In order to promote financial inclusion, a Parliamentary panel today said banks should open branches in rural and unbanked areas and treat them as "service centre" instead of "profit centre".
"The Committee in their earlier reports had expressed their view that the rural branches should be considered as a service centre and not merely as a profit centre," Standing Committee on Finance said in a report tabled in Parliament today.
"With this perspective in view, the Committee believe that the proposition of brick & mortar branches in sparsely and unbanked areas would still be sustainable in the longer run and thus needs to be pursued earnestly," it said.
The Panel, headed by Yashwant Sinha, recommended the Finance Ministry to provide necessary support to the banks, PSBs in particular, to open brick & mortar branches in unbanked areas on "mission mode".
The Committee have been emphasising that no other model can substitute brick & mortar branches in achieving the goal of financial inclusion, it added.
In the meantime, it said "the Ministry may review the Business Correspondent (BC) or Business Facilitator (BF) model for better results in the interim, while ensuring that it should not become an instrument of exploitation of the rural poor."
Social obligations on the part of private banks must also be strictly enforced, it added.
Expressing concern over the rising bad loans, the panel asked the Government and RBI to constitute a special NPA (Non-Performing Asset) Management Cell at the highest level to review the write-off or up-gradation and restructured advances and also to monitor the pace of recovery of NPAs.
The Committee are alarmed to note that NPAs of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) registered substantial increase during the recent years, it said.
"To cite specific instances, while the average Net NPA Ratio of PSBs reached as high as 2.10 in December, 2012, the Net NPA Ratio of UCO Bank was 3.31; 3.28 in respect of Central Bank of India; 2.78 in the case of Punjab National Bank; 2.65 in the case of the largest bank in the country i.E. State Bank of India(SBI); and 2.19 in respect of State Bank of Patiala," it said.
The Committee are perturbed to find that during the years 2010-2012, the number of accounts of Gross NPAs above Rs 1 crore of PSBs increased by around 80 per cent to 7,295 accounts from 4,099 accounts, it said.