Poverty remains one of the most pressing challenges facing the country today. But why are the people poor? Why are able-bodied working age group people poor? Old people, disabled people, that's different.
I am in politics for over 35 years. Since early days we have been talking about poverty alleviation. "Garibi Hatao" (remove poverty) slogan was given in early 1970s. Since then a number of schemes have been introduced aimed at removing poverty. I am not saying that nothing has happened. But surely the pace has not been good.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines poverty as "the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions." However, poverty is not simply characterised by a lack of adequate income. It has far reaching implications.
Thirty-five year old Gomati from Mangatpur in Pilibhit has opened a bank account under Jan Dhan, but she is skeptical about its use. "There is no money in it. I am confused. What will I do with it?" she said tersely when asked about her bank account. Gomati is not alone. Hundreds of women spoke in unison at the five-day financial literacy programme conducted by Skoch Group at Pilibhit, a picturesque Himalayan plateau rich with flora and fauna, but one of the economically backward regions in Uttar Pradesh
For 60 years, banks have been using the excuse of lack of branch penetration for all round poor performance on priority sector lending, differential rate of interest lending and self-help-group linkages, even as poor remain largely unbanked.
With the launch of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), it is time for the poor of India to rejoice. Every time Narendra Modi speaks of Jan Dhan, the product-on-offer gets better.
Ever since we started our initiatives on financial inclusion, it was crystal clear that financial inclusion without poverty alleviation is a meaningless exercise. If that be the case, the next question is how to attain the goal at the earliest and at the lowest possible cost. Here, I must say that the three things-social inclusion, financial inclusion and digital inclusion-are inter-linked, and if one is missing, the other two cannot happen. Incidentally, most of the flaws that I pointed out in my book titled Speeding Financial Inclusion (2009), eventually came true during the course of implementation of the financial inclusion initiative including the Swabhimaan scheme in 2011. Some of the mistakes are being repeated as the Jan Dhan is being rolled out.