I am in politics for over 35 years. Since early days we have been talking about poverty alleviation. "Garibi Hatao" (remove poverty) slogan was given in early 1970s. Since then a number of schemes have been introduced aimed at removing poverty. I am not saying that nothing has happened. But surely the pace has not been good.
As Narendra Modi government is rolling out various initiatives to accelerate growth and ameliorate the standard of living of the 1.2 billion people, Sameer Kochhar's new book titled Defeating Poverty: Jan Dhan and Beyond should be an eye-opener for policymakers of yesteryears as well as those at the helm right now. While poverty eradication has been a national priority since the day India attained Independence, the country still has about 300 million people surviving on subsistence income.
Ever since we started our initiatives on financial inclusion, it was crystal clear that financial inclusion without poverty alleviation is a meaningless exercise. If that be the case, the next question is how to attain the goal at the earliest and at the lowest possible cost. Here, I must say that the three things-social inclusion, financial inclusion and digital inclusion-are inter-linked, and if one is missing, the other two cannot happen. Incidentally, most of the flaws that I pointed out in my book titled Speeding Financial Inclusion (2009), eventually came true during the course of implementation of the financial inclusion initiative including the Swabhimaan scheme in 2011. Some of the mistakes are being repeated as the Jan Dhan is being rolled out.