Inclusion Manifesto

Gyanendra Keshri

Far-fetched promises have been made by the successive governments and major political parties to eliminate poverty, end social and gender discrimination and make the society more inclusive. This is the election season and tall promises are made again. Most of the promises related to inclusion have been repeated election-after-election. But the millions of people are left at the margins even after over 70 years of independence, says Gyanendra Keshri

Development has many dimensions. It has to be inclusive, it must be poverty reducing and it must be environment-friendly, C. Rangarajan, former RBI Governor and former chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, wrote in foreword to India 2030: A Socio-Economic Paradigm, published by SKOCH Media. Since liberalisation India has witnessed satisfactory economic growth. There have been impressive success stories of the sectors like telecom and ICT, where India has become a global leader. India Inc. today not only competes but also dominates in various fields globally. But has the growth been inclusive? The answer is, definitely, ‘not satisfactory’. 

Before we discuss about what we have achieved, where we are lacking and what needs to be done, let’s first take a look at what we mean by inclusion. The underlying theme of SKOCH Group’s intervention since 1997 has been on inclusion. We loosely divide inclusion in three categories – Social Inclusion, Financial Inclusion and Digital Inclusion.

By Social Inclusion we mean empowerment of people by making them aware of their rights so that they can themselves work towards alleviation of poverty.

Financial inclusion is the process of ensuring access to financial services or making available timely and adequate credit when needed by vulnerable groups, such as weaker sections and low income groups, at an affordable cost. Moreover, it must also be appropriate, fair and transparent.

Digital inclusion entails empowerment of people through information and communication technology.

The World Bank defines Social Inclusion as: “The process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society, and the process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity to take part in society.” 

What impacts Inclusion?

  • Income level 
  • Gender (women)
  • Religion (minorities) 
  • Disability 
  • Education 
  • Health
  • Employment Opportunities
  • Social Discrimination
  • Political Marginalisation 
  • Technology

Before taking charge as the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi pitched for social inclusion through empowerment. In an interview to Skoch Group in August 2013 Narendra Modi said: “The means that we use to provide support to the poor should be such that they empower the poor, and not such that their poverty is used to maintain political power.”

Modi has now ruled India for almost five years as the Prime Minister. Let’s take a look where we stand today on key parameters of social inclusion.

Income Level

Income inequality in India is among the highest in the world. It is not only high when compared to the countries with similar per capita income, but also increasing. In the last three decades the country has witnessed high economic expansion. However, the benefits of the high growth have been appropriated mostly by the rich. For the first time in 2005 income of top 1 per cent of India’s population became higher than the entire bottom half of the population.

Income Inequality
Share of Total income (%) 1951 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2004 2010 2014 2015
Bottom 50% 20.5 21.3 22 23.3 22.4 20.6 18.8 16 14.7 14.7
Top 1% 11.5 13.2 13 7.3 10.5 15.1 18.4 21.2 21.3 21.3

While the rich 1 per cent’s share in the national income has been increasing, the bottom 50 per cent has witnessed a gradual contraction in their share to the national income. In 1951, the top 1 per cent of the population controlled 11.5 per cent of the national income. This increased to 21.3 per cent in 2015. On the other hand, the bottom 50 per cent accounted for 20.5 per cent of the national income in 1951, and its share dropped to 14.7 per cent in 2015, according to the World Inequality Database.

In 2004, the bottom 50 per cent accounted for 18.8 per cent of the national income, which was slightly higher than 18.4 per cent controlled by the top 1 per cent of the population. However, since then the top 1 per cent share is getting bigger and bigger, while the bottom 50 per cent is witnessing contraction in their pie.

Clearly the rich is getting richer at the cost of poor. 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1 per cent. Billionaires’ wealth jumped by 31 per cent during the year, while wealth of bottom 50 per cent population increased by a paltry 1 per cent.

Billionaires’ wealth increased by R4,891 billion to R20,676 billion in 2017 from R15,778 billion in the previous year, as per the Oxfam India data. Wealth of elite 1 per cent increased by R20,913 billion. This amount is equivalent to total budget of Central Government in 2017-18.

While, our fight against poverty lingers, the good news is that India is no longer the home to the largest number of poor in the world. As per the World Poverty Clock, India now has the third largest number of people in extreme poverty after Nigeria and Congo.

In 2000 the total number of billionaires in India was 9. It jumped to 101 in 2017. Out of this 17 new billionaires were created in 2017. Even among the rich, there is huge gender disparity. Out of 101 billionaires, only 4 are women – 3 of them have inherited family wealth.

Poverty

The fight to defeat poverty is lingering. Poverty eradication has been a political rhetoric since independence. In the run up to the 1971 general election the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave the slogan “Garibi Hatao”. It was the underlying theme of her campaign in 1971 as also in the subsequent elections. Political groups, across the ideologies and party line, be it Congress, BJP or other parties, have promised to eradicate poverty election-after-election. The slogan and pre-poll promises often resulted in huge gains for the political parties and leaders. But it is a pity that even 70 years after the independence political rhetoric revolves around poverty eradication even as tens of millions of people live in the condition of abject poverty.

According to the UNDP data, 364 million Indians still experience acute deprivations in health, nutrition, schooling and sanitation. Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways.

The latest official data on poverty is for the year 2011-12, which shows that 269.3 million or 21.9 per cent of India’s population lived below poverty line. There has been gradual decline in poverty. It fell from 45.3 per cent in 1994 to 37.2 in 2004-05 and further to 21.9 per cent in 2012. According to the World Bank, 16 per cent people in India were below poverty line in 2017.

The incidence of multidimensional poverty dropped to 27.5 per cent in 2015-16 from 54.7 per cent in 2005-06, as per the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index of UNDP. 

According to the UNDP data, 364 million Indians still experience acute deprivations in health, nutrition, schooling and sanitation. One in four multi-dimensionally poor people in India are under 10 years of age. Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: health, education and living standards, and 10 indicators – nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, sanitation, cooking fuel, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets.

According to World Poverty Clock launched to monitor progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 3.6 per cent of India’s 137.22 crore population live in the condition of extreme poverty. In absolute term the number stood at 4.9 crore as on 4th February 2019. Extreme poverty is defined as people living on or below $1.9 a day.

While, our fight against poverty lingers, the good news is that India is no longer the home to the largest number of poor in the world. As per the World Poverty Clock, India now has the third largest number of people in extreme poverty after Nigeria and Congo.

Although, there is no official figure to show how many people have been lifted out of poverty in the past five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims that poverty has been reduced significantly through the government schemes introduced during his tenure.

“It is good to see more people being removed from the shackles of poverty,” Modi said in February without giving any number. He claimed that over 12 crore farmers and their families and over 3 crore salaried professionals and their families would gain from the initiatives taken in the interim budget for 2019-20. In the budget the government announced a scheme to provide cash support to farmers.

Congress party in its manifesto has promised that it would give the poorest 20 per cent families of India a minimum income of R72,000 annually. This 20 per cent people are living in abject poverty and the free cash transfer scheme is aimed to eradicate poverty from them. The promised scheme is named Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY). 

Releasing the manifesto, Congress party President Rahul Gandhi said his party has declared a war on poverty. “Our first promise is to transfer money — R72,000 per year — into the accounts of five crore poorest households for a period of five years,” he said.

If implemented properly the cash transfer scheme could play a crucial role in eliminating poverty. However, there is a big question mark on the resources. Where the money come from? Moreover, providing jobs and access to basic infrastructure would be more sustainable solutions than free cash.

Gender

“Man can never be a woman’s equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her” 
– Mahatma Gandhi.

Factors that affect Gender Inequality

  • Access to Education
  • Age of Marriage
  • Fertility Rate
  • Access to Employment
  • Working Condition
  • Wage Parity
  • Employment Security
  • Discrimination
  • Role in Policy/Decision Making Modi Government’s Initiative to address Women Inequality
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao 
  • Sukanya Samridhi Yojana
  • Mandatory maternity benefits

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme is focused on improving sex ratio and enabling girls’ education. There is good improvement in access to education. Girl’s enrolment in secondary education increased to 80.97 per cent in 2015-16 against 76 per cent in 2013-14, as per Unified District Information System for Education 2015-16.

There has been steep decline in the Child Sex Ratio. In 1961 it stood at 976. It fell to 927 in 2001 and declined further to 914 in 2011, the lowest ever since Independence. Health Management Information System (HMIS) data indicate that there has been an improving trend in Sex Ratio at Birth since the inception of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme in 2015.

Sukanya Samridhi Yojana is aimed to provide financial security to girl child. Under the scheme, a parent or legal guardian can open an account in the name of the girl child until she attains the age of 10 years. The minimum deposit that needs to be made every year is R1,000, and the maximum amount that can be deposited in a year is R150,000.

Women labour force participation in India is among the lowest in the world. Out of 131 countries India is ranked 11th from the bottom. Female labour force participation stands at 27 per cent. This has declined significantly over the last two decades. In 2004, it stood at 
35 per cent.

Modi government has put in place a new legislation that entitles a woman to a minimum 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. Under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, launched in December 2016, a cash incentive amounting to R5,000 paid to pregnant women and lactating mothers. Increased maternity leave should have led to higher participation of women in the workforce. However, it has flip side. The new legislation is discouraging companies from hiring women.

Because of the new law 1.1 to 1.8 million women lost jobs during the year 2017-18, over and above the usual job loss due to attrition related to maternity, according to a study by TeamLease. Gender stereotyping leads to denial of opportunities and marginalisation of women. It is manifest in pay gaps, work segregation, denial of promotions to leadership position, the glass ceiling and lower levels of equal work opportunities.

Women labour force participation in India is among the lowest in the world. Out of 131 countries India is ranked 11th from the bottom. Female labour force participation stands at 27 per cent. This has declined significantly over the last two decades. In 2004, it stood at 35 per cent.

There is more than 50 percentage point gender gap in labour force participation in India. India had the largest gender gap in median earnings of full time employees in 2015. Women constitute a very high proportion among the low skilled informal worker category. They are mostly engaged in low-productivity and low paying work.

Child Marriage

Child Marriage is a bane in India and is at the root of several problems. It has a negative impact on physical growth, health, mental and emotional development, and education opportunities.

Boys and girls both are affected by early marriage. But girls are affected in much larger numbers and with greater intensity. Early marriage is often followed by teenage pregnancy, which virtually eliminates any chance the girl would have to study and become self-sufficient.

Child marriage is a violation of child rights and punishable under the law. As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015-16) data, 26.8 per cent of the women in the age group of 20-24 years got married before 18 years. The good news is that it is showing decreasing trend. In (NFHS)-3 (2005-06), the proportion of child marriage among girls stood at 47.4 per cent, as per the government data released by PIB.

Education

India’s education system has lacked large-scale reforms, despite tall promises by successive governments. One of the major promises made by the NDA government has been to transform the education system with a new education policy. Two panels have been formed in the last four years but the policy has not taken the shape yet.

Progress in education sector during the Modi government can be put in two parts. The first is the period during which Smriti Irani was the minister for Human Resource Development, and the second when Prakash Javadekar helmed the ministry.

After the stunning victory in 2014, Modi made a big bet on Smriti Irani by including her in his cabinet and assigning the important Human Resource Development portfolio. Irani helmed the HRD portfolio for first two years of Modi government and was shifted to textile ministry in July 2016. Irani’s tenure as HRD minister was full of controversies.

She had courted one controversy after another. It all started with her own degree row. Then, there were huge controversies around Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad, confrontation at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the national capital and unceremonious removal of senior ministry officials and vice chancellors of several central universities. Amid these controversies governance and reforms suffered.

To bring the focus back on governance and reforms Modi shifted Smriti Irani to the ministry of textiles and gave the responsibility of HRD to Prakash Javadekar in July 2016. Javadekar has worked hard to bring the focus back on governance and reforms. He has succeeded in keeping the controversies at bay.

Although, there is no big-bang reform as the new education policy has not seen the light of the day yet a number of important initiatives have been taken by Javadekar mostly through executive route. Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government had failed to bring in key reforms in education sector as it had focused on legislative route. Manmohan Singh government was not able to get parliamentary support for more than a dozen significant bills related to education sector. As a result those draft legislation remained draft and  never took form of a policy.

Quality of Education

The initiatives like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) Act, 2009 and Mid-Day Meal programme have helped India achieve universal enrolment at primary school level. This is in line with the developed countries. However, after elementary level majority of the students drop out and only 23 per cent get enrolled in higher education. Even those who graduate more than half of them are not employable in any sector.

The quality of education imparted in the government schools is far from satisfactory. On average, a class VIII student could barely answer 40 per cent of the questions in maths, science and social studies. In class III, students averaged between 63 per cent and 67 per cent in environmental science, language and maths.

Two large-scale learning assessments are conducted in India. One is government-funded National Achievement Survey conducted every three years and the second is Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) done by a non-government organisation Pratham. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has been periodically conducting the National Assessment Survey since 2001 for Class III, V and VIII, while ASER has been brought out annually since 2005.

In order to monitor the learning outcomes in the government and government-aided schools, the government has started National Achievement Survey (NAS). This representative sampling survey, touted as amongst the world’s largest such exercise, is conducted for Classes 3, 5 and 8 in government and government aided schools. In the latest report released in 2017, the survey tools used multiple test booklets with 45 questions in Classes III and V related to language, mathematics and 60 questions in Class VIII in Mathematics, Language, Sciences and Social Sciences. The competency based test questions developed reflected the Learning Outcomes developed by the NCERT which were recently incorporated in the Right to Education Act (RTE) by the Government of India. Along with the test items, questionnaires pertaining to students, teachers and schools were also used.

The findings of the survey clearly indicate that the quality of education imparted in the government schools are far from satisfactory. On average, a class VIII student could barely answer 40 per cent of the questions in maths, science and social studies. In class III, students averaged between 63 per cent and 67 per cent in environmental science, language and maths. For class V, it was in the range of 53-58 per cent.

The quality of education imparted in the government schools is far from satisfactory. On average, a class VIII student could barely answer 40 per cent of the questions in maths, science and social studies. In class III, students averaged between 63 per cent and 67 per cent in environmental science, language and maths.

Survey reports by a Non-Government Organisation Pratham presents alarming picture of the quality of education in Indian schools. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, 56 per cent of class VIII students cannot divide a 3-digit number with a single-digit; 72 per cent students in Class V can’t do division at all and 70 per cent of Class III student are not able to do any subtraction. 72.8 per cent students of Class III can’t read Class II level text.

One of the main reasons for the poor quality of education system in the country is the pathetic condition of infrastructure. The government investment on education in India is amongst the lowest in the world. Public spending on education, centre and states put together, stands at less than 3 per cent of GDP. In fact, in the last five years it has declined. The public spending on education must be increased to at least 6 per cent of GDP to improve and create modern education infrastructure.

Most of the government’s initiatives have been focused on increasing enrolments. The need of the hour is to focus on the quality of education. Educational institutions can be evaluated on the outcomes such as college readiness of students and employability. The education system needs to be transformed from the current mostly rote learning method to conceptual methods that should keep both students and teachers engaged.

Health

India has achieved significant economic growth over the past decades, but the progress in health has not been commensurate. In the 2014 election manifesto, BJP promised that it would strive to provide “Health Assurance to all Indians and to reduce the out of pocket spending on health care”.

In September 2018 the government launched Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana. It seeks to provide a health insurance cover of up to R5 lakh per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. The scheme will help reduce catastrophic expenditure for hospitalisations, which impoverishes people and will help mitigate the financial risk arising out of health related issues.

Nearly 10.74 crore poor families, or 50 crore people are eligible for the benefits of the scheme.

In the first 100 days of the launch of the scheme 6.85 lakh people got benefited, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “In the first 100 days, 6.85 lakh patients have been provided hospital treatment. 5.1 lakh claims have availed of the scheme, for which payment has been released. This averages 5,000 claims per day for the first 100 days. No patient has had to pay a single rupee,” Jaitley said in tweet highlighting the achievements of the scheme.

According to the 71st Round of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) findings, 85.9 per cent of rural households and 82 per cent of urban households have no access to healthcare insurance/assurance. More than 17 per cent of Indian population spend at least 10 per cent of household budgets for health services. Catastrophic healthcare related expenditure pushes families into debt with more than 24 per cent households in rural India and 18 per cent population in urban area have met their healthcare expenses through some sort of borrowings.

Sanitation

India fared poorly on sanitation parameters. India has the highest number of people without access to toilets. There is huge problem of quality of potable water and overall cleanliness is poor.

Three initiatives focused on sanitation launched in the last two decades.

  • Total Sanitation Campaign launched in 1999
  • Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in 2012
  • Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014

Swachh Bharat Mission, launched on 2nd October 2014, has brought the issue of sanitation to the centre stage of public discourse. The initiative has given a fillip to the sanitation drive in the country. Commendable achievements have been registered especially in the area of toilet construction.

Swachh Bharat Mission, launched on 2nd October 2014, has brought the issue of sanitation to the centre stage of public discourse. The initiative has given a fillip to the sanitation drive in the country. Commendable achievements have been registered especially in the area of toilet construction.

Average number of rural toilets constructed during 2004-14 was 89 lakh per annum which jumped to more than double the number (190 lakh) during the last five years. Since October 2014, about 9.22 crore rural toilets have been constructed.

The government portal of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) declares that 98.9 per cent rural households have been provided toilets as on 14th February 2019. Government is confident that the mission of declaring the entire country open defecation free (ODF) would be achieved much before the target date of 2nd October 2019. Not only 24 states including Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are already totally ODF, but even in laggards like UP and Madhya Pradesh more than 99 per cent households own functional toilets now. As regards usage, the government sponsored National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) conducted between mid-November 2017 and March 2018 revealed that 93 per cent people owning toilets actually used them regularly.

How credible are these claims? Well, if the past record is any indication, there has always been a large gap between the reported and the evaluated data in rural sanitation, both in terms of the number of existing toilets and its usage. Though the gap has considerably narrowed down in the last four years - thanks to a very aggressive Prime Minister led campaign to promote usage - there are other serious problems as regards disposal of faecal matter, quality and maintenance of toilets, and inappropriate technology that throw a serious doubt about the sustainability of efforts made so far. Would we continue to remain ODF in future is the moot question!

The ground realities of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan present different picture from the government’s claim. A large number of toilets exist just on paper or are dysfunctional and never used. Districts have been vying to declare themselves ODF mostly on the basis of toilets being built. But the focus has to be on the usage.

Employment

By 2027, India is projected to be the biggest labour force. Ensuring jobs to the growing and aspiring population is unarguably one of the biggest challenges for the policymakers. In the run-up to the 2014 election, Narendra Modi had promised to create 1 crore jobs per year. Most of the official and non-official data as well as the ground level work of SKOCH Group indicate that not enough jobs have been created to ensure gainful employment to the country’s expanding workforce.

There have also been huge controversies around the release of employment related data. The main official source of job data in India has been the Employment and Unemployment Survey of households conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) every five years. The last time this survey report was officially released was for the period 2011-12. The latest round of employment surveys should have occurred in 2016-17, as per the five year schedule. This report has not been officially released yet. However, the findings of the report have been widely reported in media.

Unemployment is at the highest level since 1972-73
Year Unemployment rate (%)
1972-73 5.18
1977-78 2.5
2011-12 2.2
2017-18 6.1

Labour Bureau Data

Labour Bureau, under the Ministry of Labour & Employment, started doing annual survey on job situation in 2010. The first report was for the year 2010-11. Four annual reports were released during UPA Government. There was no report during 2014-15. The report on fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey covered for the year 2015-16. There is no report since then.

Year Unemployment rate (%)
2011-12 3.8
2012-13 4.0
2013-14 4.9
2015-16 5

 

Key findings of 2015-16 survey

At all India level, 5.0 per cent of the persons aged 15 years and above who were available for work could not get work. In rural sector, unemployment rate was 5.1 per cent, whereas in urban sector, the unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent. Female unemployment rate stood at 8.7 per cent, whereas for males it was 4.0 per cent.

In urban areas, the female unemployment rate was estimated to be 12.1 per cent as compared to 3.3 per cent for males and 10.3 per cent for transgenders.

Labour Force Participation Rate

Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) stood at 50.3 per cent. In other words 50.3 per cent of the persons aged 15 years and above were either working or seeking work during the reference period.

In the rural sector, the LFPR was estimated to be 53 per cent whereas in the urban sector the LFPR was 43.5 per cent. Female LFPR was significantly lower. Female LFPR was estimated to be 23.7 per cent as compared to 75 per cent for males and 48 per cent for transgenders.

Government Perspective and Claims on Jobs

The government says that new jobs have been created both in formal and informal sectors. The government jobs generation claims are based on the data related to provident funds, contribution to pension schemes and income tax returns.

In 15 months till November 2018, 1.8 crore people got enrolled in the Employees Provident Fund for the first time. Of these, 64 per cent were below 28 years of age. While 65 lakh employees were part of the NPS in 2014, this increased to 1.2 crore by October 2018. About 6.35 lakh new professionals filed I-T returns in the last four years.

MUDRA

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, introduced in April 2015, has played an important role in ensuring credit to small businesses. The Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd. (MUDRA) has been set up through a statutory enactment. It is responsible for developing and refinancing through Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana, all Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) which are in the business of lending to micro/small business entities engaged in manufacturing, trading and service activities. MUDRA has partnered with State/Regional level coordinators to provide finance to last-mile financiers of small/micro business enterprises. Further, the approach goes beyond credit only approach and offers a credit – plus solution for these enterprises spread across the country.

The loans are extended under the MUDRA scheme by banks and Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) in three categories:

  • Shishu (loans upto R50,000);
  • Kishore (loans from R 50,000 to R5 lakh);
  • Tarun (loans from R5 lakh to R10 lakh)

The names ‘Shishu’, ‘Kishor’ and ‘Tarun’ signify the stage of growth/development and funding needs of a micro business unit and entrepreneur. It also provides a reference point for the next phase of graduation/growth for the entrepreneur to aspire for. The type of businesses covered under the scheme is quite comprehensive. It includes proprietorship/partnership firms running as small manufacturing units, shopkeepers, fruits/vegetable sellers, hair cutting saloon, beauty parlours, transporters, truck operators, hawkers, co-operatives or body of individuals, food service units, repair shops, machine operators, small industries, artisans, food processors, self help groups, professionals and service providers etc. in rural and urban areas with financing requirements upto R10 lakh.

SKOCH Group published a research report on MUDRA scheme’s impact on job creation. The report was published in 2017. The report covered the progress during the period (8th April 2015 to 31st March 2017).

SHGs

Self Help Groups (SHGs) have been a key instrument to promote inclusiveness among women. It is an important tool for combating many social problems and gender issues. Women from different socio-economic levels, including the poor, and some very poor, are joining the SHGs.

There has been a steady increase in the number of SHGs. The total number of SHGs that stood at 76.97 lakh in 2014-15 increased to 87.44 lakh in 2017-18. NPA rate in bank loan to SHGs was 6.12 per cent during 2017-18 registering a fall of 38 bps. All categories of banks have reduced their NPAs.

There has been a steady increase in the number of SHGs. The total number of SHGs that stood at 76.97 lakh in 2014-15 increased to 87.44 lakh in 2017-18. NPA rate in bank loan to SHGs was 6.12 per cent during 2017-18 registering a fall of 38 bps. All categories of banks have reduced their NPA level during 2017-18.

Financial Inclusion

Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched on 28th August, 2014 with a vision to bring unbanked section of the society into mainstream banking. The Scheme was initiated to provide bank account and banking services to each household in the country so as to have comprehensive financial inclusion. Accounts opened under Jan Dhan scheme is zero balance account.

The zero balance account is similar to the “no frills” account advocated by the Reserve Bank of India in 2005. The “no frills” account was renamed as Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts by the UPA government in 2012. Jan Dhan scheme introduced by Modi government has given a big fillip to opening of accounts.

However, majority of the bank accounts in the country is hardly used. Only 20 per cent Indians who have bank account put their savings in the financial institutions. Situation is worse when it come the borrowings. Only 7 per cent people borrow through a financial institution. In fact, the rate of borrowing has come down. It stood at 8 per cent in 2011.

Jan Dhan scheme gave a huge boost to the number of accounts being opened. There is indeed commendable achievement on that front. However, the banking infrastructure has not been expanded with the pace to meet the growing demands. Increase in banking penetration in terms of bank branches is slower: The number of bank branches per 100,000 adults was 10.51 in 2011. It increased to 14.06 in 2016. The number of ATMs per 100,000 adults has grown faster from 8.85 in 2011 to 21.24 in 2016. However, the ATM density in India is still significantly lower as compared to other middle-income countries.

Banking penetration has increased significantly in the last four years, thanks to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. In 2011, only 35 per cent of households had a bank account. This increased to 53 per cent in 2014 and jumped further to 80 per cent in 2017.

The number of deposit accounts with commercial banks rose by 85 per cent from 934.46 per 1000 adults in 2011 to 1731.27 per 1000 adults in 2016. Debit card ownership increased from 22 per cent in 2011 to 33 per cent in 2017.

Way Forward

There have been some good achievements, but India remains one of the most socially and economically unequal countries in the world. Deep rooted discriminations exist on the basis of gender, castes and income level among others.

Like other elections, during this election also political parties have made far-fetched promises of eliminating poverty, gender inequality and ending other discriminations. It is high time to set measurable targets and strictly monitor the progress. One of the biggest challenges in analysing the developments in the recent years is unavailability of data. Timely and reliable data is crucial for taking corrective measures.

In a bid to eliminate poverty and hunger, Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party has promised to provide minimum income guarantee to poor. Modi government has also implemented schemes that seek to provide income support to farmers. How viable are such promises and schemes? Will it lead to more inclusive society? Only time will tell.

(Gyanendra Keshri can be reached at gyanendra@skoch.in)

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