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Northeast bank network to grow: Nirmala Sitharaman

She said bankers had been instructed to provide adequate ATMs in 17 districts of Assam to cater to tea garden areas

By Ali Fauz Hassan in Guwahati
  • Published 28.02.20, 1:37 AM
  • Updated 28.02.20, 1:37 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal at Assam Administrative Staff College in Guwahati on Thursday Picture by UB Photos

Union finance and corporate affairs minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the banking network will be increased in the Northeast with special emphasis on tea gardens.

She added that bankers have been instructed to provide adequate ATMs in 17 districts of the state to cater to the tea garden areas, according to the mapping by the Assam government.

The minister was here as part of a series of financial inclusion outreach programmes being organised in different states. The city was the sixth in the series.

The finance minister, while addressing a news conference here on Thursday, emphasised that apart from increasing the ATMs and bank branches in rural areas, there was a move to mobilise bank mitras for complementing and supplementing services.

Shortage of banks was a major stumbling block for financial inclusion and she gave additional focus on the banks being able to reach people in far-flung areas. She said the anti-CAA protests have not affected the investing mood as prominent investors are willing to open representative offices here.

Sitharaman earlier met traders and industry representatives to explain the nuances of the recent Union Budget.

“The budget should not be confined to Parliament. It should meet the expectations of the common man and industry representatives. The Centre is committed to build an India where we can trust our entrepreneurs,” she said.

She stressed the need to simplify the direct tax regime, the need for removal of exemption, reduction of income tax rates and decriminalisation of tax laws. With regard to GST, she assured the delegates that the issue of delayed refund of Central Goods and Services Tax and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) would be addressed on a priority basis.

Speaking to industry representatives, she said traditional industries in the Northeast should have facilities to exhibit and benefit. To achieve this, self-help groups will be given greater access to credit.

The minister said the government was working to remove the criminal angle in business transactions. Speaking on the Vivaad Se Vishwas scheme, she said if any settlement was done, no prosecution would be initiated.

Sitharaman said setting up more cold storage facilities was a priority of the government. Sivasagar in Assam has been identified as one of five archaeological sites to be developed as iconic ones.

On Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the Union finance minister said several steps have been taken to help them. She said MSMEs have the opportunity to approach the public sector banks and request them for restructuring till December 31.

The tea industry has been saying that it continues to pay wages in cash because of lack of connectivity and infrastructure. “In some places, the distance from a garden to a bank branch is 5km to 10km. Wages are paid weekly or fortnightly. Banks do not have the infrastructure to deal with thousands of workers from gardens,” a tea industry official said.