By-Resham Singh, Manager, Punjab Gramin Bank :Centuries passed the different thoughts applied to eradicate poverty from the earth planet. The ages old books speaks about the powerful strategies adopted by the forefathers, the religious gurus to weed out the unwanted institution of poverty.
They preached to preserve and maintain human life. Poverty means DEATH. This particular hell had its own circles like living a miserable life, finding a few hours of work here and there, a temporary shelter, no privacy, born and brought up on the road. I would just tell my personal story regarding elevation of poverty through installation of farmer’s club and formation of self help group of disadvantage people in the command area of my branch where I was posted as Officer Incharge. Large numbers of people were living a life of misery of extreme poverty, arranging meal of family on the mercy of big landlords, capitalists and money lenders. Bonded labour, bank default, death was a threat, illiteracy, superstition, ignorance, narrow setting, crowded houses, and no privacy, hunger, malnutrition, and its related diseases were the major symptoms.
In mid 2000 I took the path to locate ways and means to combat poverty and I succeeded to launch a farmers club with the assistance of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development ( NABARD ), in the branch where I was posted as a Manager. The people engaged in agriculture, landless agriculturists, professionals, and allied activists were made members. I was of the confirmed opinion that the farmers club will play a role as guardian better than the various agencies to look after the interest of the members The farmers were made aware of the latest credit facilities, modern techniques of farming, adopting allied activities, forming joint liability groups, forming groups of the disadvantage people. With the assistance of the Chief Volunteer of the Farmers Club, the community development program was launched with the sponsorship of Polytechnic Institute Ropar, Punjab, to provide free of cost six months substantial training in small number in batches. About 200 young boys and girls were trained to repair electrical appliances and cutting tailoring respectively. The trainees were awarded the pass certificates duly signed by the Principal Government Polytechnic, Ropar Punjab. The basic idea was to create employment opportunities for the poor section of society, to keep the street boys away from the social evils, to bring close to the financial activities of the bank and close to each other in connection with formation of self help groups. The meet and match programs were organized to made the people aware about their present insecurity of life as comparison with rich and their life style. They were persuaded to form into groups to depend upon each others resources.
They were motivated with strong communication skill to save, have a bank account, be a member of SHG to avail the facility of overdraft limit to repay the loan of money lenders taken at the rate of 60 to 72 % that too on pledge of ornaments etc, to adopt some dignified work to their livelihood and to pay at least the tuition fee of their children. They were educated to send their children to schools in early hours. They were educated to keep away from diseases, narrow setting, malnutrition, moves away from bonded labour and drug etc. About 46self help groups were formed covering more than 600 families in the command area. The State Level Bankers Committee of Punjab Haryana Chandigarh along with Dr Kshama Matre from Chinmay Tapovan Trust Dharamshala HP visited the branch and interacted with the SHG members and they reacted “our financial crises is over, now we are free from the yoke of money lenders and free from the bonded labour. Our morale is high “.
The two landless groups made out one was Sahibzada Zorawar Singh SHG that purchased tractor, trolley and ripper and earned thousand of rupees. The second one was Dr Ambedkar SHG; the landless members took eight acres of land on lease bases and earned lacs of rupees. HE the then Governor of Punjab visited the branch and interacted with the members of the SHG and Farmers Club. The media declared it as historical event. The entire area was brought under the umbrella of micro finance. A revolutionary changed was noticed amongst the members of self help group and farmers club.
Bank’s position before After farmers club
Deposit 110 lacs 241 lacs
Advances 37 lacs 266 lacs
NPA 10 lacs 3 lacs
Kisan cards 29 225
SHGs nil 42 groups
It is the collective task to liberate the people from the yoke of money lenders. In SHG people learn attitude, skills, knowledge associated with good management, their eyes light up, voices sing with emotions, smiles appear on faces, boost self respect, and self esteem. SHG provide direction, support the poor, and fully utilize the talent, honesty, positive attitude, knowledge to product and services, extraordinary values, scientific knowledge, restore hope, show a way for people to contribute, to meet high expectations. In SHG every day is opening day, health care, education, entertainment, and work and community service. It gives guidance and wisdom. People want to live meaningful lives. In SHG, celebrations and rituals when done from heart build a strong sense of collective identity.
Members always use the words such as associate, team members, partners, or constituents. Members are self aware and socially aware; they always encourage greater team spirit, respect for others, and contribute to profitability.
In 2006 when I was posted as Officer Incharge, Branch Office, Sahauran tehsil Kharar District SAS Nagar Mohali Punjab, there were only 6 SHG and now there are 53 SHGs covering more than 600 poorest of the poor families. People have showed the society how to be self reliant. A SHG named SAHAURAN self help group has taken the six acres of agriculture land on lease base for Rs 60000/-pa. The thirteen young boys group is now engaged in producing vegetables and other crops to earn their livelihood and to repay the limit of Rs 80000/- allowed by the bank to these poor members. Prior to formation of group these young boys were daily wage workers. In addition many have state their own ventures to step further towards wealth. In the Tribune dated 25th, June 2008 the paper has given the detailed report of the changes occurred in the life style of the poor and disadvantages people. I have a dream that one day poor people will rise up and live a life of dignity and honour.