Launching the BHIM (Bharat Interface for money) app to promote digital transactions and payments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong case for accelerating financial inclusion through the digital economy.
Once again, Modi dwelled on the politically sensitive issue of a class divide, claiming that the fight against corruption was undertaken to empower the poor.
“The pain that we have borne in doing so is our strength… The poor citizens of this country should have the primary right on the wealth of the nation,” Modi said while talking about demonetisation.
Modi’s address on Friday came on the last day of the deadline for depositing demonetised notes. Demonetisation has been the key political flashpoints between the government and the opposition, leading to a washout of the winter session of Parliament.
Taking a jibe at the Congress, Modi said, “Earlier people used to talk about scams, how much money has been lost in coal, 2G, and other scams. Now people are talking about how much has been recovered.”
The app has been named after Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Dalit icon. The implicit political symbolism targets Dalits, traditionally oppressed and a key constituency in all the three poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
“The app named after the great economist Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is a new year gift to the citizens of the country. It works on both smartphones and feature phones. Now your thumbprint has become your identity, bank and business,” added Modi.
“The BHIM app will empower small traders, tribals, farmers and this is why this app is named after the man who worked for the dalits. Mantra of Dr. Ambedkar was to work for the upliftment of the poor. And the biggest power of technology is that it can empower the poor,” he added.
Modi urged the country to start adopting digital modes of payment from 1 January and make at least five transactions a day without cash.
“What he has said today, using the thumb for all financial transactions, if it materializes, it will do wonders for India. Modi is trying to establish new equations for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and opening its door to poor, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
Currently, the app is available on the Android play store and enables users to make all forms of cashless payments using various digital modes such as debit/credit cards.
“Customers and merchants both will be able to make seamless transactions through this one app without having to download multiple bank apps,” said Naveen Surya, managing director, ItzCash Card Ltd, and chairman, Payments Council of India.
Developed by the National Payments Corporation of India,the app is interoperable with other Unified Payments Interface applications, and bank accounts.