The Supreme Court has done it again. In its hearing of petitions against Aadhaar, on 27th June, it refused to stay the government’s order of mandatory linking Aadhaar to PAN. It also refused to pass any order against mandatory use of Aadhaar for welfare schemes. The Court maintained that mere apprehension of exclusion due to Aadhaar was not enough, and a specific instance of denial of benefits was required for the Court to take action. (Mint, 27th June 2017). The next hearing is scheduled for 7th July. Meanwhile the government is pushing ahead and has amended the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, notifying mandatory linking of all bank accounts with Aadhaar by this year end (Business Standard, 17th June 2017).
For those getting bewildered by the noise for and against Aadhaar, a must read piece is N. S. Ramnath’s analysis of the critical issues being debated, “The Aadhaar debate: Is common ground possible?”(Founding Fuel, 17th June 2017).
It is fifty years since the now ubiquitous ATM came into the world, marking the first step away from branch based banking. As countries move on the less-cash trajectory, the next fifty years can see a transformation with ATMs replicating many non-cash services currently provided for at branches. Some examples of the new age machines have been put forth by Patrick Collinson (The Guardian, 10th June 2017). The conveniences of smart ATMs will come at a price though, so customers may have to gear up for more service charges.
The Reserve Bank of India has amended the Banking Ombudsman Scheme and customers can now raise complaints relating to mis-selling and mobile/electronic banking (RBI, 23rd June 2017). Monika Halan recounts the journey over the past decade in getting the RBI to even recognise the problem of mis-selling, a compelling read for all those who are aiming for change in regulation (Mint, 28th June, 2017).
The bottom line has to be: Customer is king. Just as regulators have to tune more into customer protection, financial service providers also must focus more on customer needs. Over the past few years, access to financial services has improved dramatically and with digital modes, coverage will be more complete. It is now time to concentrate on increasing usage of financial services. Some of the trends ahead have been highlighted in a report by CGAP, “Vision of the Future: Financial Inclusion 2025”. Indian bankers, who have so far borne heavy expenses to provide universal access to banking, can reap rich dividends if they recognise the opportunities that lie in inclusion.