Friday, August 6, 2010

Banks continue denying accounts to Muslim students

By Manzar Bilal,,
Patna: Notwithstanding the startling disclosure by National Commission For Minorities of gross communal profiling against Muslim students and subsequent letter by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs to Chief Secretaries of all states to check the menace, the banks have continued denying them scholarship accounts.
It seems banks have decided not to open zero-balance scholarship accounts for minority students come what may as cases are being reported from across the country. The latest is reported from Patna where a number of Muslim students were denied zero-balance accounts by a local branch of State Bank of India, the largest government bank in the country.
A group of students eligible for post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarships sponsored by the Central Government went to the Patna City Chowk Thana SBI branch on 3rd August and expressed their anger against the discrimination done with them. They complained that despite several attempts officials of the branch did not open their accounts on nil-balance and refused to have received any direction from higher authorities to open such accounts.

SBI, Patliputra Branch, Patna [TCN Photo: By Mudassir Rizwan]

This is not the first incident of its kind but a few days back similar cases came to light from parts of eastern Bihar where thousands of Muslim students were denied the accounts by ill-minded officials.
Last month the National Commission for Minorities disclosed details about discrimination by scheduled banks against the minority community. The commission received 1,508 related complaints in 2007-08 but the number rose to 2,268 in 2009-10. The figures for 2009-10 are for only nine months – July 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010.
The commission shocked the nation and prompted wide media attention when it said that over 90,000 Muslim students were refused to open scholarship bank accounts in Andhra Pradesh last year.
The Reserve Bank of India has also recently admitted low increase in bank account holders from 121 Minority concentration districts. During 2008-2009 the increase was just 4%, much less compared to the increase of 83.80% during 2007-2008.
Following the minority panel disclosures about non-opening of zero-balance accounts to minority students the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs last month sent a letter to the Chief Secretaries of all states asking them to take immediate measures to address the problem. The ministry asked them to follow the 2005 RBI circular that asks banks to open nil-balance, no-frills accounts to facilitate greater financial inclusion. The ministry has also written to Union Financial Services Secretary R. Gopalan and RBI Governor D. Subbarao seeking enforcement of the 2005 RBI guidelines.
But it seems banks are not heeding to these directions. Even though disturbing reports of religious discrimination are pouring in from many parts of the country the central government, which is running the multi-crore mega scholarship projects, does not seem to be serious to take stern action against the bank officials who are openly violating RBI circular to banks regarding opening accounts on nil-balance or very low balance to achieve the objective of greater financial inclusion. Isn’t it time for the state governments also to sit up to redress the grievances of the minority community?
Click the following link for RBI guidelines dated Nov.11 2005 sent to banks with reference to "No-Frills" account in order to achieve financial inclusion:

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