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India gets first all-woman bank

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India today got its first all-woman bank,which will be universal in nature,with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launching the Bharatiya Mahila Bank as a small step towards empowerment of women. (IE Photo: Partha Paul)

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The bank,a pioneering initiative announced in the Union Budget,was launched with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore and will have seven branches in major cities to start with. (IE Photo: Vasant Prabhu)

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Coinciding with the 96th birthday of late Indira Gandhi,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the first branch at a function here in the presence of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi,coalition leaders Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah,besides Finance Minister P Chidambaram. (IE Photo: Vasant Prabhu)

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Singh said women lag behind men in areas such as entrepreneurial skills,employment,literacy and health. "The setting up of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank is a small step towards economic empowerment of our women," he said. (IE Photo: Vasant Prabhu)

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"The sad reality is that women in India face discrimination and hardship at home,school,at their places of work and in public places. Women's social,economic and political empowerment remains a distant goal. (IE Photo: Partha Paul)

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"We have gathered here to witness the beginning of a unique institution," Singh said,adding,"The bank will provide financial services predominantly to women and women self-help groups." (IE Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

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Chidambaram said the BMB will be a universal bank which will have unique products designed for women and devote special attention to the funding needs of over 60 lakh self-help groups. (IE Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

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The idea of an exclusive lender for women was mooted at the Jaipur Congress plenary last year. Pointing out that women account for a paltry 7.3 per cent of total credit in the financial system,Congress President Sonia Gandhi hoped the new bank would emerge as a catalyst for gender justice and equality. (IE Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

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The bank has drawn on a majority of cadre from state-run lenders,with Usha Ananthasubramanian as the Chairperson and Managing Director. In another first,the BMB has an all-woman,eight-member board. (IE Photo: Partha Paul)

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The board consists of a business graduate sarpanch from Rajasthan,Chhavi Rajawat,Dalit entrepreneur Kalpana Saroj,who turned around a tubes business,retired public banker Nupur Mitra,academic Pakiza Samad,private equity professional Renuka Ramnath,Godrej Group executive Director Tania Dubash and Priya Kumar,a government nominee. (IE Photo: Partha Paul)

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The bank,headquartered in New Delhi,started operations with seven branches and as many automated teller machines. It has targeted setting up 25 branches and 100 ATMs by March. (IE Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

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Chidambaram said he has requested the Reserve Bank to facilitate the presence of a BMB branch in each state capital by March. Lenders are required operate branches in rural and urban areas in a fixed proportion. (IE Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

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Ananthasubramanian said the bank will offer women-centric products that other lenders don't offer,such as funding for a catering business,day care centres and kitchen upgrades. BMB has hired 110 fresh recruits,while other staffers are on deputation from government banks,the CMD said. (IE Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)