PSL guidelines reviewed for wider credit penetration

By Siddarth 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 are in the nature of a consolidating piece, of various circulars and guidelines issued by RBI in regard to PSL. The objective of Master Directions is to harmonise instructions guidelines for Commercial Banks[2], Small Finance Banks (“SFB”)[3], Regional Rural Banks (“RRBs”)[4], Urban Co-Operative Banks (“UCBs”)[5] and Local Area Banks (“LABs”) for PSL targets and classification under single universe.

The objective of Master Directions is to consolidate all the concerning circulars to PSL under one master direction. However, certain changes have been introduced under the Master Directions in line with the recommendations of Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Chairman: Shri U.K. Sinha) and the ‘Internal Working Group to Review Agriculture Credit’ (Chairman: Shri M. K. Jain).

This write up endeavors to highlight major changes which has been implemented through the said Master Direction that were not forming part of the erstwhile notifications or guidelines in this regard.

Changes in Targets / Sub-targets Classification for Priority Sector

The targets and sub-targets set under priority sector lending is computed on the percentage basis of Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC)/ Credit Equivalent of Off-Balance Sheet Exposures (CEOBE). The Master Directions, has increased the total priority sector lending target for Urban Co-Operative Banks, which is to be achieved through milestones-based targets in a phased manner. Further there has been increase in targets for advances to weaker sections and Small Farmer Margins (SMF) in the agriculture sector. The table below summarises the changes along with timelines for complying with Targets/Sub-targets for PSL.

Categories Domestic Commercial Banks Small Finance Banks RRB Urban Co-Operative Bank#
Total Priority Sector No change No Change No Change Increased in total priority sector target from 40 % to 75% of ANBC or CEOBE whichever is higher.
Advances to Weaker Sections Target * Increased to 12% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier target was 10%]

Increased to 12% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier target was 10%]

No Change Increased to 12% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier target was 10%] 

Agriculture Target * -No Change Small Marginal Farmers (SMF) target increased to 10% of the 18% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier it was 8 % of 18%] 

Small Marginal Farmers (SMF) target Increased to 10% of 18% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier it was 8% of 18%]

No Target
Micro Enterprises No Change No Change No Change No Change

# Target of total priority sector to be achieved in phased manner by Co-operative Banks as below.

Existing Target March 31, 2021 March 31, 2022 March 31, 2023 March 31, 2024
40% 45% 50% 60% 75%


* Phased manner for achieving Small Marginal Farmers and Weaker Section Targets as below.

Financial Year SMF Weaker Section Target
2020-2021 8% 10%
2021-2022 9% 11%
2022-2023 9.5% 11.5%
2023-2024 10% 12%

Inclusion of Weights in PSL Achievement

From the UK Sinha committee recommendations,[6] in order to address regional disparities in flow of credit to district levels. Adjusted Priority Sector Lending mechanism has been implemented under the new regime, to incentivise flow of credit to underserved districts. There will be no change in the underlying sectors eligible for PSL, however an additional weightage has been given to lending to the more underserved districts. From financial year 2021-2022 onwards weights would be assigned to incremental priority sector credit as follows:

  • Higher weight (125%) would be assigned to the districts where credit flow is comparatively lower, that is per capita PSL less than ₹ 6,000.
  • Lower weight (90%) would be assigned to the districts where credit flow is comparatively higher, that is per capita PSL is greater than ₹ 25,000.

RRBS, Urban Co-operative Banks and Local Area Banks and Foreign Banks have been kept out for the purpose of calculation of PSL weights, due to their limited presence.

Inclusions in Eligible Categories

Along with the inclusion of fresh categories eligible for finance under priority sector there has been some enhancement in the credit limit of the existing categories as well. Some of the changes are as follows-

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 Committee[7].
  • 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 Recommendations[8].
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.


Inclusion of loans for meeting local needs such as construction or repair of house, construction of toilets not exceeding ₹2 lakh provided directly by banks to SHG/JLG for activities other than agriculture or MSME.

Investments by Banks in Securitised Assets & Direct Assignment

Earlier the interest rate charged to the ultimate borrower was capped at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 8 percent per annum. Post UK Sinha Committee recommendation,[9] 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.

The intent of the recommendation stood on the grounds that price caps are not applicable to banks when they originate directly through branches. Therefore, to encourage MSME lending in smaller areas where cost of intermediation is high by the smaller NBFCs, the committee proposed the cap at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 12% per annum initially and periodical review thereafter.


The Master Direction aids in compilation and provides easy understandability of all the guidelines at one place. The two committee reports recommendations have aided in recognising important sub-sectors of economy which were not covered under earlier regimes. Loans to starts-ups in agriculture and allied activities, loans to healthcare, sanitation along with impetus on renewable energy will not only bolster flow of credit in these sectors but also aimed at improving socio-economic conditions in the country. The introduction of incentive on incremental PSL by ranking of districts on basis of per capita credit flow could be an enabler for the deeper penetration of credit in rural economy. Therefore, the new Master Direction is a welcome move and will help in achieving better channeling of credit in the desired sectors of the economy.






[6] Para 9.24, Report of the Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, (UK Sinha Committee)

[7] Para 1.7.6, Report of the Internal Working Group to Review Agricultural Credit, ( M. K Jain Committee)

[8] Para 2.7.5, Report of the Internal Working Group to Review Agricultural Credit, ( M. K Jain Committee)

[9] Para 9.24, Report of the Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, (UK Sinha Committee)

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