Champions of Financial Inclusion

Monday, January 3, 2011

Swabhiman: The Grand Financial Inclusion plan

Swabhiman (pronounced as  swaa-bhi-maan) meaning self-respect comes from Swa-(meaning Self) and -abhiman (meaning Respect or Pride) in Sanskrit language.

Swabhinman is the new Financial Inclusion Program that Government of India is planning to roll in the year 2011. The program targets opening of 5 crores no-frills accounts by March 2012 spanning over select 73,000 villages. The plan is not just to open accounts, but to keep them active by regular transactions. The basic idea here is to spread financial literacy while achieving financial inclusion. Government plans to use handheld computers and banking correspondent model to achieve scale and efficiency in the program. 

In an interview about Swabhiman, Shri K.V. Eapen, the joint finance secretary of India told media that banks are expected to popularize the electronics benefit transfer (EBT) scheme for efficiency of the program. EBT is mode through which the government currently makes payments to the workers involved in various public welfare schemes. Thus, Swabhiman will provide a platform for banks to launch their products and services like small overdraft facility, remittance, small loans and small deposits to the rural poor.

Swabhiman, though is in planning stage, has some assured benefits for the common man. A common man can now be included in the organized financial sector without the tedious paperwork.  It will not only ensure availing of a variety of financial services at doorstep but also easy enrolment to all public welfare schemes.

 Reaching out at such a grand scale can face a number of challenges that are meticulous in nature. Ranging from connectivity of handheld devices, geographical connectivity to literacy rate of the population can raise issues in smooth implementation of the program.  But, tackling these challenges and bottlenecks is now expected from Indian Government.

Government has surely come a long way since the days of implementing public welfare schemes without proper consideration of ground level realities. This means, the earlier top down approach of govt. towards development is now becoming more and more area specific approach. Increase in variety of work in MG-NREGA, implementation of SGSY- Special plan, launch of  RIDF from NABARD et al are examples of the recent changes that can be seen regarding change in approach of the govt.. These kind of changes are a proof to Governments increased concern and involvement in solving the individual ground level problems which were earlier oblivious at the centre level.

Thus, with a fool proof plan, GoI is all set to launch Swabhiman that will ensure smiles on the faces of those who are still unbanked.

By Chitra Nayak