Net deposits in the no-frills Jan Dhan accounts hit a peak of Rs 1.68 trillion as of April 13, having witnessed almost steady growth over the past four months despite the Omicron onslaught in January.
The net deposits haven’t dropped even after the easing of localised curbs, imposed in the wake of the third Covid wave, that opened up avenues of spending since late February. The latest Jan Dhan balance was also way above the pre-pandemic level of Rs 1.17 trillion (in the first week of March 2020).
This lends some credence to the view that farmers may have gained from a rise in commodity prices in recent months and concerns in some quarters about the persistence of wide-spread rural distress even after the third Covid wave may have been exaggerated.
Jan Dhan accounts had a net balance of Rs 1.68 trillion as of April 13, higher than that of Rs 1.45 trillion on April 14, 2021 and Rs 1.34 trillion as of April 15, 2020, according to the finance ministry data (see chart).
On March 25, 2020, when a Covid-induced lockdown was imposed across India, net deposits were to the tune of Rs 1.18 trillion.
Of course, the number of Jan Dhan accounts has risen by 69.4 million in the past two years to 451.6 million as of April 13. The government’s free grain supply under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana in the past two years, too, has saved the poor households a tidy sum. Moreover, some amount of precautionary savings by the depositors for any Covid-related exigencies can’t be ruled out. However, despite accounting for these factors, the net balance still remains higher than expected.
Public-sector banks accounted for 77% of the Jan Dhan deposits, while regional rural banks made up another 20% and private banks just 3%.
The Jan Dhan accounts — originally intended to spur financial inclusion by making banking facility available to the poor — were used by the government to swiftly transfer funds for immediate relief in the aftermath of the Covid outbreak in 2020. On Saturday, the finance ministry asked state-run banks to come out with ideas to herald next-generation reforms in various financial inclusion initiatives, including the Jan Dhan scheme.
The opening of Jan Dhan accounts acquired phenomenal speed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the scheme in August 2014, with millions of accounts being added every month. The pace, however, started slowing since late 2015, as most of the intended beneficiaries were already covered. According to official data, the government’s target of opening one account per household was achieved by as early as January 26, 2015 (barring a few areas in Jammu & Kashmir and naxalism-affected districts).