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Striving for Financial Inclusion

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Bipul Pathak,
Commissioner/Secretary, Science & Technology
and Information Technology Department
Government of Jammu & Kashmir

“We will successfully demonstrate to the entire country that Jammu & Kashmir can achieve all the set targets in the area of financial inclusion,”says Bipul Pathak

These days we are having lot of discussion on financial inclusion. What is your vision for this area?

I would like to mention that it is the vision of Government of India and all the state governments in the country to promote financial inclusion and Direct Benefit Transfer. Government of India has been putting lot of thrust into developing new ways of developing solutions that can facilitate financial inclusion. Direct Benefit Transfer is an area of great importance. These are two connected things but the initiatives have to be different. The financial inclusion part is a mandate given to all the public sector banks, the regional rural banks and the cooperative banks working in the states. The idea is to make the benefits flow to the common citizens electronically without any human intervention. At the national level, I think, some 50 to 60 districts have already been identified for the benefits to start flowing.

Tell us about the work that State Government of Jammu & Kashmir is now doing for promoting financial inclusion?
In the state of Jammu & Kashmir, the mandate is with Department of Finance to carry out the process of the financial inclusion as well as transfer of benefits. There is Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme in which the pensions are being sent to the beneficiaries through the electronic route only. The backend computerisation and the backend digitisation of the data with the department of  social welfare in J&K government has already started. We have started building the applications. The Jammu & Kashmir Bank is playing its part in many districts and hopefully we will be able to achieve financial inclusion.

Now it seems that e-Governance is paving way for m-Governance. What is your view of m-Governance?
Obviously m-Governance is an idea whose time has come. Today the mobile penetration has increased tremendously in the country, so it is imperative for governments to start focusing on m-Governance. We have developed a mobile based application under Home Ministry for border areas. It is a very successful project as it includes around 5,000 schemes, varying from small to medium. All these  schemes are being executed under the directions of the Home Ministry. It is replicated by the Government of India to use it in other border states of the country.

What are the major challenges that you face when it comes to the implementation of Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme?
The major challenge that we face has to do with interoperability in J&K. We have half the district with J&K bank as the lead bank and half the districts with the State Bank of India.  We have started the process of EBT, but it can only be a success when we address the issue of interoperability. In urban areas also we face the issue of interoperability. This is because many people have accounts in private banks and they do not have any accounts with the public sector banks , so the interoperability between the systems of private banks with the other banks will also have to standardised and achieved. The public sector banks in my opinion are not taking enough extraordinary initiatives to develop more and more innovative, customer friendly services. The challenge also exists in the involvement of various state governments and ministries at different level. For instance, if we want to transfer benefits for LPG directly to the citizens, then the data is required from Ministry of Petroleum and the Oil Companies, as they own the database of people who use LPG. We also need the data from the Consumer Affairs Department of the state government. The entire sets of data must co-relate with each other.

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