MISCELLANEY

SBI's micro-credit policy

SBI's micro-credit policy has empowered self help groups to bring institutional finance to the rural reaches of Bengal. The growth in micro finance has been on the rise over the last few years. It has almost been a win-win situation for both parties - the beneficiary in the rural areas and bank. The former managing to steer clear of money lenders and small finance companies and the latter happy to be able to show a 100 percent recovery at the year end. 

SBI's micro credit on the Sagar Islands, disbursed though the self help groups preferably NGOs, to the rural borrowers, has been thumping success. These self help groups or SHG's comprise ten to twelve members, generally women, who are below the poverty line. These women deposit Rs.15-20 per month depending on their financial capability for about six months. Thereafter, they are entitled to a micro-loan, almost three times the amount deposited in these last six months.

The loan is then distributed to three members who need it most. Those women who avail of the loan then repay it within the next six months. In about two years time all the members in the SHG are in a position to draw micro-credit. 

For the flood-prone area of Sundarbans, which has been in the constant throes of uncertainties especially affecting the under-privileged, the system of micro credit has worked wonders. The recipients of the loans have been mostly women who have been able to tide over economic problems in a big way.

SBI has a cluster of about six branches around Kakdwip, and this has been able to provide great succcour to the people in the region. According to Shri T.G. Banerjee, AGM, PR and Community services banking, about Rs.59.44 lakhs have been disbursed to 595 SHGs as on February 28, 2001 in the Bengal circle. This was about Rs.31.21 lakh disbursed the previous fiscal.

"Coastal fishing and agriculture have been extensively financed by the bank. Besides, the success of SHGs has been phenomenal as they have stopped being lured by small finance companies or money lenders who claim interests of Rs.10-15 a month", said Mr. Himangshu Ranjan Sur, Branch Manager, Kakdwip. On a comparative scale, SBI lends to the NGOs at 11 per cent which is then lent to the SHG at 16 percent. 

Mr. Nazrul Islam, Secretary of INSS, the NGO, said "This micro credit has helped facilitate an integrated development in the entire region".

Food processing sector target is 15.4 lakh tonne

Food processing industry has got complete exemption from excise duty in the Union Budget and has targeted a 15.4 lakh tonne production of processed fruits and vegetables in the next fiscal.

"In the wake of the tax concessions the food processing industry has got, it has planned to take a slew of measures including low cost packaging material, own retail channels, better technology and trained manpower to achieve a capacity utilisation of 70 percent in 2001-02", Executive Secretary, All India Food Processors Association, Shri K.P. Sarin said.

He said the blueprint had been prepared to increase the annual processing to 15.4 lakh tonnes from the current nine lakh tonnes which was only 40 percent of the industry's capacity of processing 22 lakh tonnes.