The government has given an assurance that it will look into the issues of bank rates and a nodal agency for women self-help groups (SHGs), highlighted by Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The assurance came from Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chauhan.

Initiating a short-duration discussion on the achievements and problems of women SHGs, Ms. Karat said the interest rate was very high and the government must subsidise it, making it a uniform four per cent. She also opposed the microfinance Bill which, she said, was being based on a model suggested by the World Bank and would be disastrous for the country and the SHGs would be most affected.

Ms. Karat said SHGs formed by Muslim women were being discriminated against in delivery of loans. The other disquieting trend was SC/ST women dropping out of the SHGs due to the ongoing agrarian crises. She called on the government to appoint a nodal agency or ministry to cover all issues of SHG functioning.

Shantaram Naik (Congress) said the SHGs had brought about a mini revolution in the country, and wanted a law to prevent the entry of anti-social elements into the movement.

Kanimozhi (DMK) said the SHGs were instrumental in raising the confidence level of women, who became actively involved in community development.

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