The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed on January 2, 2017, that 99.99% of Indian households now had a bank account, but that omits 35 million households not reached in the survey that underpins the claim.
Here is the tweet India’s ruling party put out, based on a recent survey conducted under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), the prime minister’s people’s wealth programme, which hopes to provide millions of poor families with a bank account:
“Report Card of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana : More than 26 crore bank accounts opened covering 99.99% households - Banking the unbanked.”
Report Card of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana : More than 26 crore bank accounts opened covering 99.99% households - Banking the unbanked. pic.twitter.com/mNDDsNF2mu— BJP (@BJP4India) January 2, 2017
The “99.99% households” the party refers to are part of 210 million surveyed by officials working with the PMJDY, according to this January 1, 2017, Press Information Bureau (PIB) release of the finance ministry.
Here’s what Factchecker found:
Claim: 99.99% of 21.22 crore (212.2 million) households surveyed had bank accounts.
Fact: 14% of Indians households not included in the survey.
Census 2011 listed 24.67 crore households, or 246.7 million. Of these, 41% (10.18 crore or 101.8 million) did not have access to banking, according to data on household amenities under the census survey.
That leaves 3.5 crore (35 million) or 14% of households, many of which may not have members with bank accounts. Also, there were more than 19.19 crore (191.9 million) households in India in 2001, increasing by 5.5 crore (55 million) or 28% between 2001 and 2011, according to census data. Since 2011, these households have further increased, but they are not counted by census officials.
The government has not specified the methodology it used to calculate households with bank accounts and whether it accounted for the increase in households since the 2011 census. So, the claim that 99.99% of Indian households have access to banking appears to lack a statistical foundation.
Claim: “Zero-balance” accounts (those without money) have been reduced to 23.86% of all accounts.
Fact: There has been a 1.8 percentage-point dip in zero-balance accounts since May 2016; despite the November 8, 2016, demonetisation process.
There were 75% zero-balance PMJDY accounts in September 2014, a month after the programme was launched; accounts without money have been steadily declining and were 25.7% of PJMDY accounts in May 2016, as IndiaSpend reported on June 27, 2016.
Zero-balance accounts constituted 23.9% of PJMDY accounts in December 2016, according to the latest available data from the finance ministry. A decrease of 1.8 percentage points is not a significant decrease since May 2016, since the demonetisation drive should have encouraged people to have used their accounts.
The dip in zero-balance accounts has also been attributed to what has been called the “Re 1 trick”, a reference to how bank employees were found to be making minimal deposits of one, two, or five rupees from maintenance funds or own resources to reduce their tally of zero-balance accounts; as the Indian Express reported on September 13, 2016.
(Tewari is an analyst with IndiaSpend and Factchecker.)