The first all-women Bharatiya Mahila Bank, a pioneering initiative to empower women, was on Tuesday launched with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore to function as a universal bank.
Coinciding with the 96th birthday of late Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the first of its seven branches at a function here in the presence of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, coalition leaders Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah, besides Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan and Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan were also present at the launch of the bank which was announced in this year's Budget.
Inaugurating the bank, the Prime Minister emphasised that a lot more was needed to be done to empower women and ensure their safety.
"We have strengthened the law to provide for harsher punishment for sexual offences against women, but much more needs to be done. It is an acknowledged fact that access to finance and banking not only helps to empower women, but also broadens the social base of development," he said.
The bank begins operations with seven branches. It will be a universal bank, but will primarily serve women, taking care of their special needs and requirements. The number of branches will go up to 25 by March-end.
Singh said Mahila Bank was only "a small step" in the direction of empowering women.
Sonia Gandhi, in her speech, recalled the contribution of Indira Gandhi towards poverty alleviation and women empowerment.
According to Chidambaram, the board of the Mahila Bank was constituted with the induction of eight women members.
This will be the first all-women board of a PSU bank.