The Ministry of Finance on Friday said that over 40.35 crore poor people have benefited from the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, India’s biggest ever bank account opening drive which aims to give every household access to banking facilities by offering them zero-balance accounts across all commercial banks. The financial inclusion scheme was launched six years ago.

“PMJDY has been the foundation stone for the Modi government’s people-centric economic initiatives,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a statement. “Whether it is direct benefit transfers, Covid-19 financial assistance, PM-KISAN, increased wages under MGNREGA, life and health insurance cover, the first step was to provide every adult with a bank account, which PMJDY has nearly completed. It is important as it provides an avenue to the poor for bringing their savings into the formal financial system...”

The finance ministry said the total deposit balances under PMJDY accounts was at Rs 1.31 lakh crore and average deposit per account stood at Rs 3,239. As of August 19, out of the total PMJDY account holders, 63.6% were in rural areas and 55.2% belonged to women, the statement said. The government also said 34.81 crore or 86.3% account were operative this month. “Continuous increase in % of operative accounts is an indication that more an more of these accounts are being used by customers on a regular basis,” it added.

According to the Reserve Bank of India guidelines, a PMJDY account is considered inoperative if there are no transactions for over a period of two years.

The ministry said financial inclusion is a national priority of the government as it is an enabler for inclusive growth. “A total of Rs. 30,705 crore have been credited in accounts of women PMJDY account holders during April-June, 2020,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who announced the Jan Dhan Yojana in his Independence Day address in 2014, lauded the initiative. “Today, six years ago, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was launched with an ambitious aim of banking the unbanked,” he tweeted. “This initiative has been a game-changer, serving as the foundation for many poverty alleviation initiatives, benefitting crores of people.”

Modi pointed out that many beneficiaries of the scheme were from rural areas and were women. “Thanks to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, the future of several families has become secure,” he added. “I also applaud all those who have worked tirelessly to make PMJDY a success.”

Meanwhile, the finance ministry said it was planning to promote digital payments, including RuPay debit card usage, among PMJDY account holders through creation of acceptance infrastructure across the country. In 2018, the government had launched the scheme with enhanced features and benefits.

Under the new version, the government decided to shift focus from “every household” to “every unbanked adult’’ and free accidental insurance cover on RuPay cards doubled to Rs 2 lakh for PMJDY accounts opened after August 28, 2018.