Officials argue that opening of bank accounts is more important and savings will pick up gradually.
Even as banks race to open up accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, only a quarter of the accounts opened till date have any cash deposited in them.
Official data reveals that of the 6.99 crore bank accounts opened till November 4, 75 per cent or 5.29 crore accounts have zero balance. The data also reveals that it is two non-BJP states — Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — where the maximum number of bank accounts have been opened under the scheme.
However, 1.69 crore accounts under the scheme have managed to bring in Rs 5,294.10 crore of household savings into the formal banking channels. Back of the envelope calculations show that on an average each of the accounts have deposited Rs 3,100.
Officials, however, argue that opening of bank accounts is more important and savings will pick up gradually. “A bank account will help inculcate the habit of saving,” said an official. The Jan-Dhan Yojana was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 28 with the goal of eradicating “financial untouchability” of the poor by opening at least one bank account for every family in the country in less than six months.
At the time banks had been given a target of opening 7.5 crore accounts under the scheme. Each of the accounts come with a debit card, Rs 1 lakh accidental insurance policy and Rs 30,000 free medical insurance cover for those who enroll before January 26. Depending on the performance of the accounts in the first six months, banks will later extend a Rs 5,000 overdraft facility to one account per household.
While Samajwadi Party led-Uttar Pradesh has opened 1.16 crore bank accounts under the scheme, Trinamool Congress-governed West Bengal has opened 49.54 lakh bank accounts. BJP-led Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have opened 46.3 lakh and 45.82 lakh accounts, respectively, under the scheme till October 29, 2014. The finance ministry, which has been keeping an eye on the progress of the scheme is hopeful that it will meet the target for account opening this fiscal. The data reveals that of the 6.99 crore accounts opened, 3.69 crore RuPay debit cards have also been issued while 2.15 crore accounts have been seeded with Aadhaar numbers.
However, experts say that for the scheme to be truly successful, banks need to provide doorstep services. “Bankers need to understand that if they want to really do financial inclusion, accounts have to be active… they need to provide doorstep banking along with overdraft facility from day one so that the holder can easily access the services,” said Chetna Vijay Sinha, chairperson, Mann Deshi Bank Organisation that runs a regulated cooperative bank for women.