W Bengal plans kisan cards to widen rural reach

Written by Commodities Bureau | Kolkata, Oct 23 | Updated: Oct 24 2008, 07:15am hrs
To bring in more farmers under the credit net of the mainstream banking system, the the West Bengal agriculture department is planning to push banks to issue 15 lakh kisan credit cards (KCCs) by 2012. The department has taken up the issue at the state-level bankers committee (SLBC) meeting. By 2012, we should have at least 30 lakh Kisan credit cards from the present 15 lakh, said Sanjeev Chopra, agriculture secretary, West Bengal. Of an approximate 68 lakh people having operational holdings, 70% are small and marginal farmers.

The ratio of corpus to bank finance is 1.13 only, which indicates under-financing by banks, said a top official in the state finance department. The requirement of farmers credit in West Bengal is about Rs 15,000 crore according to estimates by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard). While the state government eyed a disbursal of Rs 5,000 crore of rural credit this fiscal, the formal banking structure in the state could disburse only a little more than Rs 3,000 crore.

We are talking to several banks including cooperative banks to forge a way out, said Sanjeev Chopra. Increasing the number of kisan credit cards will bring more people under the mainstream credit net, he said. The banks have infrastructure constraints and we are ready to lend our manpower to the banks for KCCs, he said. The department is even ready to offer special incentives to the banks against KCC accounts.

According to sources, out of 3,354 gram panchayats (GPs) in West Bengal, about one-third do not have any bank branch. A task force formed by the SLBC has identified about 200 GPs for establishing banking facilities. We have given targets to our principal agricultural officers and they have been asked to at least double it by the this five-year plan, Chopra said. The department is planning to creatre three to five lakh new KCC accounts every year to achieve the target.