Special Correspondent

Government committed to meeting credit needs of weaker sections: Chidambaram

  • Outright and blatant discrimination: Brinda Karat
  • Banks asked to sharply increase lending to minorities

    NEW DELHI: Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday admitted in the Rajya Sabha that the disbursal of credit to the minorities was not satisfactory. "There has been a visible improvement but the situation is still not satisfactory. We must sharply step up lending to the minorities," the Minister said in response to the main question by C. Perumal (AIADMK).

    "I would be the first to concede that lending to minorities is not up to the mark," he said and asked those who were refused loans to lodge complaints with the Banking Ombudsman, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or the Government. The Minister said the Government was committed to paying attention to the credit needs of the weaker sections, especially the minorities.

    Mabel Rebello (Congress) said that tribals who were minorities suffered from dual disadvantage and not a single loan above Rs. 1 crore had been given to them in the whole of central India. Mr. Chidambaram admitted that there was inadequate access for credit to this section. "Who can argue about that? We are impressing upon the banks to step up lending to the farm sector, students and the minorities. We will sharply step up lending to minorities and among them to the scheduled castes," he added.

    Mr. Chidambaram was challenged by Brinda Karat (Communist Party of India - Marxist) who termed the inadequate credit disbursal as "outright and blatant discrimination against the minority community. The active discriminatory policies are very clear in the work profile of Muslim minorities. It has the highest percentage of self-employed population and yet credit is not available to them." The Minister's reply led to a brief and hot exchange between him on the one side and Ms. Karat and Shahid Siddiqui (Samajwadi Party) on the other over the use of the word `semantics' at the end of which Mr. Chidambaram apologised.

    After tempers cooled, the Minister said following the adoption of the 15-point programme by the Government this year, the RBI had amended the master circular and asked banks to sharply increase credit to minorities.