Since last year, financial inclusion scheme, the Jan Dhan Yojana, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was growing at a steady rate. It was successful as the number of zero-balance accounts was steadily cut down. But a detailed study indicates that this reduction was slight because of the banks themselves put a meager amount of money. Worst part of the story is in order to reduce the number of zero-balance accounts, banks are looking for customers to deposit some money before accounts can be even used.
The Jan Dhan Yojana is considered to be one of the most successful scheme formulated by PM Modi with the aim of opening as many banks as possible across different parts of the country to make banking easier for those who could not access it previously. Over the last year, nonetheless, the number of accounts with zero balance had come down gradually. By the end of August this year, as many as 24.1 crore new bank accounts have been initiated under this scheme and half of them are linked to Aadhaar making them ready to seek direct benefits. Since September 2014 to August 19, 2015, the total number of zero-balance accounts reduced from 76 per cent to 45.74 per cent, then to 24.32 per cent on July 27, 2016.
But this scheme was criticized by many opponents. CPM general secretary, Sitaram Yechury mentioned that 75% of all accounts were zero-balance in Dec 2014, highlight the failure of the government. In order to cover up the failure, banks were forced to deposit Re 1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a promise during the election campaign of 2014 that after black money would be returned to India, every citizen will receive Rs 15 lakh. Hinting on the commitment, Yechury is of the view that most poverty stricken people opened bank accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana expecting the guaranteed money but they received Re 1 instead.
The latest investigations have complicated the situations as it brings forward the question of whether customers are using those accounts that are not zero-balance. Facts suggest that the banks are taking up different steps than just depositing money into accounts just to show that they are not zero-balance. For example banking correspondents in Jharkhand asserts that they are given pressure from top officials to get money into the Jan Dhan accounts, and as of now, they passing those demands onto the customers.
It has been reported that many people deposit no money in their bank accounts. If they get any payments like National Social Assistance Program pension of Rs 600, instead of saving it they wish to withdraw it as soon as possible for their expenses. Often, the zero balance accounts get frozen because of no transactions over six months. It becomes very tedious and time-consuming to re-open the accounts starting from scratch, asking beneficiaries to re-submit proof of identity and residence. Making things worse, reports claim that a huge number of Jan Dhan Yojana accounts are mere duplicates and belongs to people who already opened accounts previously.
Prime Minister’s scheme Jan Dhan could prove to be a boon and might have helped the Government of India build a Guinness World Record for opening 18 million accounts in a week, but the flagship scheme is to go a long way to achieve the dream of financial inclusion truly.