Lack of awareness and NGOs part of the problem, says Minister

Credit flow to minorities may have improved in recent years because of specific government directives, but the Muslim community still does not have access to loans commensurate with its population.

Priority sector lending by public sector banks for the five notified groups, as part of the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for uplift of the minorities, has gone up in the past few years. But the Muslims have consistently got less than 50 per cent of the money set aside for the purpose. As Muslims constitute 72 per cent of the country’s minority population, this raises the issue of possible prejudices among banks.

The latest data available with the Ministry of Minority Affairs for community-wise credit disbursement shows that Muslims have not been able to break through the 50-per cent barrier. Of the Rs.1,83,072.45 crore given in credit to minorities so far this fiscal, Muslims have got Rs.87,603 crore, just 47.98 per cent of the total lending.

In contrast, Sikhs and Christians have been walking away with a bigger share. Sikhs, who make up 10.13 per cent of the minority population, have got 25.99 per cent of the credit with a total of Rs.47,577 crore. Christians, who constitute 12.71 per cent of the minority population, have pocketed 23.35 per cent of the total credit.

Data available for the third quarter of the 2012-13 fiscal show that this is a recurring pattern: Muslims have got 46.90 per cent of the credit, Sikhs 26.16 per cent and Christians 23.22 per cent, with the two other groups — Buddhists and Parsis — getting fairly small amounts.

Part of the problem, says Minority Affairs Minister K. Rehman Khan, is lack of awareness within the Muslim community of the programmes designed by the government for its uplift. This is compounded by the absence of NGOs in the community. Ever since the 15-point programme was unveiled in 2006, the RBI has been issuing periodic guidelines to all banks, flagging the need to ensure that 15 per cent of all priority sector lending goes to minorities.

The irony is that the target was essentially the Muslim community, as the Sachar Committee Report on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of Muslims in India found Muslims had trouble opening bank accounts and accessing credit. There has been an improvement in the situation, but the problem persists.