Nationalised banks play a crucial role in helping rural students pursue higher education, said P. Chidambaram, Union Home Minister, here on Saturday.

Speaking after declaring open Union Bank of India's branch at Maramadakki village, about 30 km from here , Mr. Chidambaram said but for the educational loans being sanctioned by the nationalised banks, higher education would be a distant dream for most eligible rural youth.

Mr. Chidambaram, who earlier distributed education loan to the tune of Rs. 18 lakh to 12 students, including four girls on the occasion, said an analysis of the student beneficiaries revealed that most of them hailed from farming community. “Pursuing higher educational course involving huge expenditure will not be a possibility for them, but for the loan sanctioned by the banks,” he observed.

Mr. Chidambaram appealed to the women members of self-help groups to avail themselves of the housing loan facility from the bank's branch at Maramadakki. He also urged the panchayat union chairpersons and elected representatives of local bodies to create awareness among the rural masses of depositing their savings in the bank branch for ensuring the financial viability of banks.

He said this was the sixth branch to be started by various nationalised banks after the Alankudi Assembly segment was brought under the Sivaganga Parliamentary constituency.

Earlier, two branches had been opened at Alankudi; one each at Silattur, Kothamangalam and Vadakadu villages in the constituency. “The Central government is keen on meeting the credit needs of rural masses. No bank can boast of viable functioning without a strong credit portfolio,” he said appealing to the villagers to take maximum advantage of the various credit schemes.

S. Rajendran, General Manager, Union Bank of India, Central Office, Mumbai, said the branch would sanction loans to eligible farmers and students. The bank had sanctioned education loans to the tune of Rs. 1,800 crore benefiting 75,000 students across the country. The branch at Maramadaki was fully computerised with anywhere banking facility.

S. Murali, Deputy General Manager, Regional Office, Madurai, said village adoption programme being implemented by the bank had gone well with the masses.

In Madurai region, the bank had sanctioned farm loans to the tune of Rs. 416 crore. The “Union GreenCard” was also popular among the farmers under which short and long term loans to the tune of Rs. 104 crore had been sanctioned to 24,900 farmers. This was the firth branch of the Union Bank of India in Pudukottai district, he added.

R.M. Subburam and Sundaram, MLAs, C.Ve. Meyyanathan, K.P.K. Thangavel, chairpersons of Aranthangi and Tiruvarankulam panchayat unions respectively, and Pushparaj, District Congress Committee president, were present.