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ECOSOC, 4 May 2023, 1000 hrs


Statement by Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj

Permanent Representative of India to the UN



Professor Panagariya,

USG Usha Rao-Monari,

USG Amandeep Gill,

Ambassador Nasir, 

Ketan Patel, 


Excellencies, dear colleagues, and friends joining us from all over, it is my utmost pleasure to welcome you to this special India roundtable on financial inclusion. 


Why financial inclusion? Allow me to elaborate a little. 


Today, we are halfway through our journey towards 2030 agenda and SDG targets. Unfortunately, the report card so far is not good. The SDG Progress Report shows that just 12 percent of the Sustainable Development Goal targets are on track. Progress on 50 percent is weak and insufficient.


Worst of all, we have stalled or gone into reverse on more than 30 percent of the SDGs. In the words of the Secretary General, ‘we are leaving more than half the world behind’.


In this context, financial inclusion assumes greater significance. It is an important and critical aspect of inclusive growth and overall economic development. If we are to achieve SDG goals and 2030 agenda, financial inclusion is inevitable. 


At its core, financial inclusion is a fundamental element in targeting SDGs. Financial inclusion is essential for people to meet their basic needs and an imperative to advance socio-economic development. 




Today we are indeed fortunate to have a distinguished keynote speaker who was India’s former G20 Sherpa and held cabinet rank as Vice Chairman of India’s national think tank Niti Aayog. 


We also have an extraordinary panel to flesh out the topic to be moderated by the USG of UNDP. 




In India, we take financial inclusion seriously and under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government policies related to financial inclusion have made millions of people part of formal financial system. Financial inclusion has led to social and economic empowerment of people. Let me provide some examples. 


In 2009, only 17 per cent of adults in India had bank accounts, 15 per cent used digital payments, 1 in 25 had a unique ID document, and about 37 per cent had mobile phones. These numbers have seen a meteoric rise — today, tele density has reached up to 93 per cent, over a billion people have a digital ID document, more than 80 per cent have bank accounts, and as of 2022, over 600 crore digital payment transactions are completed per month. 


The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has estimated that progress towards financial inclusion, which would have taken almost half a century had India followed traditional growth processes, was achieved in India in just about ten years.


Powering this dramatic rise has been a series of financial inclusion measures launched by the government. These include Aadhaar, a biometric database that provides a unique identity to each Indian citizen; no-frills savings bank accounts called Jan Dhan; the direct transfer of social benefit payments into these Jan Dhan accounts; and a digital payment infrastructure called BHIM based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). 


India’s National Mission on Financial Inclusion [a.k.a Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana] targets ‘every unbanked adult’ into opening a bank account and these accounts include debit cards, an accident insurance cover, and an overdraft facility. But a growing number of government direct benefit transfer programs also increased the demand for accounts. These payments include everything from housing and cooking gas subsidies to rural employment wages, to scholarships. 


As on December 2021, there were over 442 million Jan Dhan bank accounts with women comprising 55.6 percent, and 66.8 percent accounts opened in semi-urban and rural areas. 86.2 percent of these accounts have been linked to Aadhaar, allowing immediate direct benefit transfers.  


The Jan Dhan account, Aaadhar digital ID, mobile banking and direct benefit transfers has brought the marginalised sections of society into the formal financial system, revolutionising the path of transparent and accountable governance by empowering the people. As on November 2022, multiple large central schemes have paid close to $95 billion through over 10 billion successful transactions. 


The World Bank data had stated that some 127 million Indians made their first merchant or utility payment directly from an account during the COVID-19 pandemic and pointed to the digital readiness of the Indian population and the potential for additional growth. This was just the tip of the iceberg. 


We believe, India’s financial inclusion journey can be example for other developing countries to look at. 


Our distinguished speakers, I am sure will elaborate on various dimensions of the financial inclusion, including what lessons can we draw from India’s financial inclusion journey and what does it mean for SDGs on the ground, at a tangible level? 


I am eagerly looking forward to today’s discussions. 


Thank you!