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Directions (1- 5): Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions given below them. Certain words/phrases have been printed in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions.
The Guardian once cited one question that the entrance examination paper for a trainee program at Merrill Lynch in 1972 had: “When you meet a woman, what interests you most about her?” The correct answer was beauty. Those who thought intelligence, were given low marks. There was, of course, no question on what interests one the most when meeting a man. This is gender discrimination at its worst in the financial sector. Do we see this in 21st century India? There is no gender discrimination in the Indian financial sector— whether at the organizational level or in choice of consumers. Then why did the ex -finance Minister P. Chidambaram want to set up a bank exclusively for women customer and run by women?
One reason could be political. Women as a gender are not a separate constituency yet in India. There are urban women, rural women, wealthy women and poor women but women as a gender are not a vote bank. This is a relatively low-cost experiment to create that. Beyond politics, as a symbol of women’s empowerment, this is not a laughing matter or an idea to ridicule, but translating this into success is no easy job. There are quite a few cooperative banks in India that give loans to women borrowers. Then there are two cooperative organizations run exclusively by women—the Ahmedabad-based Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank Ltd and Maharashtra based Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank Ltd— but both of them have a successful but limited geographical presence.
Globally too there aren’t too many instances of banks run by women, for women. Tanzania has one such example. In 1999, a group of women entrepreneurs mooted the idea of a women’s bank to then president Benjamin William Mkapa and it took eight years for the Women’s Bank Public Ltd Co to set up, with the government holding 97% equity stake and private entities the rest and on the day the bank was launched, 110 women opened accounts. It focuses on low-income earners, small businesses and small and medium enterprises and men can also open accounts in this bank based in Dar es Salaam.
Ahead of Tanzania, Pakistan had set up First Women Bank Ltd. Late primeminister Benazir Bhutto was instrumental in establishing this to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs. It commenced business in December 1989, with five leading public sector banks— National Bank of Pakistan, Habib Bank Ltd, Muslim Commercial Bank Ltd, United Bank Ltd and Allied Bank Ltd— holding 90% stake and the government the rest. After 23 years of existence, the bank has about 60,000 women customers, handled by 600 employees spread over 41 branches over 24 locations. The only other example of a special vehicle for women is Women’s World Banking, Savings and Loans Co. Ltd. Starting operations in 1998, it has seven branches in Ghana. .
In India, the self-help groups (SHGs) and microfinance movements have been driven by women. Such groups are an intermediary between the banking system and borrowers. Banks and microfinance institutions are comfortable dealing with women borrowers as they are more responsible and disciplined in their approach in paying back the money. While many men in rural India spend their meagre earnings drinking alcohol and gambling, women keep the hearth fires burning and take care of children’s education.
A woman’s bank will not become successful in India if it focuses only on banking. If our government is serious about this project, it must see that this bank goes beyond taking deposits and giving loans and becomes a vehicle for changing attitudes about women and their money, taking care of other things such as education, vocational training, etc and help in empowering women by educating them about self-finance. At a parallel level, we also need to address two structural issues— women must have right to property (otherwise they can’t offer collateral for a loan) and get adequately involved in formal economy through jobs and entrepreneurship. Professional urban women do not need a bank of their own but rural women, particularly in those pockets of India which are fraught with casteism and gender discrimination, will find in it an oasis.
Q1. What is the author’s initial opinion about the announcement made by the then Finance Minister to set up a woman’s bank in India?
(a) The author is supportive of the idea from the start and even suggests that certain changes in the implementation which will take care of structural mistakes in the plan.
(b) The author is critical about the motive behind it but believes that it has potential of really helping out women if certain issues are taken care of by the government.
(c) The author is critical of the idea and thinks that it was announced with an eye on the large voter bank of women keeping in mind the forthcoming elections.
(d) The author thinks that Indian women face gender discrimination in the financial sector and thus having a woman’s bank is a welcome change which supports their needs.
(e) Although the author believes that women are better customers than men in terms of repayment of loans and loyalty to the bank, he finds a woman’s bank unnecessary.
Q2. Which of the following is definitely true according to the passage?
(a) Globally, microfinance initiatives are run by women.
(b) Women cooperative organizations are very successful all over India.
(c) In India, men as a gender are a vote bank.
(d) Pakistan set up its first women’s bank after Tanzania.
(e) In 1972, the organization Merrill Lynch was working in the financial sector.
Q3. Women Bank Co. Ltd. Of Tanzania is basically focused on
(a)large enterprises and medium businesses
(b)working on financial sector
(c)high income earners and small enterprises
(d low-income earners, small businesses and small and medium enterprises.
(e)none of these.
Q4. Why are banks and microfinance institutions more comfortable in dealing with women borrowers rather than with men?
(a)This is due to the real gender discrimination.
(b) to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs.
(c) they are more responsible and disciplined in their approach in paying back the money.
(d)to make women adequately involved in formal economy.
(e)keeping in mind the forthcoming elections.
Q5. What are the major issues the rural women in India are loaded with due to which they need a bank of their own?
(a)drinking alcohol and gambling
(b)unable to take care of children’s education
(c)not liable to right to property.
(d)casteism and gender discrimination.
(e)none of these.
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