Although India has made a lot of progress towards achieving financial inclusion, a lot more needs to be done, a top government official said on Wednesday.Launching the "State of the Agent Network" report here, government's Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian said that providing essential goods and services to citizens was only the first policy step towards financial inclusion."One of the aims of the government policy is ensuring provision of essential goods and services. That is, of course, the first step to develop fiscal provision into something real and meaningful," Subramanian said."You have gas cylinders but you need consistent gas off-take; you have bank accounts but you need to make genuine inclusion; your toilets are built, but are they used? I think that's the next stage we need to work on," he said. He added that while India had made a lot of progress on the financial inclusion front, there was a big gap between opening accounts and actually achieving financial inclusion."That is why, the banking correspondents story needs more work," he said.Banking correspondents or agents are engaged by a bank for providing banking services in unbanked and under-banked areas.
According to the report released by MicroSave and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while women hold about 45 per cent of the accounts opened under the Prime Minister's flagship Jan-Dhan Yojana, only about 8 per cent of the banking agents in India are women."We need more women agents if we are to sustainably offer services to women clients, especially in rural areas," the report said.According to the report, there is a 200 per cent increase in volumes of "cash in, cash out" transactions from the banking agent points across India.It added that average daily transactions points had also increased by 140 per cent from 13 in 2015 to 31 in 2017. "Government subsidy payouts and enrolment into government schemes have helped drive this number," the report read."Agents' median earnings and profits in 2017 ($93 and $31, respectively) have more than doubled from 2015 levels. This is the highest amongst Asian countries (Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan)," it added.