Money & Banking

One-woman army drives financial inclusion in rural Madhya Pradesh

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on November 15, 2017


A tale of a ‘one-woman army' driving financial inclusion among tribals in the vast rural outback of central India has wowed women bank officers in Kerala.

All it took Ms Daya Bai, a maverick social worker from the State, to organise the poor and vulnerable tribals in a Madhya Pradesh village was to make common cause with their problems, organise them as a group and prod them to fight for their rights.

Ms Daya Bai recounted to a gathering of women bank officers here the instance of how unscrupulous middlemen in the village made short-change of an ‘anudan' (subsidy) scheme meant for tribals and the poor.

The scheme blew up on their face when beneficiaries started receiving bank notice asking them to pay up amounts double the size of the ‘subsidy' amount or face recovery proceedings.

Ms Daya Bai found that more than half of the inflated amount contracted as ‘loan' in the name of the beneficiaries was spirited away by middlemen.

This had been the practice for quite a long time, she was told, which rendered the tribal poor easy pickings for loan sharks and moneylenders.

Ms Daya Bai started the Swayam Sahayatha Group in the late 90s, much before the concept emerged as a tool for poverty eradication.

It also earned her the wrath of the middlemen, the sarpanch (village chief) and money lenders who used every means to thwart SHG meetings.

Her travails eventually attracted the attention of the nearest representative office of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard).

An Assistant General Manager visited the village with the Regional Manager of a Gramin Bank and offered an SHG loan to the group.

It was a good beginning, and so it proved with State Bank of India officials following it up, and offering to open a branch in the village.

Daya Bai asked women officers assembled at the fifth State conference of the All-India Bank Officers' Confederation to use their position for the uplift of the downtrodden and the distressed poor.

Published on January 31, 2012

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