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Bhubaneswar: Odisha today became the first state in the country to carry financial inclusion and extend banking services to unbanked areas through Self Help Groups (SHGs).

The state government signed an agreement with State Bank of India in this regard.

"This is a historic agreement to leverage the reach and resources of Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM) under which SHGs operate, to provide banking facilities to people in unbanked areas. Odisha is a pioneer state in carrying forward financial inclusion through close cooperation between SHGs and banks," said Rajnish Kumar, Managing Director, National Banking Group of the State Bank of India.

Kumar said such collaboration would have greater positive impact on Aadhaar seeding of bank accounts.

State Chief Secretary A P Padhi said around 70 per cent Gram Panchayats in Odisha do not have brick and mortar bank branches.

Taking banking services to people in these remote areas has always been a concern for the government, Padhi said adding, this agreement would go a long way in extending basic banking services to the people in those areas.

Padhi emphasised that financial inclusion was not just opening of bank accounts, but meeting credit needs of the people for enhancing their livelihood and income.

State Panchayati Raj secretary Deo Ranjan Kumar Singh said OLM would now function as a corporate agent and around three lakh SHGs operating under OLM would act as Banking Correspondents (BCs).

In the first phase SHGs would be engaged as BCs in around 1,000 remote Gram Panchayats having no banking facilities, Singh said adding, gradually it would be extended to 4,000 non-banked panchayats.

The process would be later on extended across the state as a supplement to banking service, he said.

Chief Manager, SBI, Prasanna Kumar Behera said through this arrangement, people would get services like opening of bank accounts, cash deposits and withdrawals, Aadhaar-enabled payment, use of Rupay Cards and other banking facilities.

The system would be of great help to people in rural areas under social security schemes like Pradhan Mantri Bima Surakshya Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana etc and would also be helpful in promotion of digital banking, he said.

Director of OLM Pranab Jyoti Nath and Assistant General Manager, SBI, Srikant Hota signed the agreement. PTI AAM

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