Last week, on the third anniversary of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had raved about the scheme in a Facebook post. "Just as GST created one tax, one market, one India, the PMJDY and the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile) revolution can link all Indians into one common financial, economic, and digital space. No Indian will be outside the mainstream," he said, adding that it was nothing short of a social revolution.
But now the same scheme has reportedly come under the scanner for "suspicious" activity post demonetisation. According to Business Standard, cash totalling Rs 42,200 crore was deposited in 3.74 crore Jan Dhan accounts between November 8, 2016 - when Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his surprise note ban announcement - and December 30, 2016.
In the first week post demonetisation, total deposits in Jan Dhan accounts reportedly shot up 41 per cent, taking the outstanding from Rs 45,600 crore to Rs 64,200 crore. By December 7, the outstanding had ballooned to Rs 74,610 crore, marking a 63 per cent jump from the day after demonetisation was announced.
Incidentally, on November 29, 2016, the Reserve Bank of India had placed temporary ceilings on the amount that could be withdrawn from Jan Dhan accounts. While fully-KYC compliant account holders could withdraw Rs 10,000 in a month, others could only withdraw half that amount. The apex bank had said the move intended "to protect the innocent farmers and rural account holders of PMJDY from activities of money launders and legal consequences under the Benami Property Transaction & Money Laundering laws."
By end-March 2017, the scheme's total outstanding dropped to Rs 62,972.42 crore, but it again started climbing the following month. As per the Finance Ministry's data, the net balance in Jan Dhan accounts swelled by Rs 1,000 crore in just a week to Rs 63,971.38 crore in the first week of April.
"Prime facie, these deposits cannot be said to be illicit," Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told the daily. "The information has been received by the CBDT for necessary investigations and consequential actions." According to him, the Central Board of Direct Taxes received 30 one-time reports from 187 branches of various banks.
To check for potential misuse of the accounts for converting black money into white, investigators are reportedly now matching the profiles of the account holders with the deposits made post demonetisation.
"In cases where the deposits do not match the profile, necessary investigations are done, the response of the depositor is taken and assessment is finalised on the basis of the evidence gathered," the finance secretary reportedly explained, adding that the deposits under the scanner can only be termed illicit after courts validate the findings of investigators.
To remind you, PMJDY, the flagship financial inclusion drive, was launched in August 2014. The first phase, which ended on August 14, 2015, was focussed on opening basic bank accounts and RuPay debit card. In the last four years, 32.25 crore PMJDY accounts have been opened with Rs 80,674.82 crore outstanding balance.