RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan's strategy of widening and deepening the banking system through payment banks, India Post Bank, small finance banks and strengthening the NBFCs through appropriate regulation and facilitation deserves rich commendation for taking inclusive banking closer. But doubts still prevail over the effective reach of inclusive banking going by the laggard performance of the priority sector credit thus far.
"You have to dream before your dreams can come true." This famous quote of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who himself turned his dream into a reality as a nuclear scientist and has "ignited" many minds with his ideas, is perhaps the most appropriate theme for present day India aspiring to become an economic and knowledge superpower.It is the culmination of the dreams of 1.2 billion people that has led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ideate his plan of making the $2 trillion economy a $20 trillion behemoth within the next two decades, eradicating poverty and making India a knowledge society.
In 2015-16 Union Budget, the government enhanced credit target for farm sector by Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 8.5 lakh crore. This was in line with a common perception that farm credit translates into the growth of the national economy. Statistically this might be unfounded, however it is undeniable that the farm sector that constitutes the core of the economy needs to be in focus of banks and other financial institutions.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked, in January this year, the question, "India is a $2 trillion economy today. Can we not dream of an India with a $20 trillion economy?", he was echoing a powerful, nuanced and intensely compelling set of questions. Some among them-ranging from ease-of-doing business, innovation, digital economy, manufacturing, entrepreneurship to skilled workforce-are all too familiar.
The British colonial administration brought in progressive developmental forces by bringing in education (Kindergarten to University) and railway networks for commercial exploitation of agricultural, forest and mineral resources and various social activists rose to the occasion with giants such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ranade, Gokhale, Phule, Dadabhai Naoroji, Pantulu, Sayyad Ahmed, Narayana Guru, Sane Guruji, Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, etc.
The socio-economic development in India has been severely hampered because of the significant divide between the urban and the rural economy and a wide gap between the rich and the poor. While 30 per cent of the urban population has a wide range of remunerative employment opportunities, over 80 per cent of the rural population have to be dependent on a highly uncertain agricultural sector.
Under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), India along with other developing countries, has committed to eradicate extreme poverty. The deadline to achieve the goal is 31st December 2015. However, according to a recent United Nations report, nearly 300 million people still live in extreme poverty in India and face deprivation in terms of access to basic services, including education, health, water and sanitation.
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.