<p>The financial inclusion porgramme in the state has gained ground with banks covering 1875 of the mandated 1877 unbanked villages with a population of over 2000.
By the end of March this year, banks have extended facilities for banking in 1875 villages through opening brick and mortar branches in 54 villages, appointment of banking correspondents in 1738 villages and mobile van banking in 83 villages. In the remaining two villages, Andhra Bank and Indian Bank are likely to complete the financial inclusion programme (FIP) soon.
While PSU banks have dominated the FIP, extending banking facilities to 1162 villages, the five regional rural banks- Baitarani Gramya Bank, Kalinga Gramya Bank, Utkal Gramya Bank, Neelachal Gramya Bank and Rushikulya Gramya bank between them have covered 711 villages. The two top private sector banks- ICICI Bank and Axis Bank have contributed their mite to FIP- covering one village each.In toto, banks have opened 614090 financial inclusion accounts.
Although appointment of banking correspondents and opening of bank accounts has been initiated in the unbanked villages, issue of smart cards and initiation of transactions is yet to take off in most villages. The banks have been advised to gear up the transaction process for various services like remittances, purchase of micro insurance products as well as normal deposit and withdrawal transactions.
It may be noted that during a special meeting of State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) chaired by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor D Subbarao, it was decided that banks should open at least 200 brick and mortar branches in unbanked villages.
Pursuant to the meeting, the RBI-Bhubaneswar has allocated the remaining 146 centres among different banks of the state. Most of the banks have opted for opening ultra small branches at these centres.
The department of financial services under Union ministry of finance has directed the banks to open ultra small branches if brick and mortar branches were not viable. These branches were to upgraded to full-fledged branches after they are found to be viable.