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Sitharaman urges full vaccination for economy, industry to work normally

Calls for more private sector participation in extending reach of govt schemes to rural India

Coronavirus Vaccine | Coronavirus | Indian Economy

Shine Jacob  |  Chennai 

Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister on Sunday said only vaccination can bring the economy back on track and allow industry to work normally. The minister also urged more private sector participation in extending the reach of government schemes to rural India.

Inaugurating the centenary celebrations of Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB), the FM said, “Of the 1.3 billion people, we have already given at least one dose of vaccine to around 730 million. We have to wear masks even now. Once two doses are done, we believe that it will not be needed. For the economy, industry to work normally, vaccines are needed.”

"Today, people are able to conduct business, traders are able to procure products to run businesses, (thereby) boosting the economy... So, vaccination is the only medicine (to combat the virus, to boost the economy)."

The country’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage surpassed the cumulative figure of 738.19 million (73,82,07,378) on Sunday, adding 72,86,883 doses in the last 24 hours. Sitharaman said that due to the aggressive financial inclusion programme — implemented through the Jan Dhan Yojana — the government was successful in helping the poor in rural India by transferring Rs 1,500 to their accounts during the first three months of the pandemic.

“This would not have been possible had we not launched PMJDY,” she said.

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched on August 28, 2014. During the pandemic, Rs 500 per month was credited to the accounts of women account holders under for three months (April to June 2020) under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana. A total of around Rs 30,945 crore was credited to such accounts during that time. The minister added that schemes like Mudra Yojana and Svanidhi, too, helped people in the rural areas. She urged the private sector banks to take up government schemes more aggressively.

Sitharaman said micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) were able to tide over the crisis and are able to run their business now because of the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECGS) launched by the government. Under ECGS, loans to the tune of Rs 2.73 trillion have been sanctioned of the enhanced Rs 4.5-trillion limit so far. Of this, banks have so far disbursed around Rs 2.14 trillion.

A lot of energy of the banking sector has gone towards recovery of non-performing assets (NPAs), she said, adding that ‘prompt corrective measures’ helped the sector to come back to the current level.

“Today, the sector is stable after continuous prompt steps that the government has taken. Many banks in the public sector have come back to normalcy now,” she said.

According to the latest data, NPAs declined from Rs 7.39 trillion in March 2019 to Rs 6.16 trillion in March 2021, down 17 per cent over two years.

The minister also asked TMB to take up the digitisation drive further to improve financial inclusion, saying it is appreciable that around 74 per cent of its lending is towards the priority sector.

“There are a lot of prospects for banking... I think it is important to completely bring in digitisation. Digitisation cannot be avoided for your own good and for the sake of customers,” she said. TMB has already filed a draft red herring prospectus with the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India for an Initial Public Offering. In April this year, the bank’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer K V Rama Moorthy had said the lender was planning a Rs 1,000-crore IPO this fiscal year.

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First Published: Sun, September 12 2021. 14:25 IST