The Congress on Thursday launched a fresh salvo at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, asserting that the Jan Dhan Yojana is just another 'jumla' (fake promise) and an exercise in mass deception.
Addressing a presser here, former finance minister P. Chidambaram said, "The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSBDA). Until May 2014, 25 crore accounts had been opened. Under the Modi government, the BSBDA scheme was renamed to Jan Dhan Yojana. Instead of pursuing genuine financial inclusion, the Modi government's aim appears to just grab headlines."
"Whenever Modi talks about Jan Dana Yojana, he deliberately forgets to mention 25 million accounts opened before 2014. Why so? It was the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that sowed the idea of financial inclusion. The truth of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana is that it is just another 'jumla' and an exercise in mass deception by the Modi government. The funds were supposed to be cost-free for struggling banks, but they are required to bear the cost of the accounts," he added.
Chidambaram alleged that the Jan Dhan accounts were used to launder money after demonetisation. "A humongous sum of Rs 42,187 crore were deposited in Jan Dhan accounts between November 8, 2016, and December 30, 2016," he claimed.
He asserted that the financial programme was itself a "big-scale fraud" and the banks were struggling to maintain crores of such accounts.
"Banks have, without the consent of the account holder, converted Jan Dhan accounts into regular savings accounts and are charging exorbitant fees for failure to maintain a minimum balance. Apart from this, there was 'some balance' in 15 to 20 per cent accounts because bank officials were told to deposit one rupee in these accounts," Chidambaram said.
He recalled that his successor Arun Jaitley "also gave a threat to take strict legal action against those who deposit money in these dubious accounts, but the Finance Secretary clarified that no such action will be taken."
Chidambaram further claimed that those withdrawing money from their accounts were only allowed four times a month and if any account holder withdrew money for the fifth time, then an additional fee is to be paid.
"The Jan Dhan self-praise is an elaborate exercise in deception. By December 2016, 24 per cent of the accounts were zero balance accounts. No data is available for the subsequent period. Of the remaining accounts, 15-20 per cent have a 'balance' only because bank managers were encouraged to deposit Re 1 in the account," he added.
Continuing his tirade, the senior Congress leader alleged that the poor were exploited when the Jan Dhan Yojana came into being. He said that according to the World Bank's 2017 paper, one in five persons had to pay a middleman to open an account.
"The government has talked up the life and accident insurance benefits available with a Jan Dhan account but failed to mention that the Rs 30,000 life insurance feature applies only to those who opened a Jan Dhan account between August 15, 2014, and January 31, 2015. This incentive was introduced only to generate record account openings rather than offering a real benefit. The government has failed to disclose how many account holders have got the insurance after an accident or death," Chidambaram remarked.