NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to prepare a road map for "financial inclusion" and help transform the lives of the poor, ahead of its forthcoming centenary year in 2035, here on Thursday.
"The RBI will be completing 100 years in 2035 and it will be appropriate for it to work on financial inclusion and prepare a roadmap to achieve it," Modi said, attending the 80th anniversary celebrations of the apex bank in Mumbai on Thursday.
"I come as a representative of the poor, underprivileged, marginalized and tribals...I am one among them. I seek on their behalf and trust you will not disappoint me," the prime minister urged, at a RBI Conference on Financial Inclusion, marking its 80th anniversary.
In addition to the RBI's centenary, Modi said other milestones to achieve financial inclusion could be the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, the 75th year of Indian Independence in 2022, and the RBI's 90th anniversary in 2025.
He said these were four important dates to create a road map for financial inclusion, which should not remain just a government programme but become an "article of faith".
The prime minister also suggested that banks should be considerate in extending loans to the poor and while making recoveries, especially from the farming community.
Expressing concern at the plight of the poor and the farmers' suicides, the prime minister said these should "shake up the conscience of the banking sector", and urged the bankers to come up with creative financial inclusion instruments to prevent farmland suicides.
"Our poor farmers commit suicide...This pain should not be restricted only to the media. When a farmer dies, does it shake the heart of the banking sector? Only because he has taken loan from a moneylender, he has to face death," Modi said.
Calling upon banks to make financial inclusion a habit, he advised them to take inspiration from the success of women's self-help groups, keep in mind the requirements of youth for furthering their knowledge or skills and cited the example of the proposed MUDRA initiative.
Modi called for the need to think of a "geographical parameter" in addition to the economic and social parameters for financial inclusion, and asked the banking sector to recognize and plan schemes for the notheastern states which have immense economic potential.
Lauding the RBI's role in the past 80 years and its present governor, Raghuram Rajan, for his grasp and clarity on economic issues, he urged the apex bank to take the lead in ensuring that India starts manufacturing paper and ink used to print currency notes under the 'Make In India' initiative.
Addressing the gathering, union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said in reference to financial inclusion that the prime minister's Jan Dhan Yojana was a tremendous success.
In the next phase, the challenge would be to provide a certain amount of social security to the account-holders in terms of accident and life insurance, an alternative pension scheme for the under-privileged sections with support from the government, banking systems and other institutions, Jaitley said.
Present on the occasion were Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, besides other top dignitaries from diverse fields.