By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, August 11, 2023: In a bid to enhance the coverage of financial inclusion, Odisha on Friday announced to open CSP Plus banking outlets in 4,373 unbanked gram panchayats (GPs) at a cost of Rs 500 crore, officials said.

The Odisha Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik gave a nod to the proposal including 18 other proposals.

The CSP (customer service point) Plus banking outlets will be opened in coordination with six public sector banks (PSBs), Finance Minister BK Arukha said adding that the six PSBs — State Bank of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank (PNB), UCO Bank, Union Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Bank of India — have been roped in to facilitate opening the facilities in 4,373 unbanked gram panchayats.

Stating that financial inclusion is a high priority agenda of the state government, the minister said banking penetration in the state is quite low as out of the 6,798 GPs, around 65% (4,373 GPs) do not have brick and mortar branches.

“The progress in terms of setting up the branches in unbanked GPs by banks is slow and negligible. Since banking is an essential service for financial inclusion, every GP needs to be provided with a brick and mortar branch for uninterrupted services,” Arukha remarked.

“Therefore, the state government has come forward with an ambitious target of providing banking services to every GP through CSP Plus banking outlets,” the finance minister said and added that the scheme will be implemented in a phased manner.

He informed that the state government will provide rent-free banking space for 5 years. Besides, the government will also bear one-time expenses for fixed cost and recurring expenses for a period of three years, he said.

Arukha said the scheme will enhance the coverage of financial inclusion in a big way and people residing in all unbanked GPs will have easy access to all kinds of banking services free of cost. Senior citizens, differently abled people and pregnant women will get doorstep banking services and can avail the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in a timely manner.

In another major decision, the Cabinet approved the Odisha Public Private Partnership (PPP) Policy 2023 for reinforcing and further accelerating the growth of PPPs. It will help the state to adapt to the changes in the PPP ecosystem, Chief Secretary PK Jena said after the meeting. He said the new policy aims for an optimum balance between private sector risk and rewards.

“The fundamental benefit of this policy is to provide value for money to the state, resulting in better and affordable services over the long term,” he said, adding that the policy will leverage state and central government funds, support private investment, and create a conducive environment to utilise the efficiencies, innovativeness, and flexibility of the private sector to provide better infrastructure and services at an optimal cost.

According to the policy, PPP projects requiring a minimum investment of Rs 500 crore would be approved by a High-Level Clearance Authority (HLCA). The Empowered Committee on Infrastructure (ECI) will have the authority to approve projects of a value ranging from Rs 10 crore to Rs 500 crore.

The Cabinet also approved the “Nutana Unnata Abhilasha” (NUA) scheme with an outlay of Rs 385 crore, which is aimed at training one lakh youths every year during the next 3 years. The scheme will be implemented in all the 30 districts and skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling opportunities will be provided through skilling institutions of the SD (skill development) & TE (technical education) Department (ITI, Polytechnic), government skilling institutions, educational institutions and clusters (MSME, agriculture, craft).

The cabinet also approved an additional budget of Rs 2,687crore for a special programme for developing and creating awareness for millets in four years from 2023-24 to 2026-27.

To mitigate the drinking water problem, the Cabinet also approved the lowest tender of The Indian Hume Pipe Co Ltd Mumbai, amounting to Rs 639,16,28,812, for execution of 4 mega piped water supply projects, which will be completed within a period of 24 months and benefit around 4,60,612 people of 498 villages under 92 GPs of seven blocks of Puri district, an official release said.

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