Finance minister P Chidambaram’s pledged to stick to the 2014 deadline for a nationwide rollout of direct benefits transfer, pushing the banking sector to move beyond tokenism and cover more than seven crore households over the next 12 months.
This is more than twice the three crore bank
accounts opened by public sector banks during the last two years under the Swabhiman initiative launched in February 2011. “Financial inclusion has made rapid strides,” Chidambaram said in his budget speech.
Besides an Aadhaar number, a bank account is a prerequisite for the country-wide roll out of DBT. But the 2011 census found that only 14.5 crore out of a total of 25 crore households in the country had ever availed banking services. This meant about 10.5 crore households — possibly the poor who are targets of cash transfer project — did not have bank accounts.
Focussing at improving the level of banking facilities, Chidambaram said he had the assurance of public sector banks to have an ATM in every branch by March 31st next year. The minister also opened the doors for public sector insurance companies to open branches in smaller cities with ease and allow banks to work as insurance brokers to raise penetrations of insurance products.