INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised yesterday to end “financial untouchability” with a scheme to ensure that most households in his country of 1.3 billion people had a bank account within months. Under the scheme, the government will give account holders a debit card and accident insurance cover of up to 100 000 rupees (R17 610). If successful, the scheme could help mend strained state finances by better targeting billions of dollars in welfare spending, as well as relieving poverty. “Mahatma Gandhi tried to end untouchability in the society,” Modi said, referring to modern India’s founding father and his drive to stamp out bias based on the traditional caste system. The government said nearly 15 million people opened accounts at centres around the country on the first day of the programme. The goal is to open 75 million accounts by January. The campaign, to bring the masses closer to the financial system, could improve measurements of economic growth and bolster Modi’s popularity among the poor. – Reuters