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Guwahati: Altogether Rs 12,500 crore of microfinance loans, comprising both principal and interest, are outstanding in Assam till March 31 last, minister Ashok Singhal said on Friday.

Twenty-six lakh customers with 45 lakh bank accounts have taken loans from 40 lenders, Singhal said at a press conference here.

Singhal said that 53 per cent of the outstanding amount of Rs 12,500 crore was lent by banks, 22 per cent by Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) and microfinance institutions, 26 per cent by small finance banks and 16 per cent by regular NBFCs.

The irrigation and urban development minister is heading a committee formed to assess the financial situation for fulfilling the BJP’s election promise for waiving microfinance loans.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had decided to set up the panel in the first cabinet meeting on May 11 with Singhal as the chairman and principal secretaries of the finance and panchayat and rural development departments as members.

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“The chief minister had directed us to prepare a package to provide relief to maximum poor women who had taken loans and are facing immense miseries,” Singhal said.

The committee has held three rounds of meetings with the stakeholders that include banks, NBFCs, small cooperatives, microfinance institutions and the RBI.

“We had asked for the data which they provided but we realised that more data mining was required and it will be soon provided by the stakeholders. The discussions will continue and we expect to resolve the issue at the earliest”, he said.

Certain criterion has to be followed according to RBI guidelines while giving loans to the borrowers but it is certain that norms have been flouted which has created problems for poor women borrowers, he said.

The basic norms to be followed is that a woman cannot be a member of more than one Self Help Groups (SHGs) and not more than two NBFCs should lend to the same borrower.

According to the data made available, 19.10 lakh customers have borrowed from one lender, 5.08 lakh from two lenders, 1.54 lakh from three lenders and 60,000 from more than three lenders.

The minister said that action will be taken against the lenders who have flouted norms within the legal framework as most of the women who had taken loans are not educated and are not aware of the terms and conditions.

He said that discussions are going on the relief provisions and only those loans will be considered which were taken before December 31, 2020.

He said those with a family income of Rs one lakh, paying income tax, owning four-wheelers or any other such guidelines set by the RBI will not be considered for the waiver of loans.

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