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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

19-March-2024

1. A BANK ACCOUNT OF HER OWN

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable sections: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections 

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the significance of financial inclusion of women.

 

Context:

  • Financial inclusion, the accessibility and availability of financial services to all segments of society, is a crucial component for the sustained development and growth of a nation.
  • Its significance is underscored by its inclusion in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with financial inclusion serving as an enabler for eight out of the 17 SDGs.
  • This article delves into the importance of financial inclusion, particularly focusing on its impact on women in India.

Global Trends in Financial Inclusion:

  • According to the World Bank’s Global Findex Database 2021, there has been a significant global increase in adult ownership of bank accounts or regulated financial services between 2011 and 2020, with a noteworthy 50 percentage points rise.
  • India has seen a commendable jump of 42 percentage points during this period, with a substantial closing of the gender gap in account ownership.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, initiated in 2014, has played a pivotal role in this progress, facilitating the opening of basic savings accounts for over 28 crore women as of January 2024.
  • Moreover, various government schemes such as the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana and the National Rural Livelihood Mission have contributed to enhancing financial inclusion for women.

Progress in India’s Financial Inclusion Landscape:

  • Through multiple rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), significant progress has been observed in the financial inclusion of women in India.
  • The NFHS data highlights improvements in crucial criteria such as sovereignty over financial resources, possession of self-operated bank accounts, awareness about micro-credit programs, and utilization of such schemes by women over the past two decades.

Drivers of Financial Inclusion Among Women:

  • NFHS data also elucidate various individual and household factors influencing women’s access to financial services in rural India.
  • Education, digital skills, occupation, access to electronic media, and age emerge as significant drivers of financial inclusion among women.
  • Educated and digitally skilled women are more likely to be aware of and utilize micro-credit schemes, while occupation also plays a role, with working women showing higher engagement with such programs.

Implications for Policy and Action:

  • The study underscores the importance of tailoring financial inclusion initiatives to address specific demographic and socio-economic factors.
  • Programs should target women in households not headed by women and integrate financial awareness modules into educational and skill development frameworks.
  • Given the increasing digitization of financial transactions, there is a pressing need to educate individuals, especially youth, on cyber safety and secure digital banking practices to mitigate the risks of financial cyber-crimes and frauds.

Conclusion:

  • Financial inclusion stands as a cornerstone for sustainable development, with its impact reverberating across various sectors.
  • In India, concerted efforts have led to notable progress in enhancing financial inclusion, particularly among women.
  • However, there remains a need for targeted interventions to address the diverse socio-economic factors influencing access to financial services, ensuring that no segment of society is left behind in the journey towards inclusive growth and development.

What are the Challenges?

  • Women still lack participation in the formal financial industry.
  • For example, most women only access their PMJDY accounts to withdraw the benefit transfers from the various government initiatives.
  • Most of them do not use these accounts for savings, to build a credit history or avail of any financial products such as insurance and loans.
  • Inaccessibility: Most financial services are beyond the reach of most women, particularly in the rural hinterland.
  • Concerns around privacy and confidentiality: Hesitation to discuss personal financial matters with strangers.
  • The lack of collateral due to limited access to assets and property impedes their ability to avail of loans.
  • They have less influence over the family’s important financial choices → leading to wastages or use of benefits for non-essential purposes.

How to address these concerns?

  • Promote women’s access to and literacy in digital tools.
  • Promote the use of digital payments among women.
  • Appoint more women Business Correspondents (BCs).
  • Deepen convergence with self-help groups.
  • Collect gender-disaggregated data and develop strategies to form women-centric approaches.
  • Promote digital credit for medium and small businesses.

 

PYQ: Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is necessary for bringing unbanked to the institutional finance fold. Do you agree with this for financial inclusion of the poorer section of the Indian society? Give arguments to justify your opinion. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2016)

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of financial inclusion in India’s development trajectory, with a special emphasis on its impact on women empowerment. Evaluate the effectiveness of government initiatives in promoting financial inclusion and suggest measures to address the remaining challenges. (250 words/15 m)

2. When the taps run dry

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation GS1 – Urbanization, their problems and their remedies. This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the water crisis in Bengaluru and its significant implications for urban governance and sustainability.
 
Context:
  • The headlines depicting the water crisis in Bengaluru paint a grim picture akin to an apocalyptic thriller.
  • Residents are leaving the city due to dry taps, resorting to using mall toilets, encountering bone-dry borewells, and facing exorbitant rates from water tankers. Circulars threatening fines for various water usage activities add to the panic.
  • This crisis has been exacerbated by the below-normal 2023 monsoon attributed to the El Nino effect, according to the India Meteorological Department.
  • However, the anticipation of a normal monsoon also raises concerns about potential waterlogging and flooding, highlighting the cyclical nature of Bengaluru’s water-related challenges.
  Reflections on Bengaluru’s Waterscape: Past and Present:
  • Bengaluru, once known as Kalyana Nagara or the City of Lakes, boasted a rich waterscape featuring lakes, kalyanis, baavis, and gokattes, supporting various livelihoods and cultural activities.
  • However, colonial and post-Independence urbanization led to the conversion of these water sources for different land uses.
  • The city’s transformation into India’s software capital further accelerated this trend, resulting in the disappearance of wetlands and encroachment upon water channels, leading to the current scenario of sewage-filled lakes and depleted water bodies.
Equity and Access Issues in Water Distribution:
  • The inequitable distribution of water resources is evident, with affluent areas connected to municipal water supplies while peripheral areas rely on water tankers.
  • Simultaneously, slums and poorer neighborhoods struggle to access even basic water needs.
  • This disparity in access to water violates the fundamental human right to water for a significant portion of Bengaluru’s population, underscoring systemic issues in water governance and distribution.
Government Mandates and Responsibilities:
  • While government mandates aim to provide safe and sufficient water for all residents, the reliance on distant water sources like the Cauvery River highlights the challenges of urbanization and water scarcity.
  • Despite initiatives for rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment, the failure to address water scarcity reflects a broader failure in governance and responsibility towards sustainable water management.
Reflections on Water: Reimagining Our Relationship, Equity, and Responsibility
  • It is imperative for Bengaluru to reimagine its relationship with water by reconnecting with its traditional water sources and addressing the inequity in access.
  • Moreover, a shift towards responsible water usage and conservation practices is crucial for ensuring the city’s sustainable water future.
  • By embracing these principles, Bengaluru can break free from the cycle of scarcity and flooding, fostering a more resilient and equitable water ecosystem for its residents.
Conclusion:
  • Bengaluru’s water crisis demands urgent attention and concerted action from both the government and its residents.
  • By reflecting on the city’s historical waterscape, addressing access and equity issues, and committing to responsible water management practices,
  • Bengaluru can navigate away from its current cycle of water-related challenges towards a more sustainable and equitable water future.
What Steps Should Be Taken to Address the Water Crisis in India?
Interlinking of Rivers:
  • The national interlinking of rivers (ILR) is the idea that rivers should be inter-connected, so that water from the surplus rivers and regions could be transferred to deficient regions and rivers to address the issue of water scarcity.
  • Promote Water Conservation:
  • Implementing water conservation measures at individual, community, and national levels is crucial.
  • This includes promoting rainwater harvesting, efficient irrigation techniques, and minimising water wastage in domestic, industrial, and agricultural sectors.
  • Invest in Infrastructure:
  • Allocate adequate financial resources for water infrastructure development, maintenance, and rehabilitation.
  • Explore innovative financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships, water tariffs, and user fees to mobilise funding for water projects.
  • Promote Sustainable Agriculture:
  • Encourage farmers to adopt water-efficient farming practices such as drip irrigation, precision agriculture, crop rotation, and agroforestry.
  • Providing incentives and subsidies for implementing water-saving technologies can facilitate this transition.
  • As per the MS Swaminathan committee report on ‘More Crop and Income Per Drop of Water’ (2006), drip and sprinkler irrigation can save around 50% of water in crop cultivation and increase the yield of crops by 40-60%.
  • Address Pollution:
  • Combat water pollution by enforcing strict regulations on industrial discharge, sewage treatment, and agricultural runoff.
  • Implementing wastewater treatment plants and adopting eco-friendly practices can help reduce pollution levels in rivers, lakes, and groundwater sources.
  • Legislation and Governance:
  • Strengthen water governance frameworks by enacting and enforcing water-related legislation, policies, and regulatory mechanisms.
  • Establishing local, regional, and national water management authorities can facilitate coordinated decision-making and implementation of water management strategies.
  • Introducing minimum support policies for less water-intensive crops can reduce the pressure on agricultural water use.
  • Community Participation:
  • Strengthening community participation and rights in groundwater governance can improve groundwater management.
  • World Bank projects for groundwater governance in peninsular India were successful on several fronts by implementing the Participatory Groundwater Management approach (PGM).
  • Adopt One Water Approach:Everything You Need To Know About
  • One Water Approach, also referred to as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), is the recognition that all water has value, regardless of its source.
  • It includes managing that source in an integrated, inclusive and sustainable manner by including the community, business leaders, industries, farmers, conservationists, policymakers, academics and others for ecological and economic benefits.
 
PYQ: What are the benefits of implementing the ‘Integrated Watershed Development Programme’? (2014) 1) Prevention of soil runoff 2) Linking the country’s perennial rivers with seasonal rivers 3) Rainwater harvesting and recharge of groundwater table 4) Regeneration of natural vegetation Select the correct answer using the code given below: (a) 1 and 2 only (b) 2, 3 and 4 only (c) 1, 3 and 4 only (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4 Ans: C
Practice Question:  Discuss the multidimensional challenges posed by the water crisis in Bengaluru and analyze the implications for environmental sustainability, and social equity. Suggest comprehensive policy measures to address the crisis. (250 words/15 m)

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