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Narendra Modi’s Financial dream,progress Slows down

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By Himadri Ghosh

“Never before in economic history would 15 million bank accounts have been opened on a single day. Never before has the Government of organized a program of such scale,” Prime Minister Modi said on August 28, 2014, launching the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People’s Wealth Programme/PMJDY).Seventeen months later, in January 2016, the scheme reached all Indian households, according to official data, bringing 200 million additional families to the banking system.

But the primary goal, direct transfer of government subsidies to people, has not overcome two challenges: linking the unique identification (Aadhaar) card to PMJDY; and getting beneficiaries to use the bank account. The speed of adding accounts, as IndiaSpend reported earlier, was outpacing the delivery of benefits, and Reserve (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan, in 2014, cautioned banks against focussing on numbers alone.

Less than half the 210 million Jan Dhan accounts were seeded with Aadhaar as of January 31, 2016, the data indicates. More than 30 percent of these accounts have been at “zero balance”, meaning the account holder was not using the account.

States struggling to link Aadhaar to PMJDY include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. These states together linked less than 40 percent accounts to Aadhaar.

It is important that these states fall in line, as subsidies on cooking fuel, auto fuel and food grain impose a multibillion-rupee subsidy burden, the government has said.

The government is estimated to have spent Rs.266,700 crore ($45 billion) on subsidies in 2015, of which Rs.122,700 crore ($20 billion) was spent on food, Rs.71,000 crore ($12 billion) on fertilizer and Rs.60,300 crore ($9 billion) on oil.

Up to half of these subsidies are misappropriated, according to various estimates.

“One of the biggest reforms that India has embarked upon is moving to a market-pricing mechanism across a variety of products such as cooking fuels, auto fuels, food grains and fertilizers,” a Kotak strategy report said.

‘A policy does not work by itself?people must know how to use it’

“It takes time to properly implement policies in India, more so for financial schemes like PMJDY as a lot of people are unaware of words like bank, loan, subsidy,” said Santosh Kumar, professor of public policy and administration at FLAME University, Pune.

The integration of PMJDY, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM) could be an important component of structural reforms. The idea of JAM, as propounded in the 2015 Economic Survey and the union budget, was to identify the beneficiary and deposit subsidies directly into his/her bank account.

“A policy does not work by itself,” said Kumar. “The government must have a strong political will to implement the policy properly by scrubbing it of discrepancies.”

“There are two aspects to financial inclusion: one is bank accounts and the second is access to credit. The scheme announced by the prime minister addresses the first problem. The issue of making credit available to small borrowers remains,” wrote C. Rangarajan, former chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the prime minister, in The Hindu.

An article published by RBI in May 2013 revealed that more than 42 percent of rural credit is sourced from non-institutional agencies. “Rural credit markets in India is characterized by the coexistence of both formal and informal sources of finance and the market is fragmented,” RBI concluded after four rounds of survey.

“The scheme is a step forward but a lot needs to be done before calling it successful,” said Anindita Roy Saha, associate professor of economics at Delhi University. “People from rural and urban areas need to be treated separately. For achieving the objectives, people should be educated about the financial system.”

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had opened nearly 60 million so-called no-frills accounts, but RBI data have shown that more than half of them remained dormant.

“The basic idea of financial inclusion is to include most of the vulnerable sections of society in the banking system,” said Kumar. “People need to know the potential of the scheme and the documents they have in possession; otherwise, they can’t exercise their rights.” (IANS/indiaspend.org)

 

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)