At a meeting of the National Credit Council held in July 1968, it was emphasised that commercial banks should increase their involvement in the financing of priority sectors, viz., agriculture and small scale industries. The description of the priority sectors was later formalised in 1972 on the basis of the report submitted by the Informal Study Group on Statistics relating to advances to the Priority Sectors constituted by the Reserve Bank in May 1971. On the basis of this report, the Reserve Bank prescribed a modified return for reporting priority sector advances and certain guidelines were issued in this connection indicating the scope of the items to be included under the various categories of priority sector. Although initially there was no specific target fixed in respect of priority sector lending, in November 1974 the banks were advised to raise the share of these sectors in their aggregate advances to the level of 33 1/3 per cent by March 1979.
At a meeting of the Union Finance Minister with the Chief Executive Officers of public sector banks held in March 1980, it was agreed that banks should aim at raising the proportion of their advances to priority sectors to 40 per cent by March 1985. Subsequently, on the basis of the recommendations of the Working Group on the Modalities of Implementation of Priority Sector Lending and the Twenty Point Economic Programme by Banks, all commercial banks were advised to achieve the target of priority sector lending at 40 per cent of aggregate bank advances by 1985. Sub-targets were also specified for lending to agriculture and the weaker sections within the priority sector. Since then, there have been several changes in the scope of priority sector lending and the targets and sub-targets applicable to various bank groups.
On the basis of the recommendations of the Internal Working Group, set up in Reserve Bank to examine, review and recommend changes, if any, in the existing policy on priority sector lending including the segments constituting the priority sector, targets and sub-targets, etc. and the comments/suggestions received thereon from banks, financial institutions, public and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), it has been decided to include only those sectors that impact large segments of population & the weaker sections, and which are employment-intensive, as part of the priority sector. I. CATEGORIES OF PRIORITY SECTOR
The broad categories of priority sector for all scheduled commercial banks are as under: (i) Agriculture (Direct and Indirect finance): Direct finance to agriculture shall include short, medium and long term loans given for agriculture and allied activities directly to individual farmers, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) or Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) of individual farmers without limit and to others (such as corporates, partnership firms and institutions) up to Rs. 20 lakh, for taking up agriculture/allied activities.
Indirect finance to agriculture shall include loans given for agriculture and allied activities as specified in Section I, appended.
(ii) Small Scale Industries (Direct and Indirect Finance): Direct finance to small scale industries (SSI) shall include all loans given to SSI units which are engaged in manufacture, processing or preservation of goods and whose investment in plant and machinery (original cost) excluding land and building does not exceed the amounts specified in Section I, appended.
Indirect finance to SSI shall include finance to any person providing inputs to or marketing the output of artisans, village and cottage industries, handlooms and to cooperatives of producers in this sector.
(iii) Small Business / Service Enterprises shall include small business, retail trade, professional & self employed persons, small road & water transport operators and other service enterprises as per the definition given in Section I and other enterprises that are engaged in providing or rendering of...