The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana programme, the drive launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure at least one member in every household in the country had a bank account, could soon emerge as a worldwide template for achieving rapid financial inclusion.
The Financial Action Task Force, a global antiterror financing agency, has given initial approval to a paper by India on how it achieved the task in a few months while adhering to know your customer (KYC) norms. The study will now be fleshed out further. The agency, which advocates stringent KYC standards in order to stamp out terror financing, is keen to see whether the Indian model can be emulated by other countries. The US, Russia, Spain and the Netherlands have extended support to the paper.
“We have informally given a presentation on the contours of KYC followed under the PMJDY (Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana) programme,” a government official said. “A proposal has now been approved to study as to how India did it in form of a best practices paper.”
A working group led by India and including officials from other countries as members will be set up to prepare the template, the official said. FATF prescribes standards for countries to develop policies to combat money laundering and terror financing. India became a member in 2010 and is obliged to ensure that its domestic regime is in compliance with these norms with strict KYC rules for all financial transactions as a key base case requirement.
All financial sector regulators in the country have issued KYC guidelines and rigorous identification norms are in place for opening bank accounts, trading shares, buying insurance or investing in mutual funds.
However, with a large part of the population outside the formal financial sector, India launched a major drive underpinned by more basic KYC requirements to ensure every household had at least one bank account.
The Reserve Bank of India allowed the opening of small accounts, relaxing some of the norms and restricting the features available to customers. Those who don’t have any of the officially recognized support documents can open such small accounts on the basis of a selfattested photograph by signing or affixing their thumbprints in the presence of an official of the bank.
These small accounts cannot have more than Rs 50,000 in them at any point and don’t allow more than Rs 10,000 to be withdrawn in one go in order to prevent misuse. Many countries face the similar challenge of bringing their people into the formal financial sector’s fold.
For example, even the US is said to have an astonishing 30% of its population uncovered. Nations want to repair this situation without compromising on KYC. India’s minimal KYC route thus seems a plausible option.
FATF has already undertaken a subproject on derisking and KYC norms adopted under the Jan Dhan Yojana as part of this bigger project. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who is UN ambassador for financial inclusion, has also thrown her weight behind the model adopted by India. India’s banks opened a record 12.56 crore accounts in a few months after Modi launched the programme in August last year.