Finance minister P Chidambaram on Thursday expressed hope that some new bank licences would be issued before March 2014.
"RBI has released guidelines for licencing of new banks and I hope that some banks will be licenced before the end of the financial year," he said at the AGM of Indian Banks' Association in Mumbai.
The entry of new banks, rapid expansion in number of branches and a more spatial distribution of location of banks will all lead to greater financial inclusion, he said.
"We need more banks, we need more branches. We need them in the small towns, in the block headquarters, and the backward regions of the country especially the North Eastern states and the hill states," he said.
He also expressed hope that record number of bank branches will be opened during this fiscal.
"I am happy that more branches will be opened in 2013-14 than ever before. Banking access to the people have improved.
In 2010-11, each branch served 13,300, in 2012-13 this number came down to 12,300," he said.
RBI issued comprehensive guidelines for new bank licences in February this year, fixing the last date for filing application by interested entities by July 1.
Earlier this week, the central bank issued clarifications making it more stringent for getting new bank licence even as it allowed the aspirants to have the holding and capital structure of the bank-holding company in place within 18 months of getting the in-principle nod, instead of 12 months prescribed earlier.