By Our Correspondent
KOLKATA:The President Pranab Mukherjee attended the first Foundation Day of Bandhan Bank in Kolkata, West Bengal on Tuesday.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that he was happy to be present on the occasion of the first anniversary of the setting up of the Bandhan Bank. He had been invited to inaugurate the start of the Bandhan Bank last year but could not do so because of certain compelling reasons.
The President said that in October 2010, in his village Kirnahar, he first got an opportunity to know Bandhan and its founder Shri Chandrashekhar Ghosh at a function for rural borrowers. He was interested in learning the story of Shri Ghosh of organizing self – help groups and its working effectively to provide micro-finance to poor people.
The President said that he has closely watched the development of the banking sector over the years as Minister of Banking and Revenue, Finance Minister and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. He said that in 2010 it was decided that the Reserve Bank of India would soon open up the banking sector for financial inclusion.
It gave him satisfaction thatthree years later, when Reserve Bank asked for applications seeking bank licenses, Bandhan bank was one of those, who applied for it and got it successfully. The first year’s performance of Bandhan Bank is encouraging. It was important to provide facilities and reach out to those people who did not have access to them.
Bandhan Bank Limited was incorporated on 23rd December 2014 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bandhan Financial Holdings Limited. Bandhan received the in-principle approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for setting up a universal bank in April 2014; the banking regulator gave its final nod in June 2015. Incidentally, Kolkata-headquartered Bandhan is the first bank to be set up in eastern part of India after Independence.
Bandhan Financial Holdings is owned by Bandhan Financial Services Limited (BFSL), the largest micro finance organization in India. Its public shareholders include International Finance Corporation (IFC), Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), Caladium Investment Pte. Ltd. (a company managed by GIC Special Investments Private Limited), Bandhan Employees Welfare Trust, and a few individuals.
The RBI licensing norms stipulate that a new bank must have a Rs 500 crore capital. Bandhan Bank starts with a capital base of Rs 2,570 crore and this will soon rise to Rs 3,052 crore.
Founded in 2001, under the visionary leadership of Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, a senior Ashoka Fellow, BFSL is involved in giving loans to small borrowers who have no access to formal banking services. In past 15 years, BFSL has earned credibility and many accolades for financing small entrepreneurs and around 6.7 million women borrowers.
The organization has a network of 2,022 branches spread across 22 Indian states and Union territories, serviced by over 15,000 employees. As on 31 March, 2015, BFSL had a loan book of around ₹ 9,524 crore and an impressive repayment rate of over 99%.
Mukherjee also inaugurated a new office building of Bharat Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that the Bharat Chamber of Commerce is one of India’s oldest chambers with a history going back to the year 1900 when it was formed as an Association of Merchants belonging to a particular community.
The President stated that the land of Eastern India comprising Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Odisha and the other states of North East have since centuries been the land of India’s renaissance and reformation. Apart from being the breeding ground of various cultures and religions, it is this land that witnessed excellence in indigenous handlooms, setting up of nascent industries around jute and tea, iron ore, coal and petroleum.
The President said that the Bharat Chamber of Commerce comprising Captains of Industries from this region have a special challenge and responsibility on their shoulders. He stated that while he exhorted them to avail of opportunities and drive the engines of growth, he would also like to impress upon them that the growth models and techniques that they use should essentially take into account ways and means that ensure equitable growth.