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‘Pink’ Learning: Saving is Earning, but in banks only

It is about innocent, middle-class and ‘happy in whatever little they have earned out of their hard work’ people, especially women. Middle class women in India have always been following the habit of saving whatever little they can from their monthly expenses for an ‘unknown fear’ or ‘worst times’.

It’s over three weeks since our Prime Minister announced, rather stunned the whole nation with his immediate ‘Note-Bandi’ Declaration. The Command which left the whole country stand in long queues outside Banks and Post Offices in a chaotic and a confused state, continues to haunt many. it is certainly neither about those Political Parties unanimously opposing this drive allegedly because of their own vested interests, nor about those crooked, against whom this ‘Swatchata Abhiyaan’ was launched, because these ‘experienced drivers’ know how to handle the ‘Clutch’ smartly and ‘Steer out’ without any ‘accident’. Demonetisation or no demonetisation, the termites in our society will always find a way to make deeper holes in the system, earn & accumulate black money.

It is about innocent, middle-class and ‘happy in whatever little they have earned out of their hard work’ people, especially women. Middle class women in India have always been following the habit of saving whatever little they can from their monthly expenses for an ‘unknown fear’ or ‘worst times’.
Last week, I happened to visit one of my childhood friends’ house. There was a pin drop silence as if some mishap had befallen. I had gone keeping in mind to meet the same happy, chirpy and a ‘full of life’ joint family. With a heavy heart and a running pulse rate, I gathered all my courage and enquired the reason of that ‘shrieking silence’ from my friend. She murmured softly (as if, some crime had occurred) that her mother-in-law had announced a handsome amount of cash with her which she was saving for so many years in view of future safety, that too, without her family’s knowledge!!

Even her husband didn’t know about it, and hence, he had created a big scene!! The whole family had turned against that poor old lady, who was standing quietly in a corner like a culprit, a crook and a criminal.

I suggested my friend and her husband to open an account for her and deposit her money into it, so that she could manage her money on her own. But, my idea was thrashed right away, as it was against their family norms to open an account for any female family member. They could have joint names with their husbands in joint accounts, but a separate account in their own name was unthinkable!! I felt bad for aunty, but couldn’t interfere in their family matters, so quietly came back after consoling her.

I wonder, why having a separate bank account is still a taboo for a middle-class house wife in India!!
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana(PMJDY) helped motivate many women open their accounts, but there is still a large number who don’t have access to banks. Around 62% either don’t have access to it or are not frequent users.

A study by US based Omidyar Network has come up with a report that one in four women who don’t have bank accounts around the world are Indian. Roopa Kudva, a partner at Omidyar Network, says, “when it comes to gender divide, only 38% of women use their bank accounts in three months, while it is 51% for men in the same period.”
Despite all banking facilities available in our country, most of the women prefer to keep ‘cash’ with them due to the following reasons:
– Easy access to money in case of emergency
– Ignorance about how to avail the facilities provided by contemporary banking system, for e.g. ATM Cards, Debit Cards etc.
– Ignorance about other Digital Payment Techniques

The causes and effects of this ‘ignorance’ are very clear and simple to understand. The causes are complex, but very easy to relate in terms of our Indian society:
– Still existing rigid male dominating mentality which bars women go to banks and open an account for themselves
– Illiteracy
– Lack of knowledge about the fact how banking can help save money without cash
– Absence of banking facilities in remote villages

These factors have always forced women save money in ‘cash’ form. But, due to this demonetisation, those women, who were quietly saving cash for some ‘future’ bad times, are today forced to face humiliation. It won’t be an exaggeration if it is said that they are facing a bad time today because of that ‘saved money’. They are disillusioned and clueless about how and what to do!!

They should not be victimized, rather should be provided with care, proper guidance, attention and counselling to overcome this stress, so that ‘this time’ doesn’t turn ‘worst’ for them. They should be reassured with the fact that it is ‘their’ own very much ‘white’ money, and certainly, not ‘black’ money.
Omidyar’s study suggests that women must not just open bank accounts, but also need to become regular users.

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