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Inauguration of first all-women Bharatiya Mahila Bank Tuesday

The first all-women Bharatiya Mahila Bank will open today in Mumbai with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi likely to attend the inaugural ceremony of the bank along with Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

After inauguration, seven branches of the bank would become operational across the country, including in Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Guwahati. The headquarter of the bank will be in Delhi and it will have 25 branches by March 31, 2014.

The Finance Minister had announced the setting up of the all-woman bank in his Budget speech this year. "Women are heads of many banks today, including two public sector banks. But there is no bank that exclusively serves women. Can we have a bank that lends mostly to women and women-run businesses? I think we can," Mr Chidambaram had said.

Usha Ananthasubramanian was appointed as the bank's Chairperson and Managing Director last week.

The Bharatiya Mahila Bank could take a leaf or two out of the book of a humble rural cooperative women's venture in Maharashtra in order to succeed in the long run.

The all-women bank can learn from the bank on how to give loan to women who lack the collateral to pay back the money.

Chetna V Sinha, founder and chairperson of Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, said that this is the major problem for women but the rural bank overcome this problem by asking the husband of the woman to sign an undertaking that he has made his wife a partner in the property and that she wants the loan to develop her household.

It is expected that the Bharatiya Mahila Bank would also adopt the same technique. "It is wrong to say that women do not have collateral as even if the property is not in her name, she does have a part in it," Sinha said.