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RBI takes palette & brush to provide fin tips

Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan  |  Chennai 

After comics, short films, CDs and FM radio programmes are on the cards.
The is donning the role of a scriptwriter. Wearing a new hat, the Reserve Bank of India, besides executing its mandatory functions of supervising the banking and financial sector, has taken upon itself the task of educating Indians in the finer points of
With paintbrushes and felt-tipped pens in their hands, RBI officials have published two comic books over the past year "" one on the basics of banking and the other, on currency notes. Interestingly, material for dissemination to the public has been drafted in-house, reflecting the creative streaks in the RBI officials.
The apex bank's unusual foray into information dissemination started when it decided to set up a steering committee comprising 15 RBI officials a year ago for looking into its add-on function of financial literacy.
The regulatory body, along with supervising the volatile markets and inflationary levels in the country, has also been preparing draft material for educating various sections of the society, in a discreet fashion.
It has identified target groups in the urban and rural areas. Accordingly, the material and mode of education varies. While in urban areas the focus is on written material, audio and visual streams are employed predominantly in the rural areas.
"The steering committee has identified various target groups under this new RBI initiative and the aim is to educate everyone about the country's financial system and the way it operates. The step has been taken to familiarise people with concepts like how a bank operates and how the entire monetary system works. We are also ensuring that the study material is jargon- free," an RBI official said.
The committee is exploring various options to reach out to a large section of people. It is in talks with the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) and the Directorate of Field Publicity (DFP) for producing short films and displaying them in all districts of the country.
The RBI is also looking at exploiting the wide reach of the booming Indian radio (FM) industry in addition to CD releases and publication of books.
It is also in talks with the banks for reproduction of the content drafted by the RBI, print their logos and circulate the material among their customers.
Surprisingly, there are no copyrights on the RBI-generated material. "This is in an effort to reach out to one and all. We are even planning to host the material on our websites for its easy reproduction," the RBI official added.
This is not the first time that a regulatory body is exhibiting a propensity to use its right brain.
Other central banks, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and National Bank of Poland, have attempted innovative education methods like films, animated movies, exhibitions and essay competitions for school children to educate the public about the financial system of their respective countries.
The RBI is in dialogue with various state governments for reproduction and circulation of the study material in various formats.
The Himachal Pradesh government has already accepted RBI material and is in the process of circulating it in the form of books and comic strips in all the schools in the state.
In response to the interest evinced by other state governments, regional officers of the RBI are now translating the material into local languages.
"One important factor which encouraged us further to take this initiative was the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Under this Act, among the innumerable queries received from the general public, most of them were related to regulations applied to banking. This was an indicator of the fact that a significant percentage of the Indian population is unaware of financial basics," the RBI official explained.

First Published: Fri, August 10 2007. 00:00 IST