Banks should deal sternly with wilful defaulters, but handhold those who are reeling under the impact of economic slowdown, finance minister P Chidambaram said here on Thursday.
“While we should be stern to wilful defaulters, we must hold the hand of those who are victims of external circumstances,” Chidambaram said while addressing a banking conference organised by Indian Banks Association. “This is the period for bankers and customers to work together to keep faith in each other because when we come out of the trough... when upturn begins and when we see growth quarter after quarter that (would be the) time when most banks would be healthy, balance sheets would become healthy,” he said.
The finance minister suggested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) give preference to those applicants for new bank licences who want to set up specialised banks, rather those keen to establish clones of existing lenders.
“I sincerely hope that when the new banking licences are given in January 2014 some licences would at least go to the people who have come up with innovative and different models of banking addressed to meet the needs of special segments,” he said. “It would be a pity if new licences also go to banks that clone existing banks. I am confident that will not happen.”
“We need banks that cater to communities, we need banks that cater to people living in what would call states where there is tribal population, we need a different bank to cater to the needs of North East...” he said, elaborating on ‘special segments’.
Assuring bankers that government will protect them for bonafide decisions in the event of any inquiry, he said: “No business can survive and person can take a decision if every decision is questioned as motivated or malicious.”