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From beggary to business graduate

india Updated: Apr 16, 2007 12:48 IST

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It was the perseverance of NGO activists that eventually catapulted a group of poor tribal women who lived by begging to be the proud owners of buffaloes and goats.

When the activists first urged the women to stop begging for alms, all they got in return was a mouthful.

"Please stop doling out advice and do your own work! We know how we survive," the women curtly told the NGO functionaries.

The women were from Tugaon village and Bairupe tribe in Karnataka's Bidar district. Emaciated by starvation, the women, with children in tow, used to beg in Chalkapur village where they encountered the NGO activists.

The NGO personnel did not give up. They later visited Tugaon, 133 km south of Bidar town, and briefed the beggar women the concept of self-help groups (SHG) and the importance of savings and credit habit.

Persistence paid off. In October 2004, 15 beggar women joined together to form the Gousalwar Self-Help Group. They gave up begging and started selling firewood and engaging themselves in various works, including day labour.

Out of their meagre income, the weekly saving of each member during the 40-week period was Rs 10. One day, the total savings of the group touched Rs 6,000.

The Bidar District Cooperative Bank then sanctioned a loan of Rs 20,000 to the SHG to augment its resources.

The beggars suddenly turned self-earners, purchasing buffaloes and goats and starting full-fledged income generation work.

Explaining the story, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) region general manager MV Patro said the bank launched a project in 1992 to link 500 SHGs with bank credit.

"So far 2.5 million groups, mostly run by women, all over the country have been linked with the formal banking system," Patro told media persons.

"The SHG-Bank linkage programme has benefited 31.50 million rural Indian families covering 160 million poor people. In 2005-06, bank loans amounting to Rs 30.96 billion was provided to SHGs, taking the cumulative bank loan to Rs 99.94 billion."

NABARD has also launched a pilot project on 'e-Grama' by establishing 13 village information centres (VICs) in Karnataka's Davangere district, to provide IT enabled information services to the rural community.

"The services are provided through the usage of state-of-the-art Kannada web portal called which enables access to government programmes and benefits, market-related information and agricultural information and communication," said R Sundar, deputy general manager of the bank.

NABARD has also undertaken a special programme to check farmers' suicides in the southern states.

"Banking and debt burden are not the only reasons behind the spurt of suicide of farmers," Patro said.

He said that 31 districts of the four southern states were identified as most suicide prone for farmers though the credit-deposit ratio of these districts was more than 90 per cent.

Other reasons for suicides include diversification of loan amounts sanctioned by the banks, the government's failure to distribute proper seeds and fertilizers in time, the lavish life styles of farmers after a good crop and the sudden fall of such life style later, as well as slide in crop prices.

And to enlighten them, NABARD has formed thousand of farmers club across India.