(From L to R: Anjani Sinha, Managing Director & CEO, National Spot Exchange Ltd ; Smita Premchander, Secretary, Sampark ; Shashi Singh, Chairperson, Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India ; Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities ; Mohd Ilyas Rizvi, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, A P State Minorities Finance Corporation Ltd)
Reaching Banking and Financial Services for Minorities conclave was organised in June 2011 at Mumbai. The conclave discussed whether Banking and Financial Services should be customized to target minorities better and to mainstream them and push for financial inclusion. Following are the recommendations that emerged from the conclave:
- Introduce Islamic banking, which is not based on interest, speculation, uncertainty and gambling, the idioms forbidden for the faithful in Sharia, to bring about financial inclusion of the largest minority in the country.
- Call it interest free banking as Islamic banking may have communal overtones in secular India.
- Follow Kerala Government’s initiative on forming a public owned Islamic finance company.
- Let SEBI’s permission to launch Sharia 50 index be a precursor for more such schemes.
- Open more banks in habitations dominated by Muslims, Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and other weaker sections of the society.
- Since Muslims do not wish to make use of the interest they earn on deposits, invest the same in education and other social sector projects.
- Promote an investment inflow from the Gulf, the Far East and Malaysia and Singapore which gives 5% incentive on Islamic finance.
- Promote financial literacy among minorities and poor. Involve NGOs in the exercise.
- Promote formation of SHGs and cooperatives among minorities, SCs, STs and the women who are discriminated against by financial institutions.
- Extend financial assistance to students from poor families for school, college and professional studies. Consider Andhra Pradesh’s online fee reimbursement scheme to ensure that the assistance reaches them.
- Teach entrepreneurial skills to women from poor households who have good skills but manufacture things on daily wages for middleman.
- Extend the line of credit and technical skills to such women.
Chair: -Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities
- Santanu Paul, Distinguished Fellow, Skoch Development Foundation
- Elais Gonsalves, Director CSA (Mumbai Diocese)
- H Abdur Raqeeb, General Secretary, Indian Centre for Islamic Finance
- Mohd Ilyas Rizvi, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, A P State Minorities Finance Corporation Ltd.
- Syed Zahid Ahmad, Patron Member – AICMEU & Founder- Economic Initiatives, All India Council of Mulsim Economic Upliftment Trust
- Safdar H Khan, Chairperson, Delhi State Minorities Commission
- Smita Premchander, Secretary, Sampark
- Shashi Singh, Chairperson, Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India
- Francis Dabre, Director, Western Diocese of India
- Barnabe D’Souza, Director, Don Bosco Research Centre
- Mohd Husian Khatkhatay, Senior Adviser, TASIS.
- Anjani Sinha, Managing Director & CEO, National Spot Exchange Limited.
- Shariq Nisar, Director-Research & Operation, TASIS
- Heena Bijli, Assistant Professor – Community Resource Management & Extension, Aligarh Muslim University
Santanu Paul: Basically if you look at it, the whole discussion that we are having is about financial inclusion. It is about including more and more people into the mainstream in terms of financial premises. The fact is that this country has significant under-penetration in terms of financial services across the board. For six lakh villages we have 30,000 branches. So, we are significantly behind the curve in terms of our access to financial services among other things, not just financial services but access is an issue across the board. I keep saying that other than telecom no other real access has happened in this country in a serious sense. So, financial service has a long way to go. Employability/employment has a long way to go and skill development has a long way to go. Same is the case with lot of other areas. The last mile is the longest mile because the last mile is almost impossible to overcome because 80% of our people who are on the other side is the last mile.
There are many different initiatives happening in terms of financial inclusion. We had heard about them from the Deputy Governor and others but I think faith based banking services also will play a big role going forward, even though I must say regulators have not probably woken up to it in a big way. But internationally if you look at faith based banking services they are becoming much more common. So, I think this is a very timely session. I am sure some of you probably gave him the idea. But he called me about a month ago and said why don’t we do a panel on this and I said it is a great idea. I personally run a skill development company and we train a lot of young people, especially unemployed college graduates, and get them ready for jobs and put them into placement through companies and so forth. So, I am also aware of the fact that there are lots of weaknesses demographically in terms of financial access. There are people who can’t afford even to pay Rs 5000 for training. They are fundamentally handicapped at the very beginning in terms of being able to take advantage of all the opportunities.
Despite all the number of agencies and activities the actual penetration in banking remains extremely thin and there is a long way to go.
H Abdur Raqeeb: 60% of the population in India do not have access to formal banking services and only 5.2% villages have bank branches. Marginal farmers, landless labourers, self employed and unorganized sector enterprises, ethnic minorities and women, the so called marginalized in the minorities which they call aam aadmi of this great country, continue to be financially excluded class.
The big thing was microfinance but the aftermath of what happened in Andhra Pradesh and the Malegam Committee which came out with big strictures is a great eye-opener for it. In this scenario when the farmers are committing suicide in Vidarbha, Dr Swaminathan the father of the Indian Green Revolution said, why cannot Indian Banking which propagates zero interest lending solve the Vidarbha farmers’ suicide crisis? When the financial tsunami came to the west because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, then the Pope/Vatican is not the Islamic finance principle to be introduced in the western banks. So, friends, Islamic banking or interest free banking is a great thing that is coming up throughout the world. When I come to the biggest minority of this country, Muslims, we know that there are two committee reports that have come out, the Sachar Committee report and Dr Arjun Sengupta committee report on unorganized sector. One of the significant comments that Sachar Committee report has said that wherever the Muslims are there or Muslim dominated areas are there it is regarded by the banking community as the negative zone. And this maybe because of the faith as Dr Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms has said. Rajan did not mention Muslims. He said certain faith people are not into the banking sector because of their faith. Interestingly in one of the articles of Reserve Bank of India, it is said that interest money estimated at 40000 crores is lying idle in the bank accounts of the Muslims particularly in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and all these places. So, in this scenario we have to look into it what is this Islamic banking and finance, what are its distinctive characteristics? One of the most important characteristics is that the distribution of wealth should be just and fair and it should percolate from the top to the bottom, from bottom to the top so that it may not circulate only among the rich. Today when we are talking about 8%-9% growth, the 860 million marginalized ‘aam’ Indians are only earning Rs 20. What exactly we are seeing in today’s society, there are super rich and there are super poor. There are oceans of poverty and islands of prosperity in this great country. So, if we want justice and equity yes, Islamic banking and finance can be a viable answer because it is not based on interest and speculation, uncertainty and gambling. The commodity trading, futures, and the derivatives futures that made the financial tsunami in the western countries are not allowed in Islamic banking.
There is no investment in agriculture, there is not much investment in industries. Service industry is being created today. So, Islamic banking and finance requires creation of tangible assets. They should be created, then traded and released or sold. In financial economy only paper money is there which is tradeable, without any real asset. Then Islamic financial banking requires that socially responsible investment should be there. There should be a moral filter. It should not go to alcohol, gambling and environmental degradation products. S Gurumurthy, the leading right wing economist and chartered accountant of Chennai says the derivatives are the weapons of mass destruction in finance. So, because of the ethical investments and socially responsible investments, Islamic banking has attracted both Muslims and non-Muslims.
When we talk about Islamic banking and finance people say okay it belongs to Muslims. It does not. Today in Malaysia, one of the leaders of Islamic banking and finance, 40% investors in Malaysian banks are non-Muslims, particularly Chinese and 60% borrowers are non-Muslims. In UK where it was introduced in 2005, the figure is about 20%. So, today what we are seeing is Islamic finance has emerged as a viable source of financing in a number of modern, secular, industrialised countries – UK, Japan, Singapore, France and Hong Kong. Gordon Brown when he was the Prime Minister of UK, said, I want to change London into a hub of Islamic finance and banking and they have changed their banking regulations several times and also the tax laws. But there is no name of Sharia or Islam in those regulations that have been amended. The UK financial acts say there will be no obstacles and no special favours. They give a level playing ground for both Islamic and conventional banking to exist side by side and as you would see that when we go to a restaurant what we have is we have a choice either vegetarian or non-vegetarian, this is the case in UK, in Japan, in Singapore, France and in Hong Kong everywhere.
Then what exactly happened in India is most important. In 2005, the Reserve Bank of India appointed one working group under Anand Sinha, then General Manager of the Banking Operations (now he is the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India). They said the reference was to examine financial instruments using Islamic banking. The report is fair but is only for internal consumption and was submitted after 7-8 months. It was not put on the website. We don’t know what exactly happened. In Economic Times, it has been flagged that Anand Sinha Committee has said Islamic Banking is not possible in India. I tried from Indian Centre for Islamic Finance to get that report and because of the RTI after one year we were able to get the report. The report is good, the goals and objectives are good. But it refers to the traditional context written by Muslim jurists one thousand years ago. Those are the books that are being referred to. But they have not referred to the modern Islamic financial institution like AAOFI (Auditing and Accounting Organization of Islamic Financial Institutions), Bahrain, and also IFSB (Islamic Financial Services Board) Malaysia, which has been recognized by the World Bank, which is recognized by IMF. These organizations have contributed for FSA (Financial Services Authority) of UK, Monetary Authority of Singapore, and OOC Office of the Comptroller of the Currency UK government. I met Dr Anand Sinha and he said, yes, we were talking about 2005 and at that time these things were not referred to, and it was for internal consumption of the Bank. The most important thing was that there was no Islamic financial expert there in the committee. The conventional banking players cannot have the knowledge and authority of discussing Islamic finance. This is one of the important initiatives of the government.
But in 2008, the Planning Commission of India appointed a very high level committee under Dr Raghuram Rajan. He was the youngest chief economist of the IMF and under him the best brains of legal and banking experts of India were included in that Committee. The report said there are certain faiths in this country which do not subscribe to interest and then interest free banking should be introduced in the main banking sector and that is one of the greatest recommendation and then Dr Raghuram Rajan said, this is important because with the objectives of inclusion and growth with innovation, this sentence is very important, interest free finance in main banking sector and it can be done with slight alteration. Raghuram Rajan said that interest free banking in the main banking sector is with the objective of inclusion in growth with innovation. It is one of the major recommendations of Raghuram Rajan. Then we have been pursuing with the RBI, Finance Ministry, Prime Minister, everywhere that you please go into this recommendation and put it into practice.
I want to refer to another two important judgements that have taken place. The Communist Government of Kerala, Dr Issac Thomas had some study there on how the proceeds of NRIs in Kerala are being wasted. He made one NBFC called Al Baraka and in one of the advertisements there was something missing, so our friend Dr Subramanyam Swamy said, how can a secular government participate 11% share in Sharia based Islamic finance. So, he went to the court. But the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court and another Dr Ramchandra Reddy, two judges not only allowed the NBFC but said there was no prohibition of Islamic banking under any statute. The court said, Islamic banking can be allowed in a secular country and it should be allowed. That was the pronouncement.
Again, another significant judgement from the Supreme Court of India, there was a discussion about ICICI Bank versus ASP Star Industries. In that judgement Chief Justice Kapadia said, when we are talking about the economic loss or the financial loss, the banking regulations should be expanded and what are the new things that are happening in the world today he said, external aids and subsequent events should also be taken into account and it should not be generally looked into. So, these two very important judgements, the Supreme Court judgement with regard to the Indian Banking Regulation Act and the Kerala High Court Judgement which say that there is no impediment for Islamic banking even in this secular country.
Another important thing is that India needs 500 billion for infrastructure development. Today throughout the world it is only the Gulf countries which are slush with oil money. 1.5 trillion of funds are there. They are searching where to invest it. Recently there was an Economist Intelligence Report, they say that the Gulf money is turning towards emerging economies instead of the developed economies. From 15% about 10 years before it is now 45%. It is coming towards the Eastern part of the world, the emerging markets and that is why London, Paris and Tokyo, everybody is looking towards it. When the Prime Minister of India was there in Malaysia recently about three months back and he was talking about the strategic partnership with the Malaysian government, he was asked why not look at Islamic banking, he said, yes, I am going to ask RBI to look into Islamic banking which is a great success particularly SUKUK, the asset based Islamic bonds, that is biggest for long term infrastructure investment and it is for the infrastructure development. So, he said I am going to ask the RBI to look into these things and try to implement it in India. He was there in Qatar two years before and he said Qatar has got energy money and India has got the manpower. Why should not there be a marriage between emerging economy and the energy economy of Qatar and then we will have a win-win situation. In this background this country is very important, India needs money and Islamic finance and banking is there all over the world, in London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and interestingly Singapore is giving 5% incentive if you bring Islamic finance and Hong Kong has been the stepping stone or the launching pad of Islamic finance for mainstream China. I think we are going to miss the bus. The gulf people want to come to India, particularly Kerala people are trying very hard, and so I think if London, Paris and Tokyo and Singapore are becoming hub and house of Islamic banking and finance why not Mumbai and Cochin? That is the question I put to the finance minister. So, my plea is that we have to prevail upon the regulators, the finance ministry that they should make suitable amendments in the banking laws and taxation laws so that they should provide level playing ground for both Islamic banking and conventional banking. We don’t want anything extra as UK has said, no obstacles, no special favours. Some taxation laws have to be made. There are institutions throughout the world, AAOFI and IFSB can do it.
Another important thing that I want to touch is IRDA, about insurance. Muslims are not there in the insurance because it is based on speculation and gambling. So, they have created an alternative for that, the Takaful. So, we want that the banking and the insurance Act should be amended and provided for greater participation of people. Both of them are ethically based things and socially responsible type of things. They are not meant for Muslims alone but for all the communities and there are several of my friends who can talk about the capital market and other aspects. I request Skoch to take up the case of the minorities and the marginalized with regulators so that about 60% of the people of this country can be included. You are talking about technology, you are talking about women segment, community-wise also it has to be taken and if the largest minority of this country is not included how can we talk about inclusive growth. So, that is a legitimate demand, it has to be taken up and I hope that a strong message will go from this august seminar that yes Islamic banking, Islamic finance is for all, not Muslim specific. India needs Islamic banking and we have to make some banking and taxation amendments. Most of the secular, modern, industrialised countries have done it, why can’t we.
Elais Gonsalves: I am making this small presentation which has three specific parts. The first is little bit of statistics which we find from the different reports submitted to government of India by different bodies. In the second part I am raising a few questions for this house. And the third part is specific actionable items which I would like to bring to this house.
First I would like to begin by thanking and congratulating the Skoch Foundation for organising this Summit and giving us an opportunity, giving the stage to put all our requests to the policy makers and bring change for the poor and the marginalized of this country. As a development worker I do work with simple people from all castes, creed and religion and with my simple experiences which I have from the grassroots, the simple and marginalized people do have lot of issues. We will see how this has to be taken very seriously. Since I am talking from the Christian perspective I wish to highlight that we are just 2.3%. They have different issues on literacy.
One of the issues which we have like economic empowerment of weaker sections especially SC/ST and OBCs from all the communities, especially minority communities, is a priority area for the government. That is what the government has put in their reports. Among the minorities the population of BPL segment as per the Planning Commission surveys conducted in 2000 is substantial. The incidences of poverty are more in rural than that of urban areas for all communities and this is very clearly mentioned in the government reports. The government has taken various steps towards economic empowerment of weaker sections, particularly the minorities. This is what is there on the paper.
There are different schemes that the governments have introduced over the years for employment in industrial sector, in small scale industries. CAPART has different programmes which are being carried out through NGOs and different organisations. Then we have National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation also. The aims and objectives of NMDFC are very clearly gearing towards supporting the minorities and helping them to come up.
We conducted a specific survey on people in 5 villages in Gorai and Uttan belt of Mumbai and what we found there is that the average bank accounts people have is 10-15%, not more than that. The fishing community which lives close to Bombay is a backward community. I have made my recommendations here based on this data which I am providing. The questions I am raising here, remain unanswered, how effective have the various economic empowerment programmes of the government for the minorities been? The second is the outreach of the NMDFC banking and financial services programme for minorities has just been 1.6%. What immediate steps have to be taken to increase this outreach programme? The third, how can banking and financial services be made more easily accessible for the SC/STs and the fisher folks, the backward communities, the BPL communities?
I would like to make the third part of my recommendation about specific actionable items. The literacy/education is the factor for this BPL community. We are talking about banking but the first step towards banking is literacy, the education of the ordinary masses. The common people especially from SC/ST and OBCs of minorities in rural areas, who still remain very poor, have a very poor literacy rate. The government needs to do a lot about their financial literacy. Ordinary people are completely out of the mainstream. This is the cry of the ordinary people which we don’t hear normally. I speak for all the minorities where SC/ST and OBC are there, for those who are below poverty line and for those who are still out of the mainstream. When we talk about their financial inclusion the first step will be literacy and then financial literacy. We will have to give them opportunity for financial inclusion. We have just heard about our growth rate of 8.5%. Does this economic growth make any difference to our BPL? Has it changed their lifestyle, has it made any difference to the poor and the marginalized of our communities? Finally the inflation which we see these days has really affected our poor and marginalized and their lives so how can we expect them to have financial inclusion in savings and bringing the same in the banking area? They do not have access to banking and the accessibility of banks makes a big problem for them. So, what I would like to bring to the notice of the house is not just urban banking but what about the rural areas where the poor and the marginalized from the minority communities remain out of the mainstream of banking and financial inclusion?
Smita Premchander: I am from Sampark which is an NGO based in Bangalore. I also work with lot of UN agencies and donor agencies to design large programmes, especially for the extreme poor. So, we not only work with poor people but also focus on extreme poor and we help them design programmes. In addition to designing programmes we do a lot of work on the ground. We have a field office in Kuppal where we work in about 60 villages and that is the experience I share with you. I don’t want to just speak about religious minorities but also caste, especially the scheduled castes and it’s the scheduled castes and religious minorities especially Muslims in the area where we work in who are in fact the poorest. In some ways the Muslims are even just a little better than the scheduled castes. The scheduled castes are absolutely abject poor.
Basically when we talk about minorities and we talk about poor people we are also talking about people who live on the margins. The most important thing to know is that even the way societies are structured, there is discrimination. You walk into the village on one side are the pucca homes, the ones with nice traditional wood, you look at the ceilings and you say how old is this house and you just go on another side where the houses of SC are either hidden or located on extreme edge of the village. They are slushy, the rain gets to them, they are thatched, there is no proper place for animals and it is an environment in which if you are looking at BPL people some of them now have pucca houses under Indira Awas Yojana. They have one small room in which there will be the husband, the wife, the children and maybe a cow or a goat walking in and out from time to time. When we are talking about these kinds of living spaces, these kinds of conditions that is what poverty means to them. Can a child study there? Why do children of Scheduled Castes and people who are extreme poor drop out more from school? It is not an environment at home where they can study. They lose interest, the teacher will beat them and then the teacher will lose patience, in any case school quality is bad, maximum drop out of school children is from the poorer houses. 80% of the children today in 2011 don’t reach the 10th class, 50% drop out is up to the 5th and 6th and between 6 and 10 another 30%. These are the statistics.
I will not quote to you the district statistics of Koppal. Koppal district at a glance is lies, excuse my language but it is lies. There is no reality in that. The book says 44% women are literate. You go to a self help group of scheduled caste women, you sit there, out of 15 women two are literate, what is the literacy, one has studied till 8th class, one has studied till 4th class, they have forgotten everything. This is the kind of literacy we are talking about. 98% women in Scheduled Caste groups are illiterate in Koppal today. They lack assets. There is low human capital. There is no risk bearing capability. What do we expect from them in financial services, can they save regularly? Inclusion of SC/ST into SHGs is very difficult. In Sampark we have promoted 230 groups and 10 cooperatives. Of the 230 groups the groups which are SC have low savings, they migrate more, they are irregular, they never make Grade A of the banking grades, so they never get the kind of loans, the others get. On an average if an SHG is getting one lakh of rupees from the bank, the SC group gets Rs 60000, which is a little over 50%. It is also more difficult to build their capacities because they keep migrating. So, every three months, six months they are out fishing in Ratnagiri. They are going to Bombay, Hyderabad to build houses. By the time they come back three to four months have gone by and SHG regularity is low. So, doing any kind of microfinance services for them is difficult. These people tend to fall more and more behind. Just to give you an example, the average saving of general group is Rs 66,688/-, SC group’s Rs 39,000. Group loan 150000 for General, 1 lakh for SC/ST. Crop loan Rs 1.85 lakh for a general group, Rs 1.18 lakh for Scheduled Castes. These are the kind of differences. They are very big and the gap between them just goes on increasing. If in a general caste group they can take Rs 1.5 lakhs of rupees if there are 10 members they can each buy one cow. You go to a scheduled caste group they can buy two goats because their loan taking capacity is less. So, what happens is the ones with the cows will progress much faster and the one with the goats will be struggling for another 3 years. By the time they quality they have lost interest in the SHG. It is also difficult to retain these groups. So, invariably the general castes have much better livelihoods than the ones who are scheduled castes and Muslims.
Also there is another thing. Now microfinance sector has become so professional and we want to do technically everything right, the NGOs pay attention to grading of SHG. The technical requirements are so heavy that the NGO time goes into building financial skills. Then what happens, because you are so busy getting an SHG to save regularly the discussion about caste, about religion, about inequality, everything takes a backseat. I have gone into SHG meetings where the higher caste people are sitting on a platform and everybody is being served chai, some women are served team in separate cups. When you say what is happening here, they say because of caste we don’t mix up the tea mugs here. We are an NGO, we are working as an NGO, then what happens is that when they come to where Sampark is doing its training programmes then they mix and they eat and that is the deal. But when we go to the village we should not interfere in the caste because the religious priest whoever is giving them the thalis and Friday sermons really keep an eye on whether women are going beyond the caste lines. So, social issues really take a back seat. We need space for both financial and social issues and social issues are really getting left out.
Also what I just said, leadership and religious dynamics favour the caste division and they favour the religious division. There are not any forces in the social reality of the village which we as an external agency can collaborate with and say can we dim these caste lines. In 9 years of our work in Kuppal there have been two inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. One, they very proudly told us three years later Madam, the boy went somewhere else and the girl came back to the house and it was dissolved. They were so happy that the marriage broke. This was a Muslim and Hindu marriage. Another one was higher caste woman with a lower caste boy and the girl moved to the boy’s locality and they said now it is okay because they have both gone to the lower locality. But among the youth, that is what saddens me really the most, is that among the youth the boys groups, the friends groups are different from the caste. The boys of the higher caste don’t mix with the boys of the lower caste. They have separate social groupings in the village. It is so deep that sometimes you think that as an external agency how much one can influence especially when it comes to social and cultural norms. 20% of our members are SCs and minorities and 400 of them are devadasis. Devadasi means that you are married off to god and therefore you cannot marry. So, even today by law the practice does not exist but the devadasis who were dedicated at the age of 5 or so are now 35, 40, they are there, they have their children, they are women headed households and all their lives they have been exploited by the higher castes. By the way there are devadasis among the Muslims. So, even though it is a dalit practice a lot of Muslim men and women also follow it. We work with 400 devadasis.
So, what did we do? Very quickly to tell you we have basically three strategies. One in terms of money we introduced flexibility. Never mind what the bank says. You may be Grade A or B or C, if you are irregular it does not mean you are a bad group. We redefined what is a good group? We said if you are going out for three months or six months for migration and you come back and you want to be part of the group, you are still welcome and you can save. If your savings were as low as Rs 2 per month because some of the poor women could not save, so, we introduced flexibility in savings and in loan products and because of that we could manage to retain many of these groups to work for a very long time. The second thing we did was that we did multidimensional investments. Why I mentioned this is because microfinance has become really minimalistic. It is not a development approach anymore, it is just paisa do, paisa lo. We built cooperatives of SHGs of dalits and higher castes. We have followed the trajectory and we have actually marketed the fact that SC groups will be slower and they need more attention and we should not give them up just because by financial standards they don’t qualify. So, we in fact raised money to work longer with the dalit cooperatives. Then we do business promotion, we reduced school dropouts, immediately you can’t just work with money because it takes you 5 to 6 years to come up in income poverty. So, the children who are dropping out of school we need to do something with them for the next generation. We do mental health interventions because extreme poor have serious depressive tendencies and we do literacy for adult women. A whole series of vocational trainings and businesses is what we set up.
If you are talking of minorities of SCs, you are talking of people who are really poor. They need that much time to come up. You can set up in a general caste group, a good group within two to two and half years. For SCs and minorities you easily need 3-4 years and 5 years to reach a good federation. So, one has to give that kind of time, we have to give that kind of attention. In our field we have managed to do that reasonably well. The women have set up many businesses with our support. So, these cooperatives now manage about 3-4 crores of funds, they take a lot of external loans, there is 100% repayment from both the cooperatives. Scheduled caste cooperatives are slower but they are getting there.
Gender is a marginalized group. Never reaches the plenary in conferences and never the important people who come to listen. So we are fully with you just to say open that when we talk about minorities and marginalized it is also women’s issues are exactly similar.
The next point which I want to make is that when we talk of exclusion, women actually face double order exclusion. One because they belong to minorities and two because they are women and since so many of you here are senior men from communities which are representing minorities my humble submission to you is please see how you can raise, how you can expand spaces for women in your communities with the those many of the barriers we talk about are not financial. They are women’s motilities, women’s school dropout is all the in the minds where protection “is used as an excuse” for stopping mobility.
Shariq Nisar: My experience of last 10-15 years in this field says this is basically poor economics. There is a lack of demand and there is a lack of supply. Lack of demand from the community side is for two main reasons. The first is about faith as Abdur Raqeeb has spoken about that many Muslim people although they have financial resources they are capable, they are not so backward economically but still there is a reservation to join the financial system. That is purely because of faith. Other reason is poverty. As we all know that almost 40% of the community is extremely poor and they do not have enough resources. These factors combined together play a big role in community’s financial exclusion. Coming to the supply side, if you look at it there is lack of regulation for these problems. There is lack of market participation and there is also lack of community initiative. So, if we need to solve this problem we have to do all these things – how to regulate our financial sector whether it is banking or capital market or financial sector or insurance, how to convince financial institutions that they allow products and services which can cater to these requirements so that more and more people can be brought in the main financial stream. At the same time the financial institutions should also be encouraged to come and play their role in increasing this participation. Also community has its own responsibility in increasing the financial literacy, in convincing the masses that you come in the mainstream and you will not be a loser rather you will be a gainer.
One specific area where I want to focus is about the microfinance. In India there are three types of initiatives in microfinance field, not for profit, mutual benefit and for profit. If you look at last 10 years of development, it is the for profit initiatives led by private equity players and foreign venture capitalists that has been on the growth path. When you look at not for profit or mutual benefit initiatives, in these two sectors I am aware of institutions that have got hundreds of crores worth deposits. They are working for the last 35-40 years but after the change in regulation in the last few years based on that profit motive operations they have become non-regulated or they have become outdated or sometimes illegal also. Many of their activities which were legal a couple of years ago have become illegal today because of the new developments or new regulations which have come into place. That has created a kind of psychological burden on them. The District Administration is not supporting them because it perceives that they are doing illegal activities. They are working for the last 40-50 years. Media is not supporting them, media in fact many a times I have done my own research and I found the media is just blackmailing them that we are going to publish bad news about you and you will be in trouble. They are working by raising resources from the community at zero interest, providing services at 10%, 11%, 12%, which is far below than the actual microfinance institutions doing today and these communities by pooling resources they are bringing those resources in the mainstream financial system by putting the same money in banks. So, if a small microfinance institution in rural and semi rural area has raised deposits from public in the form of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 deposit by developing thrift or saving collected 100s of crores of rupees, that money is now deposited in the banking system. So, in spite of being very good services these institutions are now facing the challenge of their life. They are just out of sync now in the current regulation and they are facing all those troubles. Here my request to the house is that all those organisations who have been working so much for the cause of poverty without distinguishing between communities or between the religions today because of certain development, if they have become non regulated for any reason it is our duty to encourage that those people stay afloat so that they can work for the betterment and inclusion of the poor and especially the minorities.
Syed Zahid Ahmad: I would like to focus my attention over the Muslim community itself because the Sachar Committee report suggests that so far RBI’s efforts to extend banking services to the minorities have largely benefited other minorities and marginalised Muslims. The community with predominantly self employed workers in the unorganized sector has a lower credit deposit ratio which adds to its poverty and illiteracy. We need inclusive growth to ensure that growth of one adds growth momentum for others. Financial inclusion is a tool to accumulate growth process in a manner that allows the excluded section of the society to attain major growth by optimising financial resources. The institutionalisation of NABARD and IDBI reflects RBI’s sincerity to ensure flow of financial resources to the needy sector. Again, the financial inclusion mission initiated by RBI is really appreciable but we have yet to see any report on its impact upon Muslims. RBI as financial regulator should analyse the impact of banking regulations upon Indian Muslims and accordingly act to ensure financial inclusion of Muslims for allowing India to attain inclusive growth. There have been some limitations in a few reports published by the RBI.
Since the working group formed by the RBI in 2005 to analyse the feasibility of Islamic banking products did not include any expert on Islamic banking it did some mistakes in analysing the concept of Islamic banking products and thus concluded that it is not feasible to allow Islamic banking under present legal framework. Thereafter the report published by the committee for financial inclusion headed by Dr C Rangarajan completely ignored the financial exclusion of Indian Muslims and minorities. There was not a single word in the whole report about minority or Muslims. This was very unfortunate. However in 2008 the CFSR i.e. Committee for Financial Sector Regulations interacted with the minority community as well. Fortunately we had the opportunity to present our views in the committee’s meeting but that committee made very significant recommendation for the financial inclusion of Muslims but those recommendations are yet to reach RBI. The Kerala Government’s initiative to form public owned Islamic finance company by latest SEBI’s permission to launch BSE Sharia 50 Index have definitely added hopes that someday Islamic banking would find place in the Indian financial sector.
Anjani Sinha: My experience with respect to dealing with minority communities as well as relating to livelihood promotion and poverty alleviation has been on 2-3 counts. One is with respect to our working in the State of Gujarat where we found a very good model. The Gujarat Government has set up a separate company called Gujarat Livelihood Promotion Company Limited. This company is working with so many private sector corporate to promote livelihood in the rural sector. The company has tied up with National Spot Exchange and also tied up with so many industrialists who are working in the State of Gujarat on how to do so much procurement of agricultural commodities so that the cost of intermediation can be reduced and the farmers’ income can go up. So, from that perspective this company has done wonderful and this experiment has been really successful. Wherever this company has initiated its efforts with the help of industrialists as well as spot exchange really the farmers’ income has gone up at least by 10-12% compared to mandi price and compared to spot prices. So, that experience has been good and our recommendation would be that in other states also similar models can be adopted by different State governments.
My second experience dealing with particularly Muslim community was that many Muslims do not have the perception to save money. They feel that why should I save money for my future. There is Allah who is going to take care of me and there is no need to save money. So, the saving ratio in Muslim community is very low.
Now such community can open DMAT and they can buy gold and silver even as low as 1 gm of gold which means around Rs 2000 which even small families can afford to buy 1 gm of gold every month or two months. We also observed that people save money to go for Haj after 3-4 years. They keep that money in their house, but basically their purpose is to accumulate that wealth for three years and after that to go for Haj. But the problem is that when the money is lying in the house actually they have a tendency to spend that also at some occasion. So we also educated them that for all such savings you can use such instruments like e-Gold, e-Silver, open a DMAT account, open a bank account and after that keep investing in gold and silver. It is not interest bearing, it is not speculation. It is just pure investment and therefore it is purely Sharia compliant and once we initiated this process after that we applied for Sharia certification and also Tashirs – Dr Sariq Answar has been helpful to us to help us to get this certificate. So now we have a Sharia compliant certificate also for the instruments and that has actually really helped us to promote this concept among so many Muslim communities, particularly Mulsim housewives and we have observed that thousands of housewives have also opened for this purpose because for the first time they are able to buy gold and silver through this DMAT process. So that has been our little contribution to minority community as well as for livelihood promotion.
Shashi Singh: I am working with the PPP mode with Ministry of Rural Development and that is where I am basically working with below poverty line women all over the country and I am also the knowledge partner to AP government. In this context, I have been working with primarily 99% women in the minorities because they are highly skilled. But we are not even being able to recognize and make use of their skills. The rural areas infrastructure is very poor and these women and young girls are not being able to move out of their little vicinity because of lack of infrastructure. So I think the first point is infrastructure in the form of schools and even the banks because if they are not very nearby they do not go out very far away. So we need to bring the banks and school education right there at the doorsteps because these women will not move out and come to cities to learn. That brings us to the financial literacy. The group dynamism of SHG movement is missing. Now we are no more talking about group dynamics of the SHG movement because in this community they like to be in a smaller group. So we are talking about the limited liability partnership act (the LLPs) which has come up, the new event and fortunately even Afghanistan, Bangladesh and even in Malaysia and Sri Lanka they are following our modules of smaller groups. It is a limited liability act. Whatever they put in is what they are liable for and this works out better than the SHG movement. So this is the latest one which has come in. We are trying to promote as many of these LLPs all over the country and within this reach they have all mobilized together and we formed this brand equity where we have started the marketing centre. So we are going back from marketing to product development and technology. We are looking at what skills they have. But at the moment they are only wage earners because what the women are doing is they are manufacturing things and waiting for the middleman to come and give them the raw material and the money and everything and take back. So if he comes in, he exploits them he says I will give you only Rs 20 because it is not worth. So they are just wage earners. We have to bring them into the entrepreneurial model. Therefore, we have to give them the line of credit, we have to give them technical skills and that is what I fell is a missing link and that is where we fell that we should do much more. The banking sector will always come into the picture. They should become entrepreneurs and have better standards of living.
Mohd Ilyas Rizvi: In Andhra Pradesh we actually give more emphasis on the education of the minorities, especially the Muslims because Muslims are the majority in the minority group. I wish to tell this august gathering that since last four years scholarship is given on the saturation basis to all the SC/STs, including minorities also. So now there is a 30% reduction in the dropout rates of the minority population, especially the Muslims and there is a more than 30% to 40% increase in the college going students. Earlier the students, as you will know, that from class I itself in the minority community the dropouts start and by reaching 10th class hardly I think 20% students they reach the 10th class and in the higher classes they are hardly 5% or 6% or 7%. But now we are having the data in the last 3 years what happened that in the year 2008-09 there were 57,000 students who have got the scholarship and fee reimbursement from us. Now they are the 65,000 in the year 2009-10. Similarly, those students who are going for the professional courses, like MBBS, B Tech, MBA, MCA, 2008-09 there were 33400 students who have taken the scholarship and fee reimbursement from us. Now in the year 2009-10, the number has increased to 52,200 and the year 2010-11 it his 65,000. The state government of Andhra Pradesh has given the guarantee that student whose parents income is up to Rs 1 lakh whatever they want to study, whether it is MBBS or it is B Tech or it is MBA or MCA 100% fees will be reimbursed by the government and at the time of admission no college will collect a single rupee’s admission fees from them. On the guarantee of the government, the colleges are giving free admission to the students and afterwards the government is paying back the fess to the colleges. In Hyderabad, you might have heard there are lots of destitute. There are those whose relatives whose husbands have left them. Those were working earlier as just maid servant in the houses now their children, their girls and boys are studying MBBS and MS. Now in Andhra Pradesh this literacy movement has gone ahead and for that everything is being paid online. The online scholarship is there – they are applying online and online scholarship is being given. For that bank accounts are being opened.
It is becoming difficult for the banks to open no frill accounts. Already the Reserve Bank of India has given the instruction to all the bankers and the state level bankers’ committee has passed a resolution and all the banks’ nodal heads in the states have given the instruction to all the branch managers to open the accounts and all the students from the pre-metric to the post-metric, i.e. up to PhD are opening accounts. Even minor students who cannot open individual accounts, are opening accounts in the guardianship of their father or mother and we have got the instructions issued from the SLBC that these accounts will not be made inoperative for one year because generally what happens that if there are 2-3 months or 6 months they do not operate the account it becomes inoperative. Those types of things are being taken care of there and I think if this scholarship and fee reimbursement scheme is introduced in other states also, I think, lot of development of minorities will take place.
Mohd Husain Khatkhatay: Abdur Rakeeb has given us a lot of statistics and I am sure he can also bear me out when I say that Muslim representation in the finance field is even much lower than their representation in the civil services, the higher civil services. What is the reason for this? It is because of the Muslim aversion to interest and also because among Muslims insurance is looked upon as not acceptable, as haraam. After almost 64 years of independence we are still not doing anything to remedy the situation. I feel that the authorities need to take note of this. This is not something which has just happened. There are so many instances; the recent Malegam Committee Report has not allowed micro finance institutions to raise deposits. As far as the mainstream micro finance institutions are concerned, this is cutting of Muslims completely from a micro finance institution because if micro finance institutions cannot raise their own deposits they have to borrow from the banks and then they will have to charge that interest from the borrower. There is an alternate model; Muslim cooperatives are there, Muslim NGOs are there who mobilize interest free deposits and lend on a service charge basis to cover the costs. The model is there; the same thing can be applied in micro finance. But if this law is passed, micro finance will be excluded for Muslims who are serious about their religion. Similarly, I will give you another instance, very recent instance, last year IRDA made some changes in the regulation according to which all insurance schemes had to pay a certain minimum rate of return on the savings with the insurance schemes for pension schemes. Just a little prior to that may be about 6 months earlier, Bajaj Alliance, in association with Tahsis had launched a scheme whereby the scheme was Sharia compliant for Muslims just because it was possible for them to invest the entire money in equities. That is a decision which was left to the insured person earlier, according to the regulations. Then the regulations got changed and the insurance companies were made to give at least some minimum return on the savings of the insured person. They said how we can put everything under equity now. We cannot. That scheme was discontinued.
Unfortunately, instead of going ahead and looking at various ways in which we can include Muslims by Takaful, we have done the reverse. What is Takaful? It is mutual insurance. It has been there all over the world earlier. It can still be there today and we have successful models running all over the world from Malaysia to even the United States, but we are not just looking at them. This is what I would like to say. Even mutual funds, the field was opened in about the early to mid-1990s. There was no Islamic mutual fund till two years ago. SEBI was not prepared to agree to it. Finally at least in that respect SEBI has been a little more open and they have agreed to it and hopefully another major Islamic mutual fund may be launched shortly, but in many ways things are going backwards. In the case of NBFCs earlier the rules were much more flexible and it was possible for Muslim NBFCs to work on an Islamic basis with certain minor comprises with Sharia. But the Reserve Bank all of a sudden has become inflexible, has changed the rules going completely over board it appears as though Reserve Bank has decided not to make any space for Islamic banking. This is a very unfortunate thing and I think it needs a really proper review by the government and some initiative from the government.
Safdar H Khan: We discussed about this scholarship that Delhi government is giving from pre-metric to PhD. I have recently joined as Chairman, Minorities Commission, just 1½ months back. I know little about that. The problem in Delhi – everybody must be facing this problem – the awareness is not there. Nobody knows. Secondly, KVIC (Khadi Village Industries) is also giving loan to minorities; Rs 25 lakhs, 35% subsidy. Nobody knows there also. So we are introducing awareness camps, especially in the minority dominated areas – Sikhs and Christians and all that places. This year 15 schools, Urdu medium schools of girls got 85% to 100% results in 12th class. So Muslim girls are now aware how to go about it. In small pockets like Jafrabad and minority dominated areas banking is a problem. There are hardly few banks in Muslim dominated areas. This is very important. I think we must do something for that. This is the problem, banking is the main problem. Even it is very difficult to get the loan from the bank. If they go they say you get us some certification from the district magistrate or deputy commissioner. It is very difficult to get these things, but I am sure the Skoch Foundation should develop a cohesive programme for the same.
Barnabe D’Souza: I have a couple of groups that I would like to address. First of all looking at financial inclusion through no frills accounts and through banking, the banks presuppose sociological factors that they take for granted and this is something that you need to pay attention to. I think Premchander, Father Gonzalez and many others around the table have articulated it in different forms that we need to look at the sociological factors which are important. For example, I have been working with several marginalized groups, e.g. the street children who I have been involved with for several years. We had children below the age of 18. We could not get them into the biometric or no frills accounts because of child labour issues. But those above 18 they had very practical questions to them – what if my card gets lost, what if I go to Bihar or what about if he takes my finger and goes and he takes my money. So there are certain questions which the banks take for granted, but at the grass root level, there are very different issues which need to be addressed. We are talking about financial literacy, but I think it is about sociological factors which we need to look at. When we started off this no frills accounts with the elder street children one thing that the no frills account company told us, within six months we would like to have 50,000 accounts. When we started off, we were with the children, I saw the children coming to this centre, putting in ten rupees, going out, after five minutes coming and withdrawing that seeing if the system works and someone coming back after days, again wants to take it out, and the banks wanted 50,000 accounts within six months.
A business model does not work with a social model or a sociological model. I think we need to give time and therefore the sociological model needs time. The banks have to realize this that the time lag is important for assimilation, for awareness for literacy. It is not just literacy of telling someone but letting them also assimilate it, practice it and understand the whole model. That will really kind of deepen banking and financial services to these types of marginalized groups. Since it could not work out with children and we could not get 50,000 accounts within six months I said let us turn to the urban poverty groups and urban poverty hotspots in urban slum communities. Of course, many of them did not have banking literacy so we went around personally showing them that (they are saying we will get cheated just like how we have had our community saving accounts with VCs and chit funds). But we found that homemakers who were working as domestics or at home stealing some money in the nights from their husbands coming and saying bolna mat mere marad ko with the CSO who was running the no frills accounts within the community itself. Interestingly – I run a research centre and also a financial social network organization called Connect All India and we are trying to connect several NGOs all across the country to help to take models of patterns of our learning to different parts of the country and interestingly we found that homemakers started getting into livelihood situations within the slum context, within the urban slum context and doing research we found that if there was no cash in the house they would come to the CSO, the no frills account, withdraw that 30-40 rupees and go and feed the child and send him to school. Doing studies of those livelihood organizations of 25 years plus, we found that because there was money in the house there was food in the house, because there was food in the house the children went to education. Today they are into banking, into hospitality, into IT taking up good rental apartments or even ownership apartments outside the city in several cities where there are lots of major small cities coming up.
The last group that I would like to speak about is the scheduled tribe groups, especially whom we have had practical experiences working with the Gadaris and the Thakurs. We bring about these social factors of showing them what a community day is and at the community day, about 8 years back in some villages we had them showing their passbooks. Just three people or four people or five people came up and showed they had bank accounts. Today, after 8 years, 90 to 94 per cent of those villages are having banking. Time is an important issue; the banks take time factor for granted. The second is the procedures and the methodologies have to go, have to go with understanding this type of population. Thus, a business model does not work with a sociological model. We need time.
Francis Dabre: I just want to say with these words, it is the voice of the voiceless people we are representing and just now Madam said, include gender too and there is something beautiful. Working in this whole area of representing the church in western India that comprises of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa and the church’s contribution for this area is to be appreciated. Amount of schools we have, amount of health services we have, amount of social wealth and representing the community at different levels, but when we look back to our community, already we are representing the marginalized and the poor and the BPL group. But in that BPL group there are so many ST/SC Christians who have not been recognized because they have become Christian. You have got a tag; you are a Roman Catholic so your all facilities are being withdrawn. This is the injustice done to the community and this has to be noted.
I think this group which is here has to speak about it in one voice and say this is the voice of the voiceless, including gender and the marginalized, the BPL group and in that this minority – Muslims, Christians.
Second thing is we have been neglected in the different areas. The church has contributed a lot for the betterment of the people of the society. Most of you might have studied in Convent School. What about the Christians who have been in minority, who have been marginalized? What has been done for them? The church has been very strong enough to get them back to the school.
How we can represent them at the very, very minority and just last week in Times of India, Mumbai had a big article about diminishing community of Catholics in Mumbai area. The minority has become still more minor. So how do we deal with that? I have been studying there is something called, very interesting, the east Indian community Mumbai, you may have heard about that, east Indian communities of the origins of Mumbai, their origins of Bandra today they are not there. Where have they gone? I myself conducted a survey at national level and found out they have been sidelined, they have been thrown out. They have sold their building because the government under Public Utility Act took their land and threw them out of the city. Where have they gone? When I gave that study to state government of Maharashtra and then they gave from 1st April 2006 something called OBC status for east Indian community. Now we have difficulty there also. Most of the people are not getting their death certificate. So how my voice can be heard at this level, at the government level that most of the origins of Mumbai who have been shifted to Dahanu. From the city they have been pushed and they have sold land.
Another thing I see there are lot of schemes available. But I think deliberation has been made here that financial literacy has to be done. We have lots of government schemes and I myself and my colleagues have been working for that that we need to reach out to the poorest of poor especially those who have been in minority community. So how can we have this financial literacy? This is a scheme, this is available. I think sir you have said already how we can represent them and how this can be reaching to the minority communities. The last point, I want to say sir, and if you can take not of these, we the church organization called NGO, socially recognized NGOs, have been working for the poorest of the poor. If the government can give us the authority to empower that we can reach out to the poorest of the poor. Government has its own machinery and government has got its own style of working. If they can empower us the NGOs who are working the like minded NGOs, the church NGOs, it would help. We want to say if we are transparent only gives us the authority. I am saying that myself and last 10 years we have been working in this whole of western India and I have lot of a experience to say, no time here sir, but then if this can be noted that good NGOs should be given this power to have different schemes to reach out to the poorest of the poor.
Heena Bijli: I would like to point regarding position of women, Muslim women in particular because I have done an intensive study in Uttar Pradesh and I realize, based on my experiences that Muslim women really want to come out. They want to come into the mainstream of national development, they want to participate in financial inclusion programmes and by virtue of belonging to the same community I strongly feel that and also they would like to participate in family planning programmes.
We would like to save our family, we would like to look after our health, but the awareness level is really low. It is very meager, what they know, the means, the outreach process is very bad. The facilities are poor. They would not know what assets are, what liabilities are, what net worth, what actually capital formation is. They would not know about all these issues and the formation of self help groups. So I think some kind of effort needs to be taken since we have chairpersons of the respective minorities’ commissions and also the Christian communities as well. I would like to take something like this at policy level where some kind of a policy be created where it is mandatory for Muslim women, a percentage of Muslim women to come out and be benefited from such facilities, such policies.
Wajahat Habibullah: What seems to have emerged in the discussions is that there are schemes, there are various initiatives but these are not really for the minorities and the minorities are not generally benefiting from this, and this goes across the board. It really includes all the minorities, not only one or the other. We have references of course to Sachar Committee report and so forth, but the question is that the discrimination and the disadvantages faced by all the communities seems to have been established today. I would specially talk of the issue pointed by the young lady that in the minorities there is a sub-minority which is also minority which is not really getting the returns from the system which it deserves to get and that is the women, the gender.
The point made by Shri Khatkhatay is well taken that the government has not been responsive enough. Khatkhatay has also mentioned that the government has been sort of ignoring the issue. In this context, I might say that the failing may be our own that is that in a democratic structure you have a parliament, you have an elected government, you have these organizations which are always answerable and accountable and we have laws for accountability, the RTI Act and so on. But the question is that true democracy does not succumb to majoritarianism. A true democracy is one which protects its minorities and those that are subjected to any excesses by that state authority which will include people who may be the disadvantaged, the handicapped, scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, so on. Our country has all these institutions but these institutions have not been effective. You have the National Human Rights Commission, you have the National Commission for Women, and you have various other Commissions which are supposed to look into these issues. But they have not been effective, and I now find myself, Safdar saab said that he has been here for a month and a half. I have been here for three months. I find, and I would be the first admit that the commission has not done enough and this may be noted by other members of commissions. We have been responsive; somebody comes to us with a complaint, we try and do something. In this context, I would also say that even to that limited extent NGOs must make use of us. You mentioned Father that the NGOs should be recognized. Make use of the instrument of this commission, petition the commission. Ask the commission why it has not acted, under the RTI Act. Do all that, but that is not what I mean is really the job of the commission. That is one aspect, which we have been doing. The point is these commissions have to play a vital role in policymaking and that depends on the commissions actually asserting themselves even where it may mean that they are critical of the government with which they work. A certain degree of protection is given to the commissions by the law itself. Make use of that and be more assertive the commissions must do this.
I had the opportunity of recently visiting the United States and they have the Department of Justice. It is just a government department, but they have a civil rights division and that civil rights division has been very, very active and ever since the infamous 9/11 they have been particularly active in protecting the rights of American Muslims. How do they exercise that right? They exercise that right by prosecuting schools, companies, departments, states taking them to court and they found that in most of the cases where they have prosecuted a compromise has been struck because the department or the organization really does not want to be actually punished for having discriminated against a particular community. I am working towards seeing how we, our commissions can also start doing this kind of thing. These are ways in which the commissions must now be more assertive. If I may come now to the question and the discussion which was really, the subject was the reaching banking and other financial services to the minorities. In this case the largest minority is the Muslim minority and I think what has also emerged in the discussion today is that of the communities the one that is least benefited by the banking system are the Muslims largely because of their antipathy towards interest.
Now, it is also fact and the records will show this that there is a huge amount, several thousand crores of rupees which has accrued from interest arising from deposits made by the Muslim community lying unutilized. The law demands that any deposits which are made will have to be given interest and that is the law and that is the regulations. But since the community does not wish to make use of that, since the individuals do wish to make use of that interest, that interest is lying unutilized. It can easily go into various sectors like have been mentioned – education, other things – for the minorities – social sectors – which were mentioned by D’Souza. That money can be used for that purpose. All it requires is the regulation should be suitably modified for that purpose. So let me come to the question of interest free banking and I am calling interest free banking because calling it Islamic banking, Christian banking, Hindu banking, Jewish banking will add sort of communal colour to the system. It is strongly grounded in Islamic principles but in itself stands alone as a method of banking and what are the benefits?
These are the concerns; economic concerns today. Consequences of world economic downturn remain a concern. Our country has managed to survive that but even now, as you would have learnt from the latest discussions, this year our rate of growth is not going to be what we had anticipated it would be. There is an alarming and growing gap between India’s rich and poor. We talk of India shining, but we also have a huge naxalite movement affecting 1/3 of the districts of India. Then, if poverty persists the poorer, including sections of minorities, could become a national economic liability. Instead of actually participating and contributing to the development process, they will start acting as a retardation of the development process. There is, therefore, an exploration needed. We need to find alternative ways of assuring wealth growth minimal risk, collating and investing unused saving from the Indian economy which is what I have mentioned and attracting investment from the growing wealth of countries committed to interest banking. You have this huge bulk, the largest country in this regard is Iran which generates the largest amount of its GDP from interest free banking. But the very wealthy nations of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia will not invest because once the investment starts paying interest they will not invest. You will be able to attract them if you have provision for interest free banking. Interest free banking does not mean banking without gain. It does not mean that you bank and you get nothing out of that. There is a gain.
The gain is not the interest but equity based and the depositor is a co-investor. He is not a borrower. He is a co-investor and the investor shares in both risk and gain with the bank. There are five principles; money itself has no intrinsic value. The five principles of interest free banking and I have taken this from the British concept, in the UK what they deem as interest banking, has no intrinsic value. It is a means to store wealth and it is a media of exchange. There is therefore no uncertainty of speculation and there is discerning financing. No finances will be extended to gambling, pornography, alcohol, armaments and you can take a decision that we will not give any loan for this purpose. Interest free loans will not be given for these purposes, and the investor and the investee both share in both profit and loss and asset banking because all financial transactions are backed by substantive underlying assets. We cannot have what has happened in the US which of course is the meltdown that there were no assets and you kept on lending. That cannot happen under this system.
If these are all the benefits and why do you need to advocate? We need to examine the end use of divergent and alternative practices of growing wealth. The money that is being accumulated as a result, that is growing in the country, how is it to be invested in order to growth, is the crucial need and I think you will all agree there is a crucial need to whether economic crises which keep repeating and as the economy has been liberalized – and Prof Rangarajan has been the father of liberalization as he has discussed in his book – as it is being liberalized and it has become increasingly important to find ways and means of weathering economic crisis because as you liberalize the cushions of a socialist or a welfare state are no longer available to the economy and they are opening fairer ways of monetary gain in a climate of economic certainty. That means you have this much money, you know what you will invest, you will get this much in return and therefore there is a need for bank use to be protected in times of economic volatility because as we know, and it is so well known, the largest banks in the US, the most economically advanced country in the world, have failed because of this economic volatility and in India it will mean the inclusion of a disadvantaged minority. Lot has been said today about how the minorities, the Muslims particularly, are not even participating in the banking process. I started by saying they have left out of this whole banking and therefore you will be able to, through these means, include them in this banking process and then gain from the quantum of potential investment of minority. The economic as a whole will gain. Those thousands of crores which are lying without investment they will be invested. Where will they be invested? They will be invested in India’s economy. So this will be a general gain for all communities, not necessarily only a gain for those.
The direct gain will be the person who is investing but it will be a gain to the community. It will also promote an inflow from both the Gulf and the Far East and Malaysia has made considerable progress in this, and I am not asking that we step into new ground. I am grateful to Raqeeb for having educated me on this point; we are not stepping into virgin territory on this regard. Other secular, democratic countries like ourselves, including the UK from whom we have got our democracy – UK, Europe, Malaysia, Singapore – all of them have got provision for interest free banking and there is therefore a roadmap has already been charted, not necessarily in a theocratic environment like Iran, but in a secular, economic environment.
What is necessary? Government support and sustained confidence in the system. Depositor’s money has to be protected and the taxpayer’s interests safeguarded. These are the three elements of financial stability. All three elements, provided the government gives its support, are to be found in the process of interest free banking.
These are specifics. Investment contracts through fund management, partnership and investment agency. D’Souza mentioned about mutual funds. These are all covered as investment contracts. Sales contracts; through sale on cash basis, sale on deferred basis, sale with profit, build and manufacture, leasing and sale of described commodity. Here is where your question of credit and so on come in.
These are the persons who have recommended this. Raghuram Rajan had mentioned if London, Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong can become the hubs and houses of Islamic finance and banking why not Mumbai and Kochi. Boston Consultancy Group which was till recently headed by an old college friend of mine Arun Maira, focuses on transparency, cooperative ventures, shared risk and ethical investing which attracts a wide range of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Can you afford to ignore it? Can you afford to ignore is a question for our country, not only for the Muslims, obviously not? It is for the country.
Why do we call it Islamic banking? It is Islamic banking because of the fact that Islam lays a great deal of stress on the fact of not giving interest but in charity. Zakaat as those who are Muslims know as one of the five basic principles of Islam, but there is charity, charity, charity. Islam repeatedly talks about giving what you gain. So therefore it is Islamic in that sense, but more than 40% investors and 0% borrowers in the Islamic banks are not Muslims, in China, in Malaysia but they are Chinese and in UK the 20% of the applicants for Islamic products, in Islamic Bank of Briton are not Muslims and this is key. What MS Swaminathan, the father of our Green Revolution has to say, it could hold the key to solving the farmers’ suicide crisis because why do the suicides occur, because the farmer finds he has taken this loan and he is not able to pay it back because interest has mounted. So here is the key to solving the farmers’ suicide crisis.
I undertake to take up with the relevant authorities in the Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India. So do not have any grief about the fact that they are not represented here. I am quite a bully. So I intend to use my bullying skills, if that is what you can call them, for promoting this concept in government and taking note of the points here, particularly the point that the gender interests must form an intrinsic part of this proposal and highlight it because generally often it gets ignored. There is also special and specific need to look at the problems of the women, and of course the other point which I think came across from the presentation of D’Souza about street children.