By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, January 12, 2020: Financial Inclusion – key to poverty alleviation cannot be achieved without a serious and radical transformation in financial inclusion policy and result oriented partnership between the government, industry, civil society and financial institutions, experts argued here at the Centre for Policy, Governance and Advocacy (CPGA) organised policy dialogue on Financial Inclusion at the CYSD Convention Centre here in the city.

Gracing the occasion as chief guest former finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadai, shared his dream of a poverty free India. He was concerned that financial literacy is not reaching to everyone and many are excluded in accessing financial support also. Citing the plight of the slum dwellers, Ghadai advocated change of mindset of policy makers, bureaucrats, bankers and common people towards a more compassionate approach to the less privileged.

Speaking on the occasion, former Odisha chief secretary and union rural development secretary, Jugal Kishore Mohapatra stressed that financial inclusion is prerequisite to achieve livelihood security in the rural areas. To achieve higher financial inclusion, he suggested innovation at three levels; customized products, institutions and the enabling system.

Dr. Sanjay Kumar Panda, former Tripura chief secretary and union textile secretary argued that financial inclusion is key to achieve economic justice which is an objective enshrined in the preamble of the constitution. He highlighted three essential requirements for better financial inclusion, such as a positive mindset, a multidisciplinary team and appropriate use of technology. He shared his experience of working on financial inclusion while he was the Chief Secretary of Tripura. He has published a book entitled “One plus One Equals Eleven” on this transformational experience.

Senior Journalist Nageshwar Patnaik expressed his concern on the declining number of bank branches in rural India. Banks are increasingly opting to deliver banking through digital mode due to rising operating costs of branches. As a result, there has been a decline in the number of newly opened bank branches – from 8,749 in FY15 to 3,948 in FY18. But the fall is more perceptible in rural centres with population below 9,999. The number of new branches opened in such centres has dropped from 3,274 to 1,067 during the three-year period. He also added that nearly half of the bank accounts opened in India were not in operation during the last financial year as against 25% at the global level.

Guest of Honour, Mr. Rajendra Kumar Swain, former general manager of Canara Bank shared the timeline of the poverty alleviation initiatives to provide a historical background of the initiatives of financial inclusion. He mentioned that the financial inclusion initiatives and the operations of MFIs started since 2005. He cited facts of rural urban divide on financial inclusion especially in unbanked areas, i.e. 4253 out of 6798 GPs are unbanked in Odisha.

Mr. AP Das, GM NABARD outlines a broad strategy for financial inclusion including universal access, sector specific targets, market development, differentiated players, financial literacy, consumer awareness, protection, regulation and expansion of outreach.
Prafulla Kumar Sahu, CYSD chairman argued that financial inclusion will stop people from getting cheated. He mentioned that financial literacy is the key to turn poverty into prosperity.

Students and faculty members from Utkal University, Ravenshaw, KIIT School of Rural Management, Xavier School of Rural Management and Sri Sri University participated in the policy dialogue. Dr. Mrunmayee Rath from Satya Sai College offered vote of thanks.
Chairman Mr. Tejeswar Parida welcomed the guest and introduced the theme to the participants.

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