Noting that about 80 per cent of gram panchayats in the state do not have a bank brach, the Odisha government on Friday asked bank authorities to take up a drive for Aadhar seeding to encourage Direct Transfer of Benefits (STB) to all beneficiaries under various schemes.

"Poor Aadhar seeding of bank accounts is also a worrying factor. Although Aadhar enrolment has been done for 91 per cent of the eligible people in the state, Aadhar seeding has been done only for 35 per cent of the bank account holders. Banks may conduct Aadhar seeding in Camp Mode in coordination with concerned government departments," Odisha’s Finance Minister Pradeep Kumar Amat said while addressing the 144th Meeting of the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) here.

Amat said the state government is going to set up a DBT Cell to improve direct benefit transfer.

Efforts have been taken to provide basic banking services in interior areas through Business Correspondents (BCs).

However, still a sizeable number of people in rural areas are deprived of reliable banking services, he said.

"I request all banks to ensure basic banking facilities in the Sub Service Areas allotted to them in a time bound manner," Amat said adding that initiatives have been taken to provide banking service in interior areas through Self Help Groups (SHG) as Business Correspondents.

Initiatives have also been taken to establish Banks on Wheels through mobile vans.

Many banks have also started installing Micro ATMs, through which rural customers of any bank can withdraw money from any bank outlet. Banks should think of many more such innovative ideas to reach out to rural masses, he said.

Amat said about 97 lakh new bank accounts have been opened in the state under the Jan Dhan Yojana.

However, almost 25 per cent of these accounts still have zero balance, he said adding that this means that these accounts have no transactions at all.

Similarly, Amat said 25 per cent of these new account holders are yet to receive their pass books. "We should strive to make the existing bank accounts fully operational so that people are not denied basic banking facilities," Amat told to banks.

Stating that agriculture has always been a priority area for the state, Amat pointed out that banks in Odisha could achieve only 85 per cent of their Crop Loan target for the year 2015-16.

Similarly, under Agriculture Term Loan, the achievement was less than 50 per cent. "This year at least we should ensure 100 per cent target achievement under agriculture and allied sector. However, during the first quarter of this year, only 21 per cent of Crop Loan and 14 per cent of Term Loan targets have been achieved," Amat pointed out.

"Unless we start achieving our Quarterly targets from the beginning of the year, we cannot achieve the Annual targets. Therefore, I request the State Heads of all banks to closely monitor their target achievement under Priority Sector loans," Finance Minister said.

He called upon the SLBC to ensure equitable distribution of loan targets among all banks and review their progress at Sub Committee level. Difficulties and bottlenecks should be identified at the beginning of the year, so that timely corrective action can be taken, he said.

The SLBC was attended by the representatives of all banks operating in Odisha, financial institutions, Government Departments and other stakeholders.