PM Jan-Dhan Yojana envisions a social security umbrella big enough to cover the whole country
Ajay Singh | June 6, 2015
Good intentions often pave the way for the worst outcome. We saw it in the 1980s when a plan for rural poverty alleviation, known as the integrated rural development programme (IRDP), was launched. Rajiv Gandhi gave it a big push. The IRDP was modelled on the success of microcredit in Bangladesh.
READ: Exclusive interview with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
The massive initiative aimed at lifting the rural populace out of poverty was vigorously monitored by the prime minister’s office (PMO). Since the Congress ruled at the centre as well as in most of the states, the writ of the PMO was effective and unchallenged. Regional rural banks (RRBs) were set up on war-footing to connect the economically and socially marginalised to the banking sector. People were encouraged to open bank accounts and avail loans. An institution called NABARD was created to refinance the credit and take care of subsidy given to the rural poor. The landless belonging to the scheduled castes/tribes were given incentives and a huge subsidy (85 percent) to purchase livestock like pigs, buffaloes, cows and goats to supplement their income and come out of poverty.
There was nothing wrong with the programme in terms of its content till the notorious Indian bureaucracy turned it into a massive rural corruption racket. Animals were purchased and shown dead on paper all over the country to avail the loan waiver. The booty was shared by bank staff, block level officers and beneficiaries. Within a few years, the IRDP, the biggest financial inclusion and anti-poverty programme then, turned out to be a stinking mess of corruption and scandals.
The Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is even more ambitious than the IRDP. But have we learnt lessons from the past before rolling out yet another scheme? However, there are enough indications to suggest that the PMJDY is better designed than the IRDP. Unlike the IRDP which encouraged people to take loan and avail subsidy, the PMJDY is not linked to doles but to entitlements. It is aimed at creating awareness among the poor about their rights as citizens. The attempt to link these accounts with the direct benefit transfer (DBT) is intended to do away with the middlemen who used to get fattened on the doles meant for the poor.
Unlike the IRDP which was aimed exclusively at the rural poor, the PMJDY is an all-inclusive scheme which does not discriminate between urban and rural citizens. In a country which is on the cusp of furious urbanisation, any distinction on the basis of rural/urban in any programme would have been a recipe for disaster. For the first time policymakers recognised that the urban poor were no less miserable than their rural counterparts.
What is particularly remarkable about the PMJDY is the way it is designed to contain the transmission loss of subsidies meant for the poor but often pocketed by intermediaries. The seeding of the beneficiaries’ accounts with Aadhaar and connecting them also with their mobile numbers would evolve an identity grid across the country. It would have a positive impact on internal security as well.
The manner in which the scheme is linked to the new insurance and pension plans will extend a social security umbrella over those living on the margins and struggling for their day-to-day survival. That is the precise reason why we call it a ‘silent revolution’. It is ushered in simply by motivating people and without deploying any additional resources. It will be a great achievement if the PMJDY evolves into an effective mechanism to deliver people’s entitlements in a transparent manner.
But the devil is always in the detail. What will happen if the PMO will no longer be interested in the programme? What will happen if the notorious bureaucracy strikes back with a new way of salting away people’s entitlements? The bureaucratic ingenuity in innovating methods of corruption should hardly be underestimated. In such a situation, what is attained would be frittered away sooner than later. The risk of this silent revolution meeting a premature death is also not a distant possibility.
(The article appears in the June 1-15, 2015 issue)
To counter Beijing’s aggressive agenda in the Indian Ocean, New Delhi is seeking to create strategic bastions in Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar. The immediate provocation was China’s inauguration of its first overseas military base in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.
Just after the UP assembly election in 1996, I was among the scores of reporters waiting at Kalyan Singh’s residence, waiting to get the first inkling of the future course of the BJP. The party had secured the maximum seats – 174 out of 425 seats – but was short of the majority mark
“Company Secretaries, once known as secretaries to the board and management, have transformed themselves into key managerial and governance professionals. Today they are recognised for their importance on corporate landscape and have become gatekeepers of corporate governance,” said Ajay Tyagi,
Any good news which promises to bring about qualitative improvement in the lives of people, especially in rural India, is always welcome. It was heartening indeed to learn that every single village in the country now has access to electricity, as announced by the prime minister on April 29. This is most ce
The paved road, the few concrete houses and men on motorcycles – these are deceptive signs of development in Madralalpur village. Only a couple of weeks ago, Babu, a 47-year-old distressed farmer, had hanged himself from a babool tree. Villagers were gathered at his house as his wife, mother, sister-
Statistics has come a long way from the time when British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli observed: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Statistics is now an accredited branch of applied mathematics; statistical methods are routinely used to prove or disprove the