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Swabhimaan” is a path-breaking initiative by the Union Government and the Indian Banks’ Association to bridge economic gap between rural and urban India. This campaign is a big step towards socio-economic equality by bringing the underprivileged segments of Indian population into the formal banking fold for the first time. The vision for this programme is social application of modern technology.

‘Swabhimaan’ – a financial security programme was launched by the Central Government to ensure banking facilities in habitation with a population in excess of 2000 by March 2012. This nationwide programme on financial inclusion, was launched in February, 2011 with its focus on bringing the deprived sections of the society in the banking network to ensure that the benefits of economic growth reach everyone at all levels.

In a big nation like India, providing banking facilities across the length and breadth of the country, especially in rural areas, has always been a great challenge for the successive governments since Independence. Even though nationalisation gave a big boost to expansion of banks in rural areas with Public Sector Banks becoming important instruments for advancement of rural banking and changing lives of rural populace.

The key idea is that there is need for village level presence – a customer-facing channel that is close to the customer preferably at a walking distance of not more than three to four kilometers. For this, it is important to have entities which are good at delivering outreach while operating in very difficult remote conditions. Besides giving access to banking, it also enables government subsidies and social security benefits to be directly credited to the accounts of the beneficiaries, enabling them to draw the money from the bank saathi or business correspondents in their village itself.

This initiative enables small and marginal farmers to obtain credit at lower rates from banks and other financial institutions. This would insulate them from exploitation of the money lenders. Government’s emphasis on bankers is to take up this task with a sense of responsibility and understanding and exercise courtesy and respect, especially to small borrowers.

The initiative is also important to protect the customers, especially the most vulnerable ones, from harsh financial practices and prevent them from being overburdened by debt. All in all, the end objective should be to empower people to achieve their own goals through enhancing their financial capabilities.

“This campaign ensures to provide the following services to the Rural India:

    Promises to bring basic banking services to unbanked villages with a population of 2000 and above.
    The movement facilitates opening of banks accounts, provide need-based credit and remittance facilities besides helping in promoting financial literacy in rural India.
    The programme is aimed at  increasing the demand for credit among the millions of small and marginal farmers and rural artisans who will benefit by having access to banking facilities.
    This financial inclusion campaign aims at providing branchless banking services through the use of technology.
    Banks provide basic services like deposits, withdrawals and remittances using the services of Business Correspondents (BCs) also known as Bank Saathi.
    The initiative also enables Government subsidies and social security benefits to now be directly credited to the accounts of the beneficiaries so that they could draw the money from the Business Correspondents (BCs) in their village itself.
    The Government hopes that the benefits of micro insurance and micro pension products reach the masses through this banking linkage.
    This programme now makes it possible for the large number of migrant workers in urban areas to remit money to their relatives in distant villages quickly and safely.
    The facilities provided through banking outlets will enhance social security by facilitating the availability of allied services in course of time like micro insurance, access to mutual funds, pensions, etc.
    Banking facilities like Savings Bank, recurring Deposits, Fixed deposits, Remittances, Overdraft facility, Kisan Credit Card (KCCs), General Credit Cards (GCC) and collection of cheques will be provided.
    The Banks are also working together with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for enrolment, opening bank accounts and also to facilitate transfer of government subsidies and other payments.

The Government had provided Rs 500 million to banks for this initiative in the last fiscal year.

During his Budget speech this year, the Union Finance Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee has proposed to extend the ‘Swabhimaan’ campaign to habitations with population of more than 1000 in North Eastern and hilly States and to other habitations which have crossed population of 2000 as per Census 2011. As a next step, Ultra Small Branches are being set up at these habitations, where Business Correspondents would deal with cash transactions. Union Finance Minister also informed that 70,000 habitations have been covered so far under the ‘Swabhimaan’ campaign out of 73,000 identified habitations till March 2012. The Swabhimaan movement is “significant beginning” for transforming of rural India through financial inclusion.

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Published on Friday July 3 2020
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