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`Indian Bank must support rural growth'

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Can contribute to the establishment of PURAs, says Kalam

What he says
The bank should increase the number of branches to around 2,000 in the next three years
Five rural development projects must be created
Villager-friendly banking system which will free villagers from cycle of loans

THE PRESIDENT, Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Tamil Nadu Governor, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, and the Indian Bank Chairman and Managing Director, Mr K.C. Chakrabarty, at the centenary celebrations of Indian Bank in Chennai on Monday. — Bijoy Ghosh

Chennai , Sept. 4

The President of India, Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on Monday called upon the Indian Bank to support rural industries such as fishing, sea-weed and jatropha cultivation, keeping in line with its mission of becoming a `common man's bank'.

Speaking at a function organised here by the bank to kick-off its centenary celebrations, Mr Kalam noted that it had been proposed (by the Government of India) to establish 7,000 PURAs — acronym for Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas — throughout the country.

PURA envisages physical connectivity, electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity thereby creating economic connectivity in the cluster of villages forming the PURA.

Creation of PURAs

"Indian Bank with its rural base can contribute to the establishment of PURAs," he said.

The bank could consider creation of two types of PURAs - coastal and non-coastal. In the coastal PURAs, the focus could be on fishing, fish processing, support systems for fishing industry, seaweed cultivation and bio-fertilisers. In the non-coastal areas, the focus could be on using the core competence of the region such as creation of jatropha enterprises where the possibility of irrigation facilities are limited and agro-processing enterprises where agriculture and horticulture are dominant, he said.

Expansion sought

Elaborating on what he specifically wanted Indian Bank to do, Mr Kalam said that the bank should increase the number of branches from the existing 1,404 to at least 2,000 in the next three years. "Priority may be given to establishment of branches in the rural sector," he said. He wanted each branch to "have a unique business and sustainable societal objective".

The President also suggested that Indian Bank create five rural development projects similar to the bio-fuel project, the seaweed project and the agro-food processing project that could lead to employment generation. He also called upon the bank to set up entrepreneurial development centres to support the creation of PURAs.

Other schemes

"The Indian Bank can consider provision of medical insurance to the unorganised sector on the lines of Yeshaswini model followed by Karnataka as an extension of the healthcare scheme being already provided by the bank," he said.

The President said that he himself had seen villagers borrow money at higher interests to payback loans. "Such a burden of cycle of loans creates many societal problems," he said. The Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, who spoke earlier, said that he was happy that Indian Bank, whose very survival was doubtful at the time of his first stint as the Finance Minister, had turned the corner and was a strong bank again.

He wanted the bank to be "an uncommon bank for the common man".

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