India's Narendra Modi launches bank accounts for all

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a plan to provide a bank account for every household, in a landmark initiative to help the poor. Nearly 40% of Indians have little access to financial services and are often at the mercy of moneylenders who charge extortionate interest.

Mr Modi has told state and private banks to support the plan.

Correspondents say taking banking to the poor, who may have no identity papers, will be a challenge. Reports say Mr Modi's government aims to provide bank accounts to 75 million households by 2018, and to have two account-holders per household.

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Officially launching the project on Thursday, Mr Modi said it would give the poor "renewed strength to fight poverty".

"When a bank account is opened, it's a step towards joining the economic mainstream."

Under the banking scheme, account holders would receive a debit card and accident insurance cover of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,654; £996). They would also get an overdraft facility of up to 5,000 rupees. Mr Modi announced the programme in his first Independence Day speech on 15 August after sweeping to power with a landslide victory in general elections in May.


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