How banks got the count wrong

Officially, Ernakulam will be the first district in the country to win the uniquedistinction of being the first to achieve ‘meaningful financial inclusion. File Photo: H. Vibhu  

Financial inclusion is the new mantra in banking. Taking the poorest of the poor along the banking channels and providing means to a meaningful life is an ideal goal. But whether it could be achieved under the existing system is a moot question. If at all it is achievable, how soon can it be done?

Officially Ernakulam will be the first district in the country to win the unique distinction of being the first to achieve ‘meaningful financial inclusion’. It will be declared at a function to be chaired by RBI Governor here on November 22.

The project envisions extending operative bank account with micro credit facility, micro-insurance and remittance facilities to all the stakeholders in the district. It is implemented with active support of government agencies, banks, insurance companies and other stakeholders under the leadership of Union Bank of India, the lead bank in the district.

The lead bank as well other banks had embarked on a campaign to have an account holder in every home. Each bank had been given particular areas of operation to achieve the target. But any declaration as having achieved 100 per cent inclusion is bound to be on loose ground, given the ground realities.

Balakrishnan, a lottery ticket vendor, and a resident of Eroor west in the city, swears that the claim is wrong. He lives adjacent to Kunnara Harijan Colony in 46 division of Tripunithura municipality. Out of about 300 settlers in the colony, at least 10 have no bank accounts.

According to Mr.Balakrishnan, Velayudhan, a widower, whose three daughters have been married off and residing near the Kunnara Bhagavathy temple, doesn’t have an account. Karumbi, a widow without children living near the temple, hasn’t got a bank account. Chandran and Venu, two other settlers in the colony, too have no bank account.

This colony can never be considered an exception. In all possibility, it is only one among several areas which the bank personnel could not reach. The result is anybody’s guess. Financial inclusion is not cent per cent.

Yousuf, a vegetable vendor residing at Chalikkavattom in the city, told The Hindu that he doesn’t have an account. Where is the money for people like us to approach banks, he asks. He has six grown-up children working in small firms, but they too have no accounts, he says.

The programme is intended to benefit the economically weaker sections having little means of livelihood. The government is keen to provide benefits to them through banks. Nevertheless, the inclusive list does not include those in dire need of them, as the above few cases indicate.

Amid such a scenario, it was also heartening to find out most people in the low income bracket, about 30 of whom were interviewed by The Hindu, such as auto rickshaw drivers, headload workers and members of Kudumbashree group have bank accounts. They had gone to the bank to buy a vehicle or take a loan for a house. But to make a claim that the district has attained 100 per cent financial inclusion is a blatant exclusion of facts.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 7:47:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/how-banks-got-the-count-wrong/article4084589.ece

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