The Reserve Bank does not have any target in mind on the number of banking licences to be issued in this round, a senior official of the central bank said on Monday.

“As of now we have received 26 applications. Financial inclusion has to be a pre-condition for such banks to come. How many banks will come that depends upon their complete plan and analysis of their proposals,” the RBI Executive Director R. Gandhi said at an event in Mumbai.

“We will have to wait for few months before we decide how many banks will be given licence. There is no target number,” he added.

The number would depend on the proposal and business plans of applicants, he said. “It depends upon the proposal and business plans including their proposed efforts on financial inclusion. We cannot predict how many applicants will pass through these requirements,” he added.

A total of 26 players have applied for banking licence, including the likes of India Post, LIC HFL, Reliance Capital, Aditya Birla Nuvo, and L&T Finance among others.

In the guidelines for licensing of new banks, the central bank has put in a string of requirements to further its financial inclusion agenda, including making it mandatory for proposed banks to open at least 25 per cent of branches in unbanked areas.

On the issue of financial inclusion, Gandhi said there are enormous challenges that lie ahead in achieving it.

“Post independence, we had a resolution to give attention to poverty alleviation. Our economic planning had poverty alleviation as a key plank...Still, these forty odd years, efforts have not made serious dent. This indicates the enormous challenges that lie ahead for us in achieving financial inclusion,” he said.

He also said that several new ideas and innovative approaches were required to achieve this goal.

The RBI Governor D. Subbarao was originally supposed to address the gathering at a central Mumbai college on Monday, but Mr. Gandhi had to step-in as a last minute arrangement as the Governor rushed to New Delhi. He was also not able to make it to another engagement at a college in the city.

Dr. Subbarao will be meeting Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and they are likely to discuss challenges on the macroeconomic front.

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