India state-run banks 'turn away Muslims'

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

image captionMuslims make up India's largest minority community

State-owned banks in India have been accused of discriminating against the country's Muslim minority.

India's minorities watchdog has received a record number of complaints from Muslims who say they have been prevented from opening bank accounts.

India's Muslim community is among the poorest in the country.

Some bankers say it is not so much their religious background, but their economic status that makes it hard for Muslims to get banking facilities.

The National Commission of Minorities says that there has been a 100% increase in the number of complaints it has received over the past year from Muslims who say they are being prevented from opening accounts in state-run banks.

Reports say the worst case took place in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where some 90,000 Muslim students were unable to open accounts to deposit scholarship cheques given to them by the government.

Official reports frequently put Muslims at the bottom of India's social and economic ladder - even beneath than low-caste Hindus.

Their economic status means they are often excluded by private banks, which prefer more well-to-do clients.

Already a number of reports have suggested that India's Muslims fare poorly when it comes to getting access to quality education or employment opportunities.

This latest finding will add more pressure on a government which is seen as doing very little for the country's largest minority group.

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