News / Asia

India Rolls Out Bank Accounts for All

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hands over a banking kit to an unidentified woman at the launch of a campaign aimed at opening millions of accounts for poor Indians in New Delhi, India, Aug. 28, 2014.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hands over a banking kit to an unidentified woman at the launch of a campaign aimed at opening millions of accounts for poor Indians in New Delhi, India, Aug. 28, 2014.
Anjana Pasricha

India has rolled out a massive project to give a bank account to every household in the country. The ambitious endeavor for financial inclusion aims to draw millions of poor people into a modern economy and reduce their dependence on money lenders.  
 
Hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally launched the Project for People’s Wealth (Jan Dhan project) in New Delhi, banks enrolled about 15 million new account holders at thousands of camps held across the country.
 
Modi called it a campaign against “financial untouchability.”
 
He questioned how India could succeed in its battle against poverty if 40 percent of the country remains cut off from banking services. He said we must win freedom from “financial untouchability” by integrating all Indians into the economic system.  
 
The prime minister said it is ironic that a poor person pays huge rates of interest to borrow money from moneylenders while the rich can raise loans at lower rates of interest from banks.
 
Under the program, each new account holder gets a debit card, accident insurance coverage up to $1,600 and overdraft protection to about $80.
 
The landmark initiative aims to bring 70 million households, who have no bank accounts, financial services by January.
 
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said this will transform the lives of many people.  
 
“I am sure the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana [Prime Minister Project for People’s Wealth] will touch the lives of everyone in a constructive and comprehensive way," said Sitharaman.
 
There are several reasons why so many Indians remain outside the banking system. Many poor people are unable to pay the $16 dollars most banks require as a minimum deposit. Millions of migrants to urban areas do not have identity papers needed to open an account. Vast swathes of the countryside are not covered by banking services.
 
Banks are promising to address the problems by branching out into rural areas and reducing the emphasis on formal documentation required for opening a new account.
 
Economists say financial inclusion is important for India’s transformation into a modern economy. It could ensure that more household savings enter the formal financial system - at the moment about one third of savings are channeled into gold jewelry or bars, especially in rural areas with poor banking services.  
 
The project could also cut graft by making it possible to pay welfare benefits such as food and fuel subsidies directly into bank accounts.
 
Most importantly, it could reduce the dependency of poor households on moneylenders who offer loans at crippling interest rates.
 
The drive for financial inclusion is not new. Previous governments have attempted it, but made little progress. It remains to be seen how the latest drive will fare.
 
Director of the Centre of Equity Studies in New Delhi, Harsh Mander, says lack of banks in rural areas has been a great stumbling block and could still pose a hurdle.
 
“Banks very often find this a burden and financially unviable, so they do this very reluctantly, they make people come multiple times," said Mander. "100 percent financial inclusion should be a goal we set out, but we first need to create an infrastructure which ensures that there is a financial institution within three kilometers away of every habitation before this even becomes a feasible idea.”
 
Prime Minister Modi, who announced the program for financial inclusion in a nationwide Independence Day address two weeks ago, has made it an important goal for his government.
 
Observers say the program’s implementation could test his reputation as a man who can deliver results.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mbennett from: USA
August 28, 2014 3:18 PM
Bravo India.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid