FM urges spread of banking facilities in rural areas

Kolkata: Admitting that `leakage` of funds was taking place in MNREGA, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that spread of banking facilities in the rural areas could plug leaks and reduce corruption.

"Allegations of leakage are coming in MNREGA. Yes, leakage is taking place," Mukherjee said while addressing a Panchayat Raj Convention at Netaji Indoor Stadium here.

"If passage of funds to the recipients for schemes like MNREGA, old age pension, etc can be ensured through the banking system, then leakage will stop and corruption will decrease," Mukherjee said.

He, however, stressed that despite the corruption in distribution of MNREGA funds where jobless rural poor are given work under the 100-day job guarantee scheme, the project has also ensured that minimum wages have risen in many backward places.

"We must also not forget that it has increased minimum wages throughout the country and has helped poor people get work," Mukherjee said.

"I am giving stress to financial inclusion of rural people by ensuring banking services reaches out to them," the finance minister said.

Stating that there are 89,000 branches of banks in the country where there are 6.4 lakh villages, he said that where branches cannot be opened, mobile banking services can help the villagers get access to the system.

He said that 49 per cent farmers do not have access to any financial schemes or assistance from any banks or cooperatives.