Financial Inclusion is critical to accelerating economic growth, social protection and sustainable development. “Over the last three years India has succeeded in bringing financial inclusion and its impacts to centre stage,” said Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs, Government of India.
Jaitley was speaking at a Conclave on Financial Inclusion in New Delhi. The day-long event organized by the United Nations in India brought together leaders of India’s financial revolution, government, policy researchers and representatives from the banking and microfinance institutions to deliberate on opportunities and challenges of financial inclusion in India and discuss innovation and technologies as enablers for the way forward.
Highlighting government progress, Jaitley said, Close to 300 million accounts have been opened and as a next stage, it will be critical to work 360 degrees to incentivize people to open accounts, make them operational and ensure people can benefit from other financial services like pensions and insurance
It’s been three years since the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), one of the world’s largest financial inclusion programmes. Innovations in financial inclusion, access, and technology hold important learnings for other countries. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law & Justice, and Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, said while delivering the keynote closing address: “Digital inclusion is the path to financial inclusion. Our aim is not just to digitise but also to transform and empower India and Indians.” Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, emphasized, “Financial inclusion is at the heart of the digital push India needed. It brought the digital movement to the mainstream.”
Sessions at the Conclave focused on big opportunities and challenges; technology and innovation in accelerating inclusion for hard-to-reach populations; and the nexus between financial access, unique identification, and mobile phones (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile).
Commending India on its ambitious vision of financial inclusion for all, Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator said, “Financial inclusion is an enabler of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. India’s experience of Jan Dhan will drive future efforts to build low cost and unique social and financial services and products which serve all Indians, especially the less fortunate.”
Speakers at the Conclave also drew attention to the impact of financial inclusion on empowering vulnerable groups, particularly women and how the benefits of bank accounts can be turned into opportunities in the labour market. The need to make financial services accessible to remote areas and to people with disabilities was also reiterated. Naina Lal Kidwai (give title) said, “Although accounts provide a first entry point to the formal financial system, the development benefits of financial inclusion are only achieved when women and other vulnerable population groups actively use their accounts and invest in the future, says Naina Lal Kidwai, Chairperson, Max Financial Services.
Other speakers at the Conclave include Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog; Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, Unique Identification Authority of India; and Dr R.S. Sharma, Chairperson, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.