CHIKMAGALUR: T.Y. Prabhu, executive director of the Union Bank of India, said here on Tuesday that his bank was fully prepared to face the challenge posed by the entry of foreign banks in the country by 2011.

Speaking to presspersons after inaugurating the 100th branch of the bank in Karnataka, Mr. Prabhu said that a new scheme, Nava Nirman, has been introduced by the bank in this regard.

Under this scheme, housing loans, agricultural loans for small and marginal farmers, education loans and advances for small and medium industries will be made available in the rural areas.

Stating that all the 2,500 branches of the bank have been brought under the core banking sector, he said the bank stood fifth in the country.

The bank intends to open 500 additional branches of which 30 will be in the State.

Replying to a question, he stressed the need to extend financial assistance to farmers who were facing difficulties due to crop loss. He said efforts were being made to bring roadside traders under the banking system.

L.N. Vasudeva Rao, general manager of the bank, spoke. G.R. Lavale, regional manager, and Kishore Kalyanpur, branch manager, were present.