Some unkind persons have made it a sport to find fault with the government. They will be silenced by the flood of measures it has taken towards what it calls financial inclusion. It has set up the financial security and development council with a mandate for financial literacy and inclusion. Since making common people financially literate is a specialized task, this council has created a technical group on financial inclusion and literacy. Its strenuous efforts have led to the finalization of a national strategy for financial education. Just in case all this action spearheaded by Delhi shows it to be lagging behind, the Reserve Bank of India has created a financial inclusion advisory committee of its own. Just in case it is seen to be parochial, it has sprinkled this committee with some acceptable personalities from non-government organizations. This is only the sugaring at the top; further down, there are state level bankers’ committees, under which there are lead district managers in all the 659 districts.
Just in case this is taken as a mere creation of bureaucracy, the banks have set up 700 financial literacy centres, not to mention rural self-employment training institutes. If a banker in a seminar starts talking about R-SETIs, people will now know what he is talking about. He may well admit in an unguarded moment that bank employees do not like working in villages where their women cannot find a hairdresser. The RBI has foreseen this reluctance and authorized banks to appoint banking correspondents who would give villagers ample banking services without asking for a job in a bank. Recognizing that it is difficult for a banking correspondent to open his bag on a village road and hand over money to a villager who wants to cash a cheque, the RBI has asked banks to construct a brick-and-mortar structure where a dozen banking correspondents can take shelter and unlock their bags.
All this careful action did not lead to many villagers getting access to a bank, so more recently, the RBI has asked banks to open brick-and-mortar structures called branches in as many villages as possible. Such structures are supposed to have come up by 2010 in all the 74398 villages which had a population of 2000 people or more; since then, banks have invaded even smaller villages and set up branches. Any villager can walk into any of these branches and tell the teller that he is Banke Lall the villager; on this self-certification, the teller will open an account for him. If the villager has any money, he can open a savings account and create a variable recurring deposit, or ask the teller to make an electronic bank transfer to his girl friend; otherwise he can use the same account to take an overdraft. The Indian villager is a lucky man — at least in the view of the RBI.