Regional rural banks lead the spike in Jan Dhan deposits

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Jan-Dhan bank accounts—part of the government’s drive to provide banking access to the unbanked and the poor—have seen a spike in deposits since the currency reset on 8 November. Data for the two weeks since 8 November shows that while the week-on-week increase in the number of such bank accounts was 0.3% and 0.4%—in line with the last three months—there was a surge in the account balance of all three categories of banks: public sector banks (PSBs), regional rural banks (RRBs) and private banks.

The account balance surged 39-49% in the first week and 11-23% in the second. In the 11 weeks prior to 8 November, the highest week-on-week change in account balance was 1.6% (Graph 1).

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PSBs account for nearly 80% of Jan-Dhan accounts and account balance. Next come RRBs, with about 17%, and then private banks. But RRBs, which are sponsored by PSBs, are showing the greatest deviation from the usual. The average account balance of RRBs has crossed that of PSBs (Graph 2).

 

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And, the list of top 10 banks to record the highest increases in average balance between 9 and 23 November contains eight RRBs (Graph 3).

 

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News in Numbers, Aug 25, 2016: New rail projects cleared, efficiency norms for ACs…

1,937.38 km

What is it? The total length of track construction under nine railway projects that have been cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday.

Why is it important? At an estimated cost of Rs 24,374.86 crore, this would help decongest key routes by increasing capacity, improve passenger and freight transportation and movement of freight items such as coal, minerals and steel. This would benefit 11 states including West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. If procurement for the projects is done within India, it would contribute 0.4% to the GDP (gross domestic product), besides having a multiplier effect, according to an analyst.

Tell me more: The projects are important for the Indian Railways to meet its target of creating capacity to transport 1.5 billion tonnes of goods by 2020.

 

24-43 degree Celsius

What is it? The temperature range which would be used to test air-conditioners’ (ACs) efficiency from January 2018, as against the current practice of using 35 degree Celsius as the benchmark.

Why is it important? The new star rating system would be mandatory for all brands and is aimed at reducing electricity consumption and bringing down electricity costs. All ACs would need to be fitted with smart compressor regulators instead of the conventional thermostat-triggered cut-offs. This would help reduce electricity consumption of a 1.5 tonne AC (currently, 5-star rated) by 250 kilowatt/hour, leading to savings of Rs 1,500 a year (if the power tariff is set at Rs 6 per kilowatt/hour), according to an economist at the Bureau of Energy Efficiency.

Tell me more: In India, about 45 lakh ACs are sold every year.

 

5

What is it? The number of years a couple has to be married to have a child through surrogacy, as per the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, which the Union Cabinet cleared on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This would bring in rules in the so-far unregulated sector. Besides this, it prohibits married couple who have biological or adopted children, single people, live-in partners and homosexuals from going for surrogacy. It also bans commercial surrogacy, which is estimated to be around Rs 3,000 crore in India and is known to exploit poor women who agree to become surrogate mothers for money. It doesn’t allow foreign nationals to seek an Indian surrogate mother.

Tell me more: The couple should seek a surrogate who is a close relative and she can be a surrogate mother only once. The commissioning parents should belong to a particular age group: 23-50 years for women and 26-55 years for men. The bill will be presented in the Parliament for approval this winter.

 

17

What is it? The number of bank accounts reportedly under the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) scanner for suspected links with terrorists or separatist groups. The transactions total Rs 38 crore. They relate to four banks in south Kashmir.

Why is it important? The NIA investigators are looking for links between the date of withdrawal of money from these accounts and the incidents of stone-pelting and road blockades held by those protesting the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant. The Indian government hasblamed Pakistan for supporting cross-border terrorism and has termed it to be root cause of the unrest in the Valley.

Tell me more: Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Bahadur Ali, in a confessional video, said Pakistan had a role to play in the Kashmir unrest, which has left 65 people dead since July 9.

 

11.2

What is it? The number of days an earth-like planet (named Proxima b) takes to orbit around its sun, Proxima Centauri.

Why is it important? It’s closer to its sun, than the earth is to its. However, scientists say it is within the habitable zone. This means that liquid water could be present on the planet. Of the over 3,000 exoplanets (planets which orbit a star outside the solar system), this may be one of the closest – raising hopes of life outside earth or that it could have the appropriate conditions to support life.

Tell me more: Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years away from the solar system’s sun. With the kind of spacecraft we have today, it would take 70,000 years to reach Proxima b.

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The financial inclusion drive that is failing Rural India

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

So much for bringing rural India into the financial fold. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of rural households with bank accounts more than doubled in number. Yet, rural households increased their borrowings in a significant way from private moneylenders, and not the organized financial sector, shows a recently released National Sample Survey (NSS) report on indebtedness and asset holdings of 62,000 rural households across 4,529 villages and blocks.

Despite a 120% increase in rural households with bank accounts in the decade to 2011…

 

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…it’s the informal moneylender, not the formal bank, that has gained share in rural credit

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Rural households are borrowing short-term at high rates
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Indebtedness is more among poorer households, who borrow more from moneylenders and more for non-business use
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