Does India need a bank for women?

 
Indian women Most Indian women don't have a bank account

Does India need a bank for women?

India's government thinks so. Plans for such a bank - the first state-run one of its kind in India - were announced in the annual budget.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the bank was likely to be launched in October, with an initial capital of $184m (£120m), and will be run by the government.

The bank will employ women, lend mostly to women and "address gender-related issues, empowerment and financial inclusion", he said.

On the face of it, a bank for women appears to make sense.

Just 26% of women in India have an account with a formal financial institution, compared with 46% of men. That means an account in either a bank, a credit union, a co-operative, post office or a microfinance institution, according to a recent study by the World Bank.

With more and more women going to work in India - and a larger number of them in the informal economy - a bank for women, say its supporters, helps empower and provide financial security.

Many Indian women typically give their earnings to their husbands - when in fact women are seen as more astute savers than men and it would make sense for them to have a bank account of their own.

But experts like Vijay Mahajan, a leading social entrepreneur, says a bank for women is mere tokenism in a country where there are "deep institutional problems" which lead to financial exclusion of women.

For one, he says, banks don't lend to women easily because a significant number of them work from home and are not a part of the formal economy.

Also, banks insist on collateral against loans and since a large number of Indian women don't have the rights or title to property, they are unable to provide any collateral.

Critics of the move also wonder why the government does not replicate the example of Sewa Bank, a 41-year-old all women's co-operative bank, which was begun in Gujarat by social worker Ela Bhatt.

The profit-making bank has more than 60,000 members, and offers savings, credit and insurance.

Others believe what India really needs is more financial inclusion for both women and men.

Only 35% of people have access to banking services against a global average of 50%.

There are only around 100,000 bank branches in India and a large number of the country's more than 650,000 villages don't have a single bank.

Poverty, illiteracy, lack of regular income and steep transaction costs keep out the poor from India's banking system. Many are at the mercy of predatory money lenders who charge steep interest rates and often bankrupt borrowers.

India's central bank has initiated moves to bolster financial inclusion: no-frills savings accounts with low minimum balance requirements; the use of regional languages in banking documents; using microfinance institutions and NGOs for improved outreach; and providing easier credit and financial education.

India possibly needs more of this rather than a bank for women.

 
Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 70.

    @Olga Rikova - I believe you're missing the point here. There are plenty of articles about the need to instill respect and value for women in India - http://annasempe.blogspot.com/2013/01/women-rights-and-respect.html Starting this bank is one such platform to help change attitudes and EMPOWER women - and not just financially... the success of Sewa Bank in Gujarat is a case in point.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    Judging by some of the articles on women's rights in India like on http://b24.in/20130170/womens-rights-in-india/ I hardly think that starting a bank for women is going to make any difference in terms of achieving gender equality.. what is needed is attitudinal change and I doubt this would really support that process.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 68.

    Does India need a bank for women? Perhaps not, but having one does not harm anybody. It looks like this decision is made keeping election in mind. I do not remember anybody making a point that the banks do not serve men and women equally, Most banks, if not all, care what you bring it them, how much money and business that is.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 66.

    @DavidinUSA

    So I see, your agenda here is to make Indians ashamed of themselves. RAPE no matter which nation it happens is a traumatic experience for the victim and there are plenty of cases in US of A. How is stating this FACT somehow relates to your rant?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    #25.Ankit

    "Most American women are also victims of domestic violence and abuse."

    To equate treatment of US and Indian women shows a disconnect from reality. The Indian woman is often treated worse than a dog is treated in the US. Indians should be ashamed of this.


    Jay - thanks for your intelligent and generally on-the-mark posts.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 64.

    Ankit. I don't build my opinion on the basis of what few idiot socialite or feminists say in their fancy kitty parties.
    We must have wisdom to separate chaff frm grain- particularly in this era of reality shows & internet.
    If I think that I wld get away with harassing women (or otherwise) in bus, then be assured that there r many who wld do worse to my near & dear ones- may be in a palace or BMW.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 63.

    What India needs is strict Laws and institutions overseeing that they are implemented firmly in every case.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    @Jay

    Good point to end this conversation. I have huge respect for Indian women and all that they have achieved despite hurdles they face everyday, even though it may sound funny now. But without hearing both sides, its unfair to form an opinion or give judgement. Feminists are making it worse for both women and men by their outrageous demands all the time. Equality not unfair privileges is needed

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 61.

    If you like to live like a tiger with your head high without doing any crime, corruption, sycophancy then there is a high chance that soon you would attain "highly endangered" status. On the other hand, if you prefer to live like a chicken- there is no danger at all to become extinct.
    It's all personal choice that we learn from our parents & society.

    Few still refuse to live like a chicken.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 60.

    @ Ankit.
    We chose options in life based on our own experience, education & expectation from our own life. We all agree that the system is totally corrupt. Now what?
    Keep on helping the same system, being part of it, to make it more corrupt & sacrifice our future generations too? OR do ur part knowing that u r fighting probably a loosing battle with huge personal cost?

    Choices have consequences.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 59.

    @Jay "I'm not sure if you listen to much to wrong women or if such women (who "rant against men") reach u more easily!
    Type of birds attracted depends on type of seeds one throws."

    I simply refuse t accept ready made feminists propaganda made of some truth but mostly lies without contesting it with arguments, outrageous at first sight but may be closer to truth. I have an open mind.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 58.

    i don't get it, reallly. most employees at banks in india _are_ women. hello? except for that mean looking loan officer.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    If a woman want her reserved seat in a bus, she is not fit to get equal right- how strong she may shout. Now comes the hard part. If you (men) like to occupy ladies' seat than vacating it for a young, able woman then you also shd be ready to support any such lady to fight rowdy romeos disturbing her.
    Now it's personal choice to decide what should be done first & ur personal duty/ethics.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    @Jay"Any policy & plan depend first on facts & statistic"

    A system which is corrupt to the core, inefficient and incompetent, fudges data all the time. It was you only who said many reports of crimes against women are not filed by police. Right! Similarly, many men have been blackmailed, harassed, and sent to jail under false cases filed by the police. How reliable is the data and statistics now?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 55.

    @ Ankit.
    I'm not sure if you listen to much to wrong women or if such women (who "rant against men") reach u more easily!
    Type of birds attracted depends on type of seeds one throws.

    The women I prefer to talk to mostly know that if they want dignity & equal rights then they MUST give dignity & take equal responsibility. Making sorry face, nagging, begging would not and should not help.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 54.

    @Jay
    "How can I know that U don't have some personal grudges against women, like many 'failed' men?"

    See, women/feminists can violently rant against men, disrespect and abuse them, blame them for all of their own faults, but as soon a male turns the table, how easily we get tagged of being "chauvinists", "failed men" have "personal grudges" against women. Its funny but sad at the same time.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 53.

    @ Ankit. Women on the contrary can play the "woman" card but not men.
    ##
    I agree with u. That exactly explains my view (48). Almost everyone in India is trying to play the victim card. Women are no exception. Everyone is trying to exploit the failure of Indian system.

    U can see same trend on social issues related to any minority- religious, caste, language, state etc. Do you get the link now?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    Any policy & plan depend first on facts & statistic. How can I know that U don't have some personal grudges against women, like many 'failed' men?
    Can u site data & analysis to support your view/facts from credible source? Otherwise none will trust u & ur 'facts'.

    I know majority Indian media is biased, mostly have its own political &/or corporate hidden agendas than delivering news.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 51.

    @Jay
    "But it's the failure of our political, social & judicial system that fail to protect weaker sex more than men."

    They have failed everyone, men and women. Women on the contrary can play the "woman" card but not men. We already have laws which state different mild punishments for women because they are WOMEN. Same crime, Men get more harsh punishment. Explain WHY?

 

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