While at the macro-level visible changes have taken place in the volume of the domestic banking business, inter-regional and inter-district disparities continue to persist. Growth in the banking database generated by the Reserve Bank does not throw enough light on these deficiencies.
The number of rural branches has increased substantially in the recent years, no doubt. But its inadequacy in many districts is not properly explained by these data. Graphic presentation of the disaggregated data at the district level or even at the state-level through maps would be more effective in depicting the extent of the regional banking disparities. Maps would be very useful in such analysis. With the changes rapidly taking place in the banking map of the country through the emphasis on financial inclusion, it would be very useful if the Indian Banks Association comes out with such a Banking Atlas.
Earlier attempts by Reserve Bank
The RBI has been publishing the Statistical Tables Relating to Banks in India, annually since 1939. Besides providing banking data of individual banks categorised into three classes based on their capital base, there used to be a couple of pages containing Indian maps showing the spread of banked centres all over the country. The printing technology of that time being what it was, those maps printed on ordinary papers, could display the dispersion of banked centres by black dots only. Though they were shabby, they could convey more easily the concentration of banks in few states and their absence in large tracts of many states.
The concentration of banking centres - inferentially the availability of banking facilities – was more effectively conveyed in the southern states and West Bengal. During the 1950s, this practice of presenting a visual display of the dispersion of banking centers was discontinued by the Reserve Bank.
IBA did it for one year
Indian Banks’ Association made a maiden attempt in bringing out a banking atlas in 1996. The IBA Committee of Bank Economists, which consisted of economists working in different public sector banks, did the groundwork.
I was the chairman of that committee. The IBA Banking Atlas of Indian Banking was published by IBA, depicting the regional disparities in the availability of banking facilities in different states. That was a novel way of presenting, through maps of India, the regional disparities in the spread of banking development. Elegantly printed, the first ever "Atlas on Indian Banking" was released by the IBA. It should not remain to be the last.
The Atlas also contained a host of useful banking statistics explaining the regional differences in banking development. Maps showing the per capita deposits and per capita credit state-wise were very informative. Similarly state-wise variations in the credit-deposit ratios were also colourfully displayed.
The scope of new atlas
As ATMs have started emerging as extended service outlets since 1987, their spread can be now included in the new Atlas. Since a couple of lakhs of business correspondents are operating in villages all over the country, their accessibility in different states can be illustrated. Juxtaposing the maps showing the per capita bank deposits and per capita income, state-wise, would be very meaningful. So also would be the comparative position of per capita income and per capita bank credit.
Growth rates of agricultural production can be compared with the percentage of farm credit lent in each state. Percentage of households availing banking facilities state-wise, - both rural and urban - as revealed by the Census 2011, can be matched with the percentage of personal loans outstanding, correspondingly.
District-level presentation of maps relating to, for example, housing loans and transport loans vis-à-vis the deficiencies of housing and transport facilities would be very informative. Besides these, many other indicators of banking business could be compared with socio-economic indicators available from the Human Development Indices, both at the state and district levels.