The government is ascertaining facts relating to specific instances of public sector bank officials depositing Re 1 into Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts, the Finance Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
The statement comes after an investigation in The Indian Express reported on September 13 that many bank officials, citing “pressure from above,” are quietly depositing Re 1 into zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts to reduce their share. The Indian Express travelled to six states to track down nearly 60 such examples in 12 branches of eight different banks and their subsidiaries.
“Certain specific instances have been reported in The Indian Express of Rs1 deposited into PMJDY accounts… However, it needs to be appreciated that since the absence of balance in PMJDY accounts in no way diminishes the benefits associated with these accounts, there is no requirement of even a small balance in the accounts. However, in view of the specific instances mentioned, facts are being ascertained to assess if there has been any misunderstanding at the branch level of the objectives of the scheme,” the Finance Ministry statement said.
“It is reiterated that the PMJDY continues to be a robust scheme which provides benefits even when there is no balance in the accounts. The Government remains committed to adding value to the scheme by routing benefits directly into bank accounts under various schemes,” the ministry said.
The government said deposits have been rising steadily into the scheme since it was launched as a national mission for financial inclusion to ensure access to financial services, deposit accounts, remittances, credit and accident insurance.
“As mentioned in the news report, it is correct that over 24 crore PMJDY accounts have been opened and deposits of Rs 42,000 plus have been received in these accounts. In December, 2014, 10.45 crore PMJDY accounts had deposits of Rs 8,353 crore. The deposits have been rising steadily during this period,” the ministry said.
PMJDY seeks to inculcate a widespread banking habit and creation of credit histories of account holders, thereby facilitating the account holders to access overdraft /credit from banks, the ministry statement said.
Jan Dhan accounts can be opened with zero balance and there is no requirement of maintaining a minimum balance, it said.
Using information obtained under the Right to Information Act, The Indian Express had found that bank officials had deposited Re 1 in Jan Dhan accounts, some from their own pockets, others from various perks and expenditure heads that come under their jurisdiction. These include entertainment allowance, conveyance allowance, canteen subsidy, office maintenance funds, and fee obtained for Demand Drafts and online transfers.
From September 2014 to August 19, 2015, the number of zero-balance accounts declined from 76 per cent to 45.74 per cent, then to 24.32 per cent on July 27, 2016.