The Thanjavur Pilots

for two years now, a quiet experiment on how to deliver financial services to india’s rural masses has been underway in and around the ancient temple town of thanjavur, tamil nadu.

travel through the villages of pattukottai, thanjavur and kumbakonam and you will see branches — 57 of them — of a local “bank” called pudhuaaru after the local river. it is a recent entrant to this area. the first branch came up in june 2008. these branches, each occupying roughly 500 sq ft, with bright orange walls, with three youngsters sitting behind counters, with four or five rows of bright green wooden benches before the counters, offering loans, insurance and savings products with remittances slated to follow soon, are surprising rural finance professionals with their results.

the complete story here.

financial inclusion puzzles

Three decades after Independence, most poor Indians still lack institutionalised access to insurance, savings, remittances and loans. The outcomes are predictable. Migrant labour, carrying hard cash when they head back home, run the risk of being robbed. The poor rely excessively on loans to cope with a crisis — accidents, unpredictable weather, sick cattle — though insurance would be more appropriate.

KC Chakrabarty , Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India , on how to universalise financial services in the next 10 years.

Food Security Bill in for a radical rewrite?

THE National Advisory Council (NAC), it appears, is set to radically rewrite the the Food Security Bill. The meeting of the NAC, which discussed the draft bill prepared by the government, was of the view that the Centre should move beyond the traditional APL-BPL faultline and aim for an inclusive Bill… The members also agreed the bill had to go beyond offering subsidised grains and offer nutritional security. In other words, it might offer varieties like jowar, bajra, ragi, etc, which would make the bill more nutritionally advantageous while also making it selfselecting — the Indian affluent stopped eating coarse cereals a while ago. Further, more affluent parts of the society, like government employees and others, could be excluded from the purview of the bill.

more here.

India, China and the (bedraggled) state of their environments.

Whenever China’s environment is discussed, the narrative that crops up is that its authoritarian government has steamrolled environmental concerns while chasing growth. And so, fittingly, when Jianguo Liu and Jared Diamond rate 15 of the world’s most populous countries on environmental sustainability, China is the second worst with a score of 129 (on a 142 point scale). But, curiously, India stands at No. 4 with 116 points.

How did democratic India get into this mess?