By Hari Shankar
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” – Nelson Mandela
What is ‘Financial Inclusion’ ?
- “Financial inclusion is delivery of banking services at an affordable cost (‘no frills’ accounts,) to the vast sections of disadvantaged and low income group. Unrestrained access to public goods and services is the sine qua non of an open and efficient society. As banking services are in the nature of public good, it is essential that availability of banking and payment services to the entire population without discrimination is the prime objective of the public policy.”
- Financial inclusion is necessary in a country like India where natural forces of demand and supply have not lead to establishment of banks and their penetration in the villages of India. Resultantly only a minor percentage of the population has access to the banking sector and has inculcated the banking habit
Recently, the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan outlined, in conceptual terms, what inclusion should be. “Simplicity and reliability in financial inclusion in India, though not a cure all, can be a way of liberating the poor from dependence on indifferently delivered public services and from venal politicians,” he said. Further, “in order to draw in the poor, the products should address their needs — a safe place to save, a reliable way to send and receive money, a quick way to borrow in times of need or to escape the clutches of the money lender, easy to understand life and health insurance and an avenue to engage in savings for the old age.”
The RBI will accordingly nudge banks to offer a basic suite of services.
While over the years the government has taken several steps to spread the banking habit, formidable tasks lie ahead. Of the 24.67 crore households in the country, 10.19 crore do not have access to banking services. In rural areas, 44 per cent households and in urban areas 33 per cent still do not have a bank account.
The government’s latest plan of action, as envisaged in the CFIP or Sampoorn Vittiya Samaveshan, hopes to extend coverage of basic financial services all excluded households. In the first phase, the CFIP will endeavour to provide universal access to all the beneficiaries through sub-service areas (SSAs). Each SSA will consist of 100-1,500 families in a cluster of villages and each SSA will be serviced by a BC agent (BCA) whose task it will be to facilitate account opening and smooth banking operation.
The latest inclusion plan will have as its focus households rather than geographical areas. After satisfactory conduct of accounts it is proposed to offer reasonable need-based credit facilities for which overdraft facilities will be sanctioned. A smart card (RuPay card) will be issued to enable customers to operate their accounts even without BCs. Simultaneously suitable awareness will be created among the financially excluded.
In the second phase, there is a proposal to make available a pension scheme for identified individuals in the unorganised sector and offer microfinance products through government-owned insurance companies.
G Harishankar is a first year student of Sri Ram College Of Commerce where he is pursuing B.Com Hons. He enjoys balancing the various hats donned by him. He is an active participant of his college Nukkad Natak Toli and is a sketch artist. Friends are his only prized possessions and he loves writing poems and reading and reviewing poetry. He is a nerd of the highest order and his hardworking qualities complement this nature of his.