Falling Zero-Balance Jan Dhan Accounts: The One Rupee Trick

In August 2014, a few weeks after the launch of Jan Dhan, the government’s flagship scheme under which the unbanked get bank accounts, Kamlesh, a housewife at Purnapur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly, opened an account at the Punjab and Sind Bank’s local branch. Wife of a farmer, the opening balance in her account was zero. This wasn’t unusual — in fact, accounts like Kamlesh’s, called zero-balance accounts, made up almost half of all the 17.90 crore Jan Dhan accounts a year later given that most of the holders were poor and had little by way of savings.
But on August 5 this year, when Kamlesh got her passbook updated, she was in for a surprise. “Re 1 had been deposited in my account on September 29, 2015. I didn’t deposit the money, I don’t know where it came from. I will ask the bank about this,” she said. It’s not just Kamlesh, and it’s not just that branch in Bareilly, or even that bank.

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