The new PSL Master Direction and its Impact on NBFCs

-Siddharth Goel (


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued Master Directions-Priority Sector Lending (PSL) Targets and Classification on September 4, 2020 (‘Master Directions’).[1] The Master Directions consolidates various circulars and guidelines issued by RBI with respect to PSL.

The changes made in the Master Directions primarily deal with targets and sub-targets for classification of loans as priority sector loans. Further there are some addition of new sectors in Eligible categories, along with increase in lending limit of some of the existing eligible categories for priority sector lending.

Our detailed write-up on the topic can be viewed here.

Changes in priority sector norms do not have a direct impact on the NBFCs, but they have an indirect impact. Banks are allowed to acquire loans under Direct Assignment arrangements or invest in pass through certificates backed by loans which qualify the definition of PSL, in order to meet the prescribed targets. Mostly, the banks acquire these receivables from NBFCs who does the origination of the loans. Additionally, banks also engage in co-lending arrangements with NBFCs to originate PSLs. Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine the impact of these changes on NBFCs.

Co-origination of loans by Banks for lending to Priority Sector

RBI through its vide notification RBI/2018-19/49 dated September 21, 2018 issued guidelines on Co-origination of loans by Commercial Banks and NBFC-ND-SI (“Co-origination Guidelines”).[2] These guidelines excluded Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and Small Finance Banks (SFBs). Essentially, the banks could claim priority sector status in respect of its share of credit while engaging in the co-origination arrangement with NBFC under the Co-origination Guidelines. Provided, the priority sector assets on the bank’s books should at all times be without recourse to the NBFC.

It is pertinent to note that the PSL Master Directions under its para 25 covers Co-origination of loans by Banks and NBFC-ND-SI. The Master Direction specifically excludes, RRBs SFBs and Urban Co-Operative Banks (UCBs) and Local Area Banks (LABs) under the above para. Moreover, the Master Directions under the said para, specifically stipulates that detailed guidelines in this regard are to be governed as provided under Co-origination Guidelines dated September 21, 2018. Hence there are no changes intended to be introduced vis-a-vis Master Direction, to the co-origination of loans by banks and NBFCs.

PSL- Lending by Banks to NBFCs for On-Lending

In the earlier regime, after the review of Priority sector lending by banks to NBFC for On-Lending notification dated August 13, 2019[3], RBI through its notification dated March 23, 2020,[4] extend the priority sector classification for bank loans to NBFCs for on-lending for the FY 2020-21. Further, existing loans disbursed under the on-lending model continued to be classified under Priority Sector till the date of repayment/maturity. The extension notification also stipulated an overall capping limit for calculating bank’s total priority sector lending as produced herein below;

“3. Bank credit to registered NBFCs (other than MFIs) and HFCs for on-lending will be allowed up to an overall limit of five percent of individual bank’s total priority sector lending. Further, banks shall compute the eligible portfolio under on-lending mechanism by averaging across four quarters, to determine adherence to the prescribed cap.”

Para 22 of the Master Directions governs Bank loans to registered NBFCs (other than MFIs). It is highlighted that there is no change in sub-category for On-lending by NBFC, and limits also remain unchanged. The above para in the Master Direction, clearly stipulates that on-lending will be eligible for classification as priority sector under respective categories which is subject to the following conditions:

(i) Agriculture: On-lending by NBFCs for ‘Term lending’ component under Agriculture will be allowed up to ₹ 10 lakh per borrower.

(ii) Micro & Small enterprises: On-lending by NBFC will be allowed up to ₹ 20 lakh per borrower.

The above dispensation is valid up to March 31, 2021 and will be reviewed thereafter. However, loans disbursed under the on-lending model will continue to be classified under Priority Sector till the date of repayment/maturity. Caping of overall limit of Bank Credit to 5 percent has been prescribed under para 24 of the Master Directions.

Investments by Banks in Securitised Assets & Direct Assignment

Investments by banks in securitised assets or assignment/outright purchase of a pool of assets, representing loans by banks and financial institutions to various categories of priority sector, except ‘others’ category, are eligible for classification under respective categories of priority sector depending on the underlying assets. However, earlier the requirement was that the interest rate charged to the ultimate borrower in securitised assets and in case of transfer of assets through direct assignment, shall be capped at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 8 percent per annum.

Therefore, investments by banks, in securitised assets and purchase of assets originated by NBFCs in eligible sectors had to comply with above capping in order to qualify as eligible for PSL. To encourage MSME lending in smaller areas where cost of intermediation is high for the smaller NBFCs, the UK Sinha committee in its report has proposed the cap at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 12% per annum initially and periodical review thereafter. The intent of the recommendation stood on the grounds that price caps are not applicable to banks when they originate directly through branches.

Accordingly, such capping limit has been relaxed and as per the as per the revised requirement the all-inclusive interest charged to the ultimate borrower by the originating entity should not exceed the External Benchmark Lending Rate (EBLR)/ MCLR of the investing bank plus appropriate spread which will be communicated separately. It is expected that the RBI shall be separately communicating the limits to the banks.

The aforesaid relaxation in the interest rate capping would widen the eligibility of loans originated by the NBFCs for securitisation and direct assignment to banks, for meeting the PSL requirement.

Adjustments for weights in PSL Achievement

To address the regional disparities in flow of credit at the district level, currently districts have been ranked on the basis of per capita credit flow. Higher weight (125%) is assigned to the incremental priority sector credit in districts with low per capita credit flow. Similarly, lower weight (90%) has been assigned to incremental PSL in districts with comparatively higher credit flow. The higher PSL credit (125 %) districts are specified in ANNEX-I A and districts with comparatively low PSL credit (90%) are specified in ANNEX-IB of the Master direction. Districts not mentioned in either of the Annex will be having weightage of 100%. PSL incremental credit shall be applicable from F.Y. 2021-2022 onwards.

Thus, for the purpose of above incentives, banks will get incremental PSL credit, if they invest as following:

  • Investment in securitsed assets/direct assignment/outright purchase, of loans originated by NBFCs from high priority districts. The entire investment in PTCs made by the banks, the proportion which is represented by those as priority districts will be weighted at 125% and low priority districts at 90% and others at 100%.
  • On-lending by Banks to NBFCs, wherein NBFCs are further lending in districts with high priority.
  • Incremental credit incentive will be available to Banks, on proportion of their share of loans, to district with high priority under Co-Origination model.

Impact of new Master Directions on NBFCs

The new Master Direction does not seem to impact legal relationship between banks and NBFCs in respect to co-origination of loans and co-lending materially, since all the regulations are similar to the earlier PSL regime. However, the incentives introduced by way of incremental PSL credit to Banks will channel the credit to districts with low credit penetration. Therefore, banks will be benefitted by dealing with NBFCs having portfolio of loans (eligible for PSL) and presence in districts with lower credit penetration.

Further, change in capping, of investments by Banks in securitised assets and direct assignment/ outright purchase of loans, originated by NBFCs is intended to cover loans originated with higher spreads. Further lending to new sub sectors introduced through Master Direction, would also qualify towards PSL target investments by Banks.

The indicative list of new sub-sectors and sub-sectors with enhanced credit limit is reproduced herein below for ready reference.

Agriculture Lending Including Farm Credit (Allied Activities), lending for Agriculture Infrastructure and Ancillary Activities. ·        Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of stand-alone Solar Agriculture Pumps and for solarisation of grid connected Agriculture Pumps.

·        Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of solar power plants on barren/fallow land or in stilt fashion on agriculture land owned by farmer

·        Inclusion of loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that are engaged in agriculture and allied services.

·        Inclusion of loans up to ₹2 lakh to individuals solely engaged in Allied activities without any accompanying land holding criteria. This change is in line with recommendation by M.K. Jain Committee7.

·        Inclusion of loans for construction of oil extraction/ processing units for production of bio-fuels, their storage and distribution infrastructure along with loans to entrepreneurs for setting up Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) plants.

·        Laying of Indicative list conveying permissible activities under Food Processing Sector as recommended by Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

·        A credit limit of ₹5 crore per borrowing entity has been specified for Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs)/Farmers Producers Companies (FPCs) undertaking farming with assured marketing of their produce at a pre-determined price. This inclusion is as per the M.K Jain Committee Recommendations8.


Other Finance to MSMEs In line with the series of benefits being extended to MSMEs, loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that confirm to the definition of MSME has been included under the PSL catergory. (On the basis of recommendations by UK Sinha Committee, to financially incentivise the startups in India)



Housing Loans


·        Increase in Loans up to ₹ 10 lakh (earlier ₹ 5 lakh) in metropolitan centres and up to ₹6 lakh (earlier 2 ₹ Lakh) in other centres for repairs to damaged dwelling units.

·        Bank loans to governmental agency for construction of dwelling units or for slum clearance and rehabilitation of slum dwellers subject to dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 square meters. Under the earlier regime, it was based on cost of dwelling unit which was ₹ 10 lakh per unit.

·        Inclusion of bank loans for affordable housing projects using at least 50% of FAR/FSI (Floor Area Ratio/ Floor Space Index) for dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 sq.m.


Social Infrastructure


Inclusion of loans up to a limit of ₹ 10 crore per borrower for building health care facilities including under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ in Tier II to Tier VI centres. This is in addition to the existing limit of ₹5 crore per borrower for setting up schools, drinking water facilities and sanitation facilities including construction/ refurbishment of household toilets and water improvements at household level, etc.


Renewable Energy Increase in loan limit to ₹ 30 Crore for purposes like solar based power generators, biomass-based power generators, wind mills, micro-hydel plants and for non-conventional energy based public utilities etc. This is to boost renewable energy sector, the earlier limit was up to ₹ 15 Crore.








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