks is Help Us Now!”
Kumar pointed out how poor banking practices foiled his attempts to achieve rapid inclusion. “I wanted welfare funds to be given to the beneficiaries through the banks. But opening a bank account proved impossible for them,” he said, narrating how the banks wouldn’t open accounts of students who were to be given money for clothes and cycles. When he wanted to give money under the housing scheme, the banks sought commission from the beneficiaries. Banks also sought a share of the loan the government gave to farmers. Even the central government was unable to provide funds in absence of bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
Kumar narrated how months after his government had given compensation to flood victims through cheques in 2007, the intended beneficiaries were found roaming around with cheques in their hands, unable to encash them.
“The problem is micro-management of banking functions. The banks have framed all the right rules and guidelines. The senior officers are well meaning. But these have no effect on the lower-level functionaries,” he lamented.
The chief minister pointed how he overcame corruption in lower bureaucracy in his government. He brought in the right-to-services law in 2011 and claimed, a year down the line, he was receiving little complaint. More than 2.14 crore people had benefited from the law.
He said if and when the centre brought in the citizens’ charter through the Lokpal bill, which was pending at present, he would propose to include the banking sector in it so that there was accountability. Until timely services were provided and the officials were held accountable for lapses and misdemeanour, things wouldn’t improve, he said.
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