NEW DELHI: Former finance minister P Chidambaram has questioned the Centre's much-touted Jan Dhan scheme, saying it is yet another jumla (fake promise) of the Modi government.
"Jan Dhan Yojana is another jumla and an exercise in mass deception by PM Modi and his government. The funds were supposed to be cost-free for struggling banks, but they are required to bear the cost of the accounts. The SBI alone has spent Rs 775 crore as on December 31, 2016 for maintaining the accountants. In any event, there are no comparable benefits to the customer," Chidambaram said.
Noting that just as the India story did not begin on May 26, 2014 "as PM Modi would like us to believe", financial inclusion did not begin with the Jan Dhan Yojana, said the former finance minister.
The UPA government sowed the idea of financial inclusion, said Chidambaram, adding that the RBI had introduced the Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSBDA), also called the 'No Frills Account' or 'Zero Balance Account'.
"Until May 2014, 25 crore BSBD Accounts had been opened and the average citizen began to enjoy the advantages of modern banking. Simultaneously, the Aadhaar programme was rolled out and 65 crore Aadhaar numbers were issued by May 2014," he said, claiming credit for the unique identification scheme also.
The Congress veteran pointed out that the Modi government simply renamed the BSBDA scheme as Jan Dhan Yojana and instead of pursuing genuine financial inclusion, the centre's aim appears to break records and grab headlines.
"When the Modi Government speaks of Jan Dhan accounts, it conveniently and deliberately ignores the 25 crore accounts created before 2014. Why?" Chidambaram said.
He charged that Jan Dhan accounts were used to launder money after demonetization in 2016.
"A humongous sum of Rs 42,187 crore was deposited in Jan Dhan accounts between November 8, 2016, and 30 December 2016. Initially, the finance minister threatened legal action (November 12, 2016), but the finance secretary ruled out an investigation on the grounds it would be a "time-consuming process." United Bank of India alone had 11,80,000 Jan Dhan accounts with over Rs 1 lakh so-called 'savings', the former finance minister added.