Delhi – January 28, 2013: The American India Foundation held its Fifth Annual National Knowledge Seminar, “Financial Inclusion of Urban Poor” at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on January 28th, 2013 from 2 – 6pm. A yearly highlight on New Delhi’s calendar, the seminar brings together over 100 leaders in business, philanthropy, and development for topical discussion on some of the country’s burning social and economic issues. Past seminars have drawn luminaries such as President Abdul Kalam, India’s 11th President, for the keynote address.
“Financial Inclusion of Urban Poor” featured a panel discussion moderated by the American India Foundation’s (AIF) Vice Chair, Pradeep Kashyap, on topics surrounding the pressing need to increase the urban poor’s participation in the financial system. Some of the issues covered were reforms of banking systems, pros and cons of the microcredit strategy, and the increasing role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in these endeavors. Setting the stage for a fascinating dialogue was Keynote Speaker, Dr. K. C. Chakrabarty, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who discussed at length how financial inclusion can better address the needs of India’s urban poor. He stated:
“The prolonged and persistent financial exclusion of large sections of society has also resulted in social tensions causing social exclusion. We have started to address workers’ concerns with delivering credit, safeguarding savings, and ensuring insurance and pension – but formal financial institutions will only achieve maximum impact by developing strong linkages with functional group based- financial delivery ventures and cooperatives. Through these ties, we can launch financial literacy drives and make available tailor made programs for each functional group and provide need-based services to ensure that the poor are not excluded from the economy.”
Panelists came from leading institutions such as The World Bank, Ford Foundation, Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society, and Sa-Dhan, the Association of Community Development Finance Institutions. Highlights of the event also included a presentation on AIF’s Rickshaw Sangh program by Professor Sanghmitra S. Acharya of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the presenting of Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Financial Inclusion to four organizations focusing on the financial inclusion of cycle rickshaw drivers.
Financial inclusion has long been a key priority in AIF’s work in trying to address issues of urban poverty.
“Financial inclusion cannot occur only through governmental action or through the banking industry alone, but requires a multi-stakeholder partnership between NGOs, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, financial service providers, as well as government and banks. For example, Rickshaw Sangh operates through NGO partners who convert the provided micro-credit into tangible and useable resources for collectivized rickshaw drivers.” – Hanumant Rawat, Livelihoods Program Director, AIF.
AIF brought to the discussion years of experience in promoting financial inclusion for vulnerable people through programs like Rickshaw Sangh, which collectivizes cycle rickshaw, trolley and push-cart drivers and provides access to banking services so that drivers can attain the goal of asset ownership and inclusion in the formal economy. Additionally, AIF has leveraged funds from public sector banks like Punjab National Bank, Small Industries Development Bank of India, Central Bank of India and Union Bank of India and enabled over 40,000 rickshaw pullers to own their vehicles. “Creating access to affordable, secure, and comprehensive financial services for every Indian citizen is an integral part of AIF’s big picture vision for catalyzing social and economic change in India,” espoused Hemanth Paul, AIF’s India Country Director.
The American India Foundation is the largest diaspora philanthropy organization focused on India based in the United States. Since its inception in 2001, AIF has benefited more than 1.7 million people through its innovative programs and partnerships with Indian non-governmental organizations. President Bill Clinton serves as its Honorary Chair; Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen chairs its U.S. Advisory Council.