Khursheed urged to relax bank account norm

Complaints have reached the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) that as in Andhra Pradesh, in Bihar too, banks have refused to allow tens of thousands of Muslim students to open scholarship accounts.

On July 28, the MMA wrote to all State Chief Secretaries directing them to facilitate the opening of “no frills, nil balance” accounts by minority students. This followed feedback that in Andhra Pradesh banks had turned away as many as 90,000 Muslim students who had wanted to open bank accounts to apply for scholarships. A bank account is a prerequisite for a Muslim student wishing to apply for scholarships awarded by the MMA.

The complaints with respect to Bihar were forwarded to the MMA by Surajpuri Vikas Parishad, a Bihar-based voluntary organisation working in the area of Muslim and Dalit welfare. At a meeting with Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed, SVP convener Mohammad Adil Hasan placed the number of students turned away by banks in Bihar at “not less than 50,000.”

Mr. Hasan, who has been holding scholarship-awareness camps in about a dozen districts of Bihar, told the Minister that he had himself downloaded and distributed about 50,000 forms to students. However, most of them could not fill out the forms because the banks refused to let them open accounts. In the end, the students deposited the incomplete forms with the State government. Mr. Hasan urged Mr. Khursheed to relax the bank account condition in order not to disadvantage students without valid bank accounts.

In a memorandum handed over to the Minister, Mr. Hasan listed the names of several nationalised banks, including some rural and gramin banks, that had turned away the Muslim students. He also said that the matter had been brought to the notice of Bihar's Principal Secretary and other State officials: “Despite all the efforts, the bank officials are still unmoved. So kindly ensure that there is some alternative to the account opening norms because in the present scenario it is impossible for the students to open student accounts.”

In its July 28 letter to the Chief Secretaries, the MMA reminded them of a standing Reserve Bank of India circular to banks asking them to extend banking facilities to “vast sections of population in order to achieve the objective of greater financial inclusion.”

The MMA's letter noted: “However, it appears that in many cases these instructions are not being adhered to by the banks in letter and spirit. Thus a substantial number of scholarship applicants are being kept out of the ambit of banking services.”