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I Was Always Inclined To Contribute To Society: MoS Karad

The idea is to ensure maximum penetration of the schemes and ensure maximum people can gain benefit from it. I am glad to announce that a lot of good work is being done under these schemes across states.

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In an interaction with Urvi Shrivastav, Editorial Lead, BW BFSI, BW Businessworld; Dr Bhagwat Karad, Minter of State Finance talks about the government initiatives taken to promote financial inclusion, the profound impact it has had on the citizens, while addressing some burning economic issues

You are doctor by qualification, why did you decide to enter politics?

I am from a rural background, that too a farmer's family. Hence, I understand the difficulties of the society. I pursued my medical education from a medical college in Aurangabad. As a paediatric surgeon, I would operate on small children. I was doing well for my family but I was always inclined to contribute back to society, so I eventually decided to join the Lion's club. This club would organise different camps with Dr Sharad Kumar Dixit, who was a plastic surgeon from USA. Due to my engagement with social causes, I was elected as corporator in 1995. Following which I was mayor and deputy mayor of Aurangabad two times. Subsequently, I got a chance to work as a member of Parliament, and with the blessings of our honorable Prime Minister, I am in his council now.

Since your 2021 swearing in ceremony, what are the steps taken by the government for the betterment of society?

I remember vividly I was sworn in on 7th July 2021. Our Prime Minister told me to work on financial Inclusion, financial literacy, and digital transactions. In the last one year, I have visited 14 different states in the country and have worked extensively on social security and financial inclusion schemes. The 2014 launched Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Beema Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Beema Yojana (PMSBY), and Atal Pension Yojana (APY), have been some of the notable social security schemes. For financial inclusion, MUDRA Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Swanidhi Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Employment Generation Programme are some of the notable schemes, I have worked on to increase their coverage. The idea is to ensure maximum penetration of the schemes and ensure maximum people can gain benefit from it. I am glad to announce that a lot of good work is being done under these schemes across states.

How is the common man benefitting from these schemes? Can you share some facts and figures?

Under PMJDY, an individual can open an account with zero balance. Taking advantage of this fact, 45 crore, 95 lakh people have opened an account under this scheme. Further, under PMSBY, which is a social security scheme, 29 crore are benefitting from this. PMJJBY has witnessed the involvement of 13 crore people thus far.

New businessmen who do not have collateral can avail benefit from MUDRA yojana. If we look at the last two years of pandemic which saw the economy slowing down, the Atmanirbhar package earmarked 4.5 lakh crore Rupees, which has benefitted many small and upcoming businesses.

What are the issues hindering growth in India's financial sector?

There were a number of systemic issues which were hindering the growth of India’s financial sector. A large number of people were not a part of the formal banking sector and in general the educated people had superficial knowledge of the finance sector. Since 2014, under the aegis of the Prime Minister, the financial sector has seen numerous reforms. Every reform undertaken was accepted as a challenge by us. Firstly, we increased awareness among people regarding and started banking the unbanked individuals of the society. Secondly, we had to tackle Non Performing Assets (NPA) and the accounts around them. In 2018, the NPA account stood at 14. 58 percent, which has drastically reduced to 7.4 percent. Prior to 2014,

NPA accounts were not even recognised, and if they were, they were restructured. I would also like to highlight that the fraud bank cases have come down substantially, from 1.32 percent in 2013-14 to 0.047 percent in 2021-22. Hence, we can see a rapid decrease of challenges in the financial sector due to reforms and steps taken by the government.

In addition to resolving NPAs, what else is the government doing to improve the economic situation?

We are promoting financial inclusion on a war footing. Be it rural or urban areas, we are organising camps around financial literacy and awareness. These camps are financed by organisations like NABARD, nation wide.

There is also a focus on increasing use of technology, for example, the use of UPI. Digital transactions have been promoted heavily by this government. If we look at 2017-18, INR 2071 crore digital transactions have taken place, which has increased to 8,190 crore in 2021-22, which is a 400 percent increase. I would also like to highlight that digital transaction is important because there is less corruption.

If we look at this year's budget, under the aegis of the Prime Minister, 7.5 lakh crore has been allotted to capital expenditure. This creates valuable assets for the government. I would also like to highlight the Prime Minister Gati Shakti Yojana, which requires massive inter departmental coordination to execute a project which will ensure that every project is completed and not abandoned midway.

Talking about some recent economic issues, the Rupee has touched an exchange rate of 80 Rupees per Dollar exchange rate. What is the government of India doing to address this issue?

We are reading daily that the Rupee has been devalued. On this, I would like to say that the Federal Reserve Bank in USA has increased the rate of interest on Dollar. While this has an impact on the exchange rate, I would like to emphasise that Rupee is preforming better than before against other currencies like Pound, Euro, or Yen. The government is nevertheless taking steps to address this issue. The foreign deposits and foreign capital inflow has been made more efficient. Along with this, the government is also practicing strict discipline in finance and not going over the estimates of the Union Budget.

The recently announced GST rates have sparked a public debate, what is your take on that?

GST is greatly beneficial for the people. Prior to this, there were 16 to 18 taxes, now there is only one. We have a GST council, which has the finance minister of every state. Whenever any GST rate is implemented, it is with the consensus of the GST council. Earlier products were taxed if they were sold under registered brands. This led to a lot of case where reputed companies evaded taxes. Thus, amounting to a significant con in government revenue. In order to avoid the same, and in the same spirit, the council decided to tax products that are labelled and packaged. This has minimally altered the list of products. And most importantly, it does not impact products sold loose and their vendors.