In a landmark move to bolster insurance inclusion and accessibility across India, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has introduced the ‘Bima Vahak Guidelines, 2023.’ These guidelines aim to establish a dedicated, women-centric distribution channel that will penetrate every village and Gram Panchayat, improving the availability of insurance across the country. This transformative initiative seeks to create awareness about insurance products while ensuring that local needs are met and trusted individuals within communities act as intermediaries.
- Enhancing Insurance Inclusion: The primary objective of the Bima Vahak Guidelines is to establish a distribution channel that targets women and aims to bridge the gap in insurance inclusion. By focusing on women as intermediaries and clients, the guidelines aspire to increase the overall insurance coverage in India, especially in rural areas.
- Local Resources and Trust: Another significant goal is to identify and develop local resources who have a deep understanding of local needs and enjoy the trust and confidence of their communities. By doing so, the guidelines aim to ensure that insurance products and services are tailored to meet the specific requirements of each region.
Engagement/Appointment of Bima Vahak:
Under these guidelines, insurers have the option to engage either Corporate Bima Vahaks or directly appoint Individual Bima Vahaks for soliciting insurance business and facilitating policy and claims servicing. Insurers are held accountable for the actions and conduct of the Bima Vahaks they engage.
Scope of Activities:
The activities assigned to Bima Vahaks include filling out proposal forms, fulfilling KYC requirements through handheld electronic devices, and issuing insurance policies. They also provide support in policy and claims-related servicing, as needed.
Insurers are responsible for ensuring KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) compliance for policies sourced through Bima Vahaks, emphasizing the importance of regulatory compliance and customer protection.
Collection of Premium:
To facilitate seamless premium payments, handheld devices are used to enable electronic payment, ensuring that premiums are directly remitted to designated bank accounts. Immediate acknowledgments are sent to policyholders via mobile or email, enhancing transparency.
Consumer Protection Measures:
The guidelines prioritize consumer protection by issuing physical identification cards to Individual Bima Vahaks, laying out monitoring frameworks, and specifying the services that can be offered. Displaying contact details of grievance redressal officers and Insurance Ombudsmen enhances transparency and accessibility for policyholders.
Insurers are required to designate a Complaints Handling Officer in local offices to address complaints against Bima Vahaks, ensuring prompt resolution and customer satisfaction.
In conclusion, the ‘Bima Vahak Guidelines, 2023’ are a significant step towards enhancing insurance access, especially in rural areas, and empowering women as key intermediaries in the process. By utilizing local resources and fostering trust within communities, these guidelines have the potential to bring insurance coverage to every nook and corner of India, improving financial security and protection for all.