The Centre by waiving farm loans to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore was "settling the debt" all Indians owed to the farming community for "feeding" the country, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Sunday.
"There are four crore farmers in the country. All of us are indebted to them. No country can survive without the farmers. They are the ones who feed us," he said speaking at the inauguration of State Bank of India's 10,000th branch at Puduvayal in Sivaganga district.
Puduvayal is a small hamlet with a population of 10,000. "We hope you will extend your unstinted support to the UPA government to implement this," he said.
The Finance Minister also said the Indira Awas Yojana, the rural housing scheme for people below the poverty line, which was introduced as a pilot project in his constituency, would be extended across India, following its success.
Under the scheme, the total amount required to construct a rural dwelling unit would be Rs 55,000, of which Rs 25,000 was assistance provided by the government earlier and remaining given by the banks at a deferred interest rate of 4 per cent.
The assistance provided to them under the scheme would be increased from Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000. "The remaining Rs 20,000 would be provided to them at four per cent interest."
"State Bank of India, with the launch of this branch becomes only the second bank in the whole world too have 10,000 branches, after China's ICBC," he added.
OP Bhatt, SBI Managing Director said SBI has sanctioned Rs 4 crore worth of loans from the new branch. The bank has sanctioned Rs 1.38 crore worth of educational loans.
SBI plans to open at least 2,000 branches in rural India in the next two years. It also proposes to spread banking services to over one lakh villages, not covered by banks, by 2010, it said.