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Cash in bank, pride in self

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of ending financial untouchability and the vice-like grip of sahukars (moneylenders) on the poor bank rolled the reality of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana on Thursday.

But the financial inclusion programme that has the entire nation in thrall had a modest prequel in Jamshedpur called Sanchetana, thanks to the pioneering efforts of XLRI in association with SBI.

The B-school and bank conceptualised Sanchetana in February 2013, an initiative for the poor and rural masses, dealing with financial literacy, consumer protection awareness and fiscal security via bank accounts. They started it at two Gamharia villages, 12km from Jamshedpur, in May 2013.

From May 2013 to August 2014, over 1,000 accounts had been opened. Sanchetana also ran a nationwide campaign between June and August as part of XLRI’s distance learning in 25 Indian cities.

On Thursday, as a tribute to Jan Dhan, XLRI and SBI hosted a camp at Bhaktinagar slum in Burmamines, where 130 zero-balance bank accounts were opened under Jan Dhan. The RuPay debit card will reach beneficiaries in phases.

Hailing Jan Dhan, H.K. Pradhan, Sanchetana chief mentor, who also happens to be finance and economics professor at XLRI, committee member at Reserve Bank of India and director of SBI Mutual Funds, said it was “an idea whose time had come”.

“At Sanchetana, we introduce the unbanked to the concept of saving,” he said.

Why it is especially important for the poor is because they are the most vulnerable. “The poor must be saved from chit fund scams. Bank-linkage drive is an irreducible need for every low-income and vulnerable household. They are the ones who need financial literacy. XLRI has set a goal to spread financial literacy among the unbanked. Account opening is a part of it,” Pradhan added.

“August was a good month,” Pradhan smiled. “Bhaktinagar camp got 130 bank accounts. Earlier this month, we opened some 140 bank accounts for XLRI contractual labourers and the like,” he said.

Partner SBI Jamshedpur region has already identified 15 places for camps in the near future. “We started promoting savings among the poor last year with XLRI. Dhan Jan is a great scheme that will boost our activities,” said Sanjay Prakash, assistant general manager, SBI, Jamshedpur region.

“As a professor of economics, I feel each person has the right to protect his or her wealth. I am glad Jan Dhan recognises it,” Pradhan added.