Women’s bank a/cs rise, but not their financial independence

City Economy Education Governance Legal metro Rural Karnataka Women

Most have no say in how to spend money

Bengaluru: Karnataka is seeing a 29 percent rise in women’s bank accounts as per the State Fact Sheet of the National Family Health Survey (2019-20), but this does not necessarily mean that they are financially independent.

As per the State Fact Sheet of the NFHS, the percentage of women in Karnataka who had savings accounts was 59.4 percent in 2015 which rose to  88.7 percent in 2019.

Chandrakala, a resident of Kumbalgodu,informed The Observer: “ I have a Modi account which I use to get my gas subsidy, which is roughly around Rs 200. For a few months, I have not been getting my subsidy. Apart from this account, I don’t have any other account, but my husband and son do have one.”

Her son does most banking transactions, including withdrawal of money. Only when the bank requires her to be present, said Chandrakala, Who runs a small shop.

An official from a private sector bank in Bengaluru who did not want to be identified said there are many reasons for an increase in the number of women’s bank accounts. One is the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, which makes it mandatory for women to have accounts into which the government can directly transfer money under government schemes.

Also, rural women have the advantage of self-help groups that train them to operate bank accounts and help them to become digitally competent.

An increase in the number of migrant workers is also a  reason for the increase in the number of accounts. Women back in villages often depend upon their husbands’ wages, which reach them through bank accounts.

Under the scheme, a basic savings deposit account can be opened in any bank branch with zero minimum balance. As per a 2017 report in The Hindu, the number of women-held bank accounts increased from 39 per cent to 61 per cent within a year of the Jan Dhan Yojana coming into force.

A financial survey showed that at least 50 per cent of women admitted having low or no confidence in their financial decision-making capabilities, according to a Times of India report.

Meenakshi Agarwal, a teacher in Bengaluru, said that despite having a salary account and a debit card of her own, she often takes financial advice from her husband on matters of investment as she feels unsure about her decision. She jointly holds a locker with her husband. Asked whether she preferred private over government account, she said that both had their own set of advantages.

Gauri, a resident of Nalakhamba, Kumbalgodu, shared: “ I have a salary account because it is the only way I can get my salary.” A divorcee who lives with her parents, she said that before she started working in an institution, she did not have a bank account. She is familiar with payment virtual applications like Google Pay.

Meena Nazkani, who runs a boutique, said that though she has a savings account,  most of the transactions occur through her husband’s account.

Economics professor S.R. Keshawa of Bangalore University said half of the rise in the number of women’s accounts is a result of the direct beneficiary transfer. This doesn’t mean financial independence as most of the women, even those who earn their own money, don’t have a say on how to spend money. In many homes, though the account is in the wife’s name, it is the husband who operates it. With the feminization of agriculture, female–farmer suicides are not a part of the count of farmer suicides as most lands are in the name of the husbands.

Many private banks are coming up with savings account schemes that target women.

The NFHS is a country-wide survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with the International Institute of Population Sciences. According to the survey, an average of 8 per cent rise was witnessed in the number of women who worked in the past 12 months. A vast majority of women are still doing simple banking operations such as deposit and withdrawal of money.

Many women still don’t have the autonomy to decide how to spend their money; even if they do, it is limited to the larger good of the family.



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