Himachal residents seem to be laughing all the way to the banks, quite literally. The interesting fact has come to the fore in the banking profile of Himachal Pradesh, compiled and released by UCO Bank.
As per the released data, people in the hill state hold inarguably the highest bank deposits in the country: Bank savings in the state are double the national average.
Bank deposits of Rs 42,812.82 crore in 2011 have shot up to Rs 49,194.18 crore this year, recording an impressive growth of 14.91%.
Last year, banks in rural areas across the hill state recorded total deposits of Rs 25,345.44 crore as against about Rs 26,083.49 crore in 2012.
A score of factors have contributed to increase in bank deposits in the state. There are nearly 1.90 lakh permanent Himachal government employees, one of the highest in the country. As many as 80,000 employees work in public sector undertakings, civic bodies and corporations across the state. The government annually pays Rs 6,300 crore as salaries to its employees, apart from Rs 2,700 crore as pension.
People in semi-urban areas are wealthier than those living in the towns. Savings in semi-urban areas have gone up by 32% in the last one year, the data showed.
The growth in bank deposits is also attributed to growing agriculture sector and more job opportunities in the state. "Agriculture income in the state has increased manifolds," says Dr Shrikant Baldi, principal secretary finance.
"Responsive administration and conducive macro-economic conditions have induced a competitive environment in the economy and has led to a robust economic performance in the state," he added.
The state finance department expects a high growth rate of 7.6% in the current financial year, as compared to national growth estimate of 6.9%.
Increased per capita income is also credited with burgeoning bank deposits in Himachal. Per capita income at current prices is estimated at Rs 53,331 in 2010-11 as against Rs 46,117 the previous year, recording an increase of 15.6%.
Interestingly, per capita income in far-flung areas of Himachal is high. The tribal districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti have the highest per capita income in the hill state, at Rs 69,000 and about Rs 85,000, respectively. These are followed by Solan with Rs 60,000 per capita income.
The national saving average is 32 to 37% while in Himachal, it is 75%.