The government has said that banks had gone past the target of opening 10 crore Jan Dhan accounts and had managed to cover 98% of the households, prompting to now launch a “challenge“ to find out if any family remained without access to basic banking facility.
In recent weeks, there has also been a significant increase in the funds deposited in the Jan Dhan accounts with the corpus in the 10.36 crore accounts going past Rs.8,000 crore, according to data available with the finance ministry . But 7.6 crore account holders, which is around 73% of all Jan Dhan accounts, had zero balance on December 30.
“We had done surveys and it shows that across several states we have achieved 100% household coverage. There are some households that are not allowing us access so we will launch a challenge to help find out if there are households that still do not have coverage,” financial services secretary Hasmukh Adhia said on the sidelines of the Banker’s Retreat.
He clarified that of the 25 crore households in the census, around 22 crore households had participated in the survey conducted by banks and the percentage of households was based on these. He said that the three-odd crore households lived in gated communities and affluent areas and didn’t need help in opening accounts.
In August, the Narendra Modi government launched an ambitious plan to provide all households with a bank account and had hoped to open 7.5 crore accounts by January. But the target was achieved much earlier and the government realized that all households were still not covered, prompting it to scale the target, which has now been achieved.
The household coverage report available with the government showed that there are few states such as Manipur (78%), Nagaland (76%), Meghalaya (83%), Arunachal Pradesh (84%), Odisha (86%), Sikkim (89%) and Jammu & Kashmir (89%) which still have a large number of households without access to a bank account. But several of the traditional laggards such as Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have near universal coverage.
In some of the districts such as Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills and South West Khasi Hills, there is zero coverage. Adhia said that special attempts will be made to reach to this population so that no one is left behind. In addition, he said that banks are being asked to sensitize account holders about using the RuPay debit card within the first 45 days so that they are entitled to the insurance facility . With the government claiming that 98.4% of households now have a bank account, the scope for payments banks, which provide only a subset of the services provided by commercial banks, appears limited. Payments banks licences, which will be up for grabs from January 16, are the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) favoured vehicle for achieving financial inclusion. Over 50 candidates -including prepaid card issuers, business correspondents of banks, microfinance companies and gold loan companies -have shown interest in applying for a bank licence.
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), promoted by the RBI, is a major facilitator to payments banks as its payment backbone will provide the remittance infrastructure. The NPCI will also register the new institutions as clearing house members.