Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) service today at a ceremony in New Delhi. Calling it the beginning of his government’s aim at bringing banking facility into the rural heartland of the country, the PM said that the IPPB will bring banks at the doorstep of the rural population.

“Through the IPPB, the path to the doors of every Indian, every tribal, every person living on faraway mountains and ever poor is being paved. The IPPB service will be available in 650 districts – touching every nook and corner of India,” said the PM at the event in Talkatora Stadium.

Praising the service of the post office and the postman, the PM said, “Starting today, the postman will be the bearer of both the letter and bank.”

“The faith in the government may have wavered but the faith in postman has never wavered. The postman has always enjoyed a special status in the lives of the people. Technology has changed everything but the emotion and faith associated with the postman remains the same,” said the PM.

The PM said that the IPPB will be monitored by both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Ministry of Communication.

“Our government has taken the responsibility of bridging the postman with technology,” said the PM adding that the IPPB has the “power to expand the banking system and digital transactions”.

“All services are available not only at the IPPB counters but also the postman will be able to come at the doorstep to provide facilities,” he said.

“Even the smallest of trader can open a current account in IPPB. A worker from UP or Bihar will be able to send money to his family easily. An IPPB account can be used for every banking transaction, including transfer to another bank,” he said.

Speaking at the event, the PM took a jibe at the Congress accusing the party of forcing banks to give loans to known defaulters.

“From 1947 to 2008, all the banks of the country had extended just Rs 18 lakh crore in loans. But from 2008 to 2014 the banks extended Rs 52 lakh crore as loans,” said the PM.

“Even though bankers knew that loans extended by them to such borrowers will turn bad, they were forced to do so by the naamdars (dynasts). Those who kept defaulting were given fresh loans in name of loan restructuring,” Modi said.

The PM’s comment can be seen in the light of the multi-crore loan default cases involving absconding fugitive Nirav Modi and liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

“Swift action is being taken against 12 biggest defaulters who were given loans before 2014. I want to assure the country that none of these big loans was given by our government,” the PM said.

Modi accused the Congress of leaving the nation’s economy on a land mine.

The IPPB is aimed at providing banking and financial services to people in rural areas through post office branches. The government aims to link all the 1.55 lakh post offices to the India Post Payments Bank system by 31 December, 2018.

IPPB began operations on 30 January 2017 with one pilot branch each in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

According to reports, the IPPB will offer 4 per cent interest rate on savings accounts and accept deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses. It can also serve as an agent of other financial service providers in case of certain services such as offering loans.

IPPB has been allowed to link around 17 crore postal savings bank (PSB) accounts with its accounts.

“IPPB has been envisioned as an accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man, to help speedily achieve the financial inclusion objectives of the Central government. It will leverage the vast network of the department of posts, which covers every corner of the country with more than 300,000 postmen and Grameen Dak Sewaks. IPPB will hence significantly augment the reach of the banking sector in India,” the government had said in a statement on 31 August.

“The IPPB will offer a range of products such as savings and current accounts, money transfer, direct benefit transfers, bill and utility payments, and enterprise and merchant payments. These products, and related services, will be offered across multiple channels (counter services, micro-ATM, mobile banking app, SMS and IVR), using the bank’s state-of-the-art technology platform,” said the statement.

Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said on Wednesday that by the end of 2018, the number of IPPB access points would increase to 1.55 lakh, of which 1.30 lakh branches would be in rural areas.

“Further, account holders of the Post Office Savings Bank would also be able to avail IPPB services by linking their accounts,” he said.

“The account holders in the payments bank would be provided a QR card and they can authorise transactions with the card and their biometrics,” he added.