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Amit Mitra writes to FM Nirmala Sitharaman on weavers’ plight

After rejection of 40,000 loan applications of highly skilled and innovative weavers and artisans

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Chief advisor to the chief minister and finance department Amit Mitra today sought Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s intervention over rejection of 40,000 loan applications of highly skilled and innovative weavers and artisans. Mr Mitra urged Ms Sitharaman to “persuade both RBI and MSME ministry at the Centre to rectify the notifications and allow self-certification by micro-weavers and artisans for bank loan applications, as was the case in the initial notification.” “In a recent meeting of the State Level Bankers’ Committee, which I mentor, it became evident that the cause of such huge rejections by the banks was the stringent notification by the Government of India which made mandatory a variety of requirements including PAN cards, etc. for even these micro-weavers and artisans.

Unfortunately, RBI too has brought out a similar stringent notification,” wrote Mr Mitra complaining that the bankers are unable to lend to micro enterprises due to such notifications. Mr Mitra said that the issue has already been raised by state chief secretary HK Dwivedi before Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. The letter came on a day when the first global partnership for financial inclusion meeting of G-20 India presidency was inaugurated in the city. The G-20 has prioritised “financial inclusion” of SMEs and micro enterprises in their global action plan. The applications have been rejected despite being vetted by the district industries centres and being holders of the Weavers and Artisans Credit Cards.

During April to September 2022, out of 15,298 weavers who applied for loans, 10,108 were rejected, which means a 66 per cent rejection rate during April to September. Similarly, loan applications of 29,656 out of 48,153 artisans were rejected during the same period, which means a 62 per cent rejection. Mr Mitra argued that while the Centre is encouraging creative industries, the hopes of artisans and weavers are being dashed due to loan rejection.

He apprehended that the total rejection of bank loans would be five to 10 lakh in the country if the figure for West Bengal is 40,000. It may be mentioned here that after the State Level Bankers’ Committee meeting on 23 December, last year, Mr Mitra had said that the state government will urge the Centre to change the criteria for availing loans for artisans and weavers. Till the issue is resolved, the state officers were asked to assist the weavers and artisans so that they can avail loans and the bank officials had also agreed to cooperate. “Many artisans and weavers are very poor and it is impossible for them to possess PAN cards. In such a situation, their loan applications are rejected. We will take this up with the Centre and also write to the RBI.

We will request the Centre to change their criteria. The Centre is unaware of the grassroots level problems as a result of which the poor weavers and artisans are suffering,” Mr Mitra had then said. A loan disbursement target of Rs 1,10,178 crore was given for the MSME sector to the banks of which Rs 70,667 crore has already been achieved in the last six months, Mr Mitra had added.