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Banking Reform in India∗ - page 4 / 57





4 / 57

in size between the public and private banks, it is less clear-cut. We conclude in section 6 with a short discussion of the implications of these results for the future of banking reform.



India has a long history of both public and private banking. Modern banking in India began in the 18th century, with the founding of the English Agency House in Calcutta and Bombay. In the first half of the 19th century, three Presidency banks were founded. After the 1860 introduction of limited liability, private banks began to appear, and foreign banks entered the market. The beginning of the 20th century saw the introduction of joint stock banks. In 1935, the presidency banks were merged together to form the Imperial Bank of India, which was subsequently renamed the State Bank of India. Also that year, India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), began operation. Following independence, the RBI was given broad regulatory authority over commercial banks in India. In 1959, the State Bank of India acquired the state-owned banks of eight former princely states. Thus, by July 1969, approximately 31 percent of scheduled bank branches throughout India were government controlled, as part of the State Bank of India.

The post-war development strategy was in many ways a socialist one, and the Indian gov- ernment felt that banks in private hands did not lend enough to those who needed it most. In July 1969, the government nationalized all banks whose nationwide deposits were greater than Rs. 500 million, resulting in the nationalization of 54 percent more of the branches in India, and bringing the total number of branches under government control to 84 percent.

Prakesh Tandon, a former chairman of the Punjab National Bank (nationalized in 1969) describes the rationale for nationalization as follows:

Many bank failures and crises over two centuries, and the damage they did under ‘laissez faire’ conditions; the needs of planned growth and equitable distribution of credit, which in privately owned banks was concentrated mainly on the controlling industrial houses and influential borrowers; the needs of growing small scale industry and farming regarding finance, equipment and inputs; from all these there emerged an inexorable demand for banking legislation, some government control and a central


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