Village businesswomen take sting out of bank strikes

  • M Rajendran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 08, 2015 22:52 IST

Residents of Gachilbowli village in Telengana are unfazed by bank strikes, thanks to Kallakuri Katyayani. By offering banking activities through common service centres (CSCs) even on holidays and during strikes, Katyayani ensures they have uninterrupted access and delivery of government and financial services. One of the few women entrepreneurs of rural India, she earns Rs 70,000 per month.

Keen to replicate this success in urban areas, the government is taking steps to boost financial inclusion and ensure that critical services including banking pension and insurance are not hampered by strikes.

CSC is a 'system' comprising a computer, printer and webcam connected with high-speed internet, which offers more than 114 government services to citizens at their doorsteps at affordable costs, and in a sustainable manner. This system is mostly operated by village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs) on a public private partnership model. At present, there are 140,000 CSCs in India and the Centre plans to raise this to 264,000 within the next few years.

The system was developed to connect villages through high-speed broadband network, and help citizens avail government services, mainly banking, insurance, pension and education.

"Women entrepreneurs have been the most successful and have set benchmarks in delivering government services for people in far-flung areas, without any break even on holidays and even when bank unions are on strike," Dinesh K Tyagi, CEO, CSC SPV, told HT.

Business (banking) correspondents are representative authorised by Reserve Bank of India to offer services including cash transactions in areas where the lender does not have a branch.

Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is focussing to transform the CSC system as vehicle of women empowerment, especially in tribal areas. He has proposed to bring down the cost of setting up a CSC to Rs 20,000 from the current Rs 1-1.5 lakh.

In a first, a meeting of all women village level entrepreneurs will be held in the Capital on Tuesday. "He (Prasad) aims to empower this new programme to enhance the Jan Dhan Yojana as envisioned in the Union Budget along with many other services," a ministry source said.

CSC will become the point for offering skilling services - auto mechanics with the help of companies including Hero Group and Siemens. "We are looking for tie-ups with electronic players to offer skilling in TV, mobile and computer repairs," said Tyagi."Banking activities are no more confined to banks. Community centres, which act as banking correspondents, have been providing banking services too. Customers can even update their passbooks at these centres. So, the impact of strikes is limited," TM Bhasin, chairman, Indian Banks' Association, told HT.

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