Special Correspondent

Takes exception to his response on lending to minorities

  • Relied on Prime Minister's 15 Point Programme communication: Chidambaram
  • Brinda points to Principal Secretary's November 24 letter

    NEW DELHI: Communist Party of India (Marxist) Member of Parliament Brinda Karat on Thursday expressed shock over the response of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram suggesting he came to know of a November directive from the Prime Minister's Office, regarding 15 per cent target of priority sector bank credit for minorities, this January.

    Terming it "shocking," Ms. Karat said the Finance Minister had in a response to her earlier letter, acknowledged that the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister conveyed the Prime Minister's direction that steps should be taken to ensure that 15 per cent of such lending be earmarked for the minorities.

    "Upon receipt of your letter [of December 21, 2006] I called for the file which was put up to me on 3rd January, 2007, I found that, in the meantime, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister had written a letter dated 24th November 2006 to Secretary (Financial Services) conveying the Prime Minister's direction that step should be taken to ensure that 15 per cent of priority sector lending in all categories is earmarked for the minority communities. On enquiring about the action taken on the letter, I have been informed that, upon receipt of the letter, the Banking Division has been in consultation with the CMDs of select public sector banks as well as RBI. I have directed the Banking Division to complete the consultations as early as possible so that a suitable decision may be taken. The matter is therefore receiving my attention," Mr. Chidambaram said in his January 10 letter to Ms. Karat.

    In the letter, the Finance Minister said that when he answered a question in the Rajya Sabha on the subject, he had relied on the Prime Minister's 15 Point Programme for the welfare of the minorities communicated to the Banking Division on July 12 which talked of 40 per cent target of net bank credit for priority sector lending for domestic banks.

    It was said that appropriate percentage of the priority sector lending in all categories was targeted for the minorities.

    To a specific query by her, in her letter, whether the Government had earmarked a percentage, Mr. Chidambaram had said "we are not earmarking any percentage." She said this was when the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, T.K.A Nair, had in his November 24 letter communicated to the Secretary (Financial Sector) that the Prime Minister haddirected that 15 per cent of priority sector lending be earmarked for the minority communities.