Premier Narendra Modi has put a pledge to give bank accounts to all Indians on a war footing, but experts say taking banking to rural areas where many people have no identity papers will be a huge challenge.
In developed nations, bank branches are everywhere. But banking services leave out nearly half the 1.2 billion population, putting poor people at the mercy of moneylenders who charge usurious interest for emergency loans for sickness or routine purchases such as buying seeds.
"Why are our farmers committing suicide? It's because they have to take money at huge interest rates from the moneylenders," Modi declared in his first annual Independence Day speech.
"We want to integrate the poorest of the poor with bank accounts," Modi said in his August 15 speech, remarking that while there has been a telecommunications revolution in India, there has been no similar banking revolution.
"There are millions of families who have mobile phones but no bank accounts. We have to change this scenario," said Modi, who aims to provide bank accounts to 75 million more households by 2018, and to have two account-holders per household.
Modi is pushing to transform India into a modern economy where money goes from account to account rather than pocket to pocket. Under his scheme, each account-holder would also get a debit card and a 100,000-rupee ($1,600) sickness insurance policy.