Taking financial inclusion to another level, HCBL Co-operative Bank has started opening accounts for beggars to benefit the lowest strata among the urban poor. In India, this is probably the only bank catering to this segment (beggars). The bank has already opened accounts for around 160 beggars in Lucknow under the relaxed know your customer (KYC) norms of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). "By opening their accounts, we want to include the lowest strata of social pyramid in the banking channel," HCBL Cooperative Bank CEO Pawan Kapoor told Business Standard . Besides, the bank is working towards sensitising and facilitating these beggars to leave begging and start their own venture for livelihood. At present, the Lucknow-based HCBL has seven branches and two extension counters in Uttar Pradesh.
It has plans to expand its branch network in other cities of UP. "As co-operative banks are mandated to engage in community banking, we have identified beggars, who represent the most underprivileged segment of society, for financial inclusion," Kapoor noted. The bank is also working for the financial inclusion of hawkers, auto rickshaw pullers, artisans, vegetable vendors etc. Since, Lucknow is world famous for Chikan textile and embroidery, the tales of exploitation of artisans are not unheard of. "We finance artisan groups to make them self reliant and start their own unit. We have adopted a few villages and organise vocational training workshops for woman empowerment, literacy, health and hygiene," he said. Kapoor also advocates greater support by RBI to the co-operative banks vis-à-vis commercial banks, so that banking services reach the remotest of areas earlier than mandated under financial inclusion.