A single account opened in United Bank of India, under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), or the ‘no frills’ or Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSBDA) had a whopping Rs93.82 crore deposited. This was revealed in a Right to Information (RTI) query.
Remember, the Jan Dhan account was meant for financial inclusion of the unbanked and is even below the category of regular, basic savings accounts of banks. While Rs93.82 crore is a mind-boggling deposit, other large deposits in nationalised banks are also so large as to raise questions about who these depositors are, what checks were conducted by banks before accepting such deposits and what is the nature of money that has been deposited in Jan Dhan accounts.
The Rs93 crore number is so shocking that we wonder whether the Bank undestood the question correctly. However, even ignoring this figure, several banks have reported a very large number for Jan Dhan account which is meant for the poor.
As part of a fact-finding exercise, Moneylife filed RTI application with the Department of Financial Services, in Ministry of Finance seeking information on PMJDY scheme relating to Public Sector Banks (PSB). The CPIO of the Department forwarded our RTI application to all banks, asking them to respond us directly.
Here are the questions we had asked in the RTI...
What is the maximum amount deposited till date by any account-holder/beneficiary?
The number of accounts having deposit between INR10,000 to INR99,000.
The number of accounts having deposit exceeding INR100,000.
The number of accounts, which are dormant since past two years.
The answers received from several other banks are also startling. While no other deposit was as large as Rs93.82 crore, Bank of India admitted to Rs3.05 crore deposited by a account holder in a Jan Dhan account, Union Bank said it has Rs1.21 crore deposited as the biggest deposit; Bank of Maharashtra had Rs98.45 lakh in one account and Dena Bank admitted to Rs94.45 lakh.
Then there was Punjab & Sind Bank with Rs52 lakh in one account, IDBI with Rs32.45 lakh in one account, Andhra Bank with Rs10 lakh in one account and Indian Bank with Rs4.22 lakhs in one Jan Dhan Account.
Some nationalised banks have yet to reply to our query and many have found excuses to refuse an answer. UCO Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Allahabad Bank, Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank, Canara Bank and Oriental Bank of Commerce, however, refused to furnish information about maximum amount deposited in PMJDY account.
Banks that refused to provide the information have used different excuses like 'information not available', and various sections from the RTI Act, like fiduciary relations (Section 8(1)(e)), information denied (Section 8(1)(d)), information not maintained in required format (Section 7(9)) and so on.
Remember, these startling numbers are ONLY from the 20 nationalised banks and do not include similar deposits that may have been made in private banks and cooperative banks.
Given that the RBI has only recently admitted that 99.30% of demonetised money had returned to the banking system, it would be worth investigating who these mega-rich individuals were mega-rich individuals who felt the need to deposit large sums in Jan Dhan accounts. Were these cash deposits? Was this money transferred from other accounts? Who were these depositors? None of these queries can be asked under RTI, but the government and its investigation, enforcement and tax departments ought to have been trawling through this information already.
Remember, accounts opened under PMJDY are opened with zero balance and do not have all the facilities available to regular accounts which have minimum balance requirements.
The numbers are shocking because the Jan Dhan scheme clearly does not allow such large deposits: It says, “Such accounts have limitations regarding the aggregate credits (not more than Rupees one lakh in a year), aggregate withdrawals (nor more than Rupees ten thousand in a month) and balance in the accounts (not more than Rupees fifty thousand at any point of time)". https://pmjdy.gov.in/scheme
It makes no sense for anyone to stash even thousands of rupees in such accounts. In fact, since Jan Dhan was a tool for financial inclusion and empowerment, there ought to be a cap on deposits in these accounts. Once a Jan Dhan account has, say over Rs50,000 deposited in it, it ought to be converted into a regular account.
Another important fact to note is that Jan Dhan accounts were opened with a simple Aadhar number. Since Aadhar numbers are unverified even by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Development Authority of India) these accounts, in all probability, have not gone through the usual KYC (Know your customer) checks and verifications.
According to information available on PMJDY website
(maintained by Ministry of Finance) as on 29 August 2018, there were 32.54 crore beneficiaries of the PMJDY scheme. All the accounts opened under PMJDY scheme has deposits of Rs82,039.35 crore, the portal says.
Will the RTI revelations now trigger a demand to disclose the real beneficiaries of these PMJDY bank accounts? Our RTI filings have many more startling revelations, which we will place in the public domain shortly.