When it comes to uplift of the poorest of the poor women from among the Scheduled Caste (SC) category, self-help groups (SHGs) lead by example. Thanks to the National Rural Development Livelihood Mission (Aajeevika), which floated the idea in 2012.
Aajeevika is a centrally-sponsored scheme under which 75% of the funds are provided by the Union government and the remaining 25% by the state government. The scheme focuses exclusively on the uplift of the poor SC women to enhance their income and raise their socio-economic status.
The SHGs have been formed to inculcate in the SC women the habit of saving and to lend need-based money to the group members at minimum rate of interest. On an average, a minimum of 14 members constitute a SHG and members among themselves decide how much amount is to be saved every week. Each SHG also gives itself a name. Sangrur has 193 SHGs spread across 40 villages.
In Bharur village in the Sunam block, there are seven SHGs. One of these is named after tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh. Talking to HT, cashier of the group Charanjeet Kaur said: "Things have changed a lot since we formed our group in 2013. The scheme has helped us live in pucca brick houses. There are some other groups in the village which are also doing work on similar lines."
Charanjeet said because of the benefits that accrue from the scheme, in most of the cases, husbands of the group members have opened shops in and outside the village. Several women have started small-time tailoring business but most of them are into dairying.
Enquiries with other SHGs here and elsewhere revealed that as consequence of the scheme, the SC families who ventured into small-time self-employment vocation like a grocery shop, eatery, hair cutting salon and tyre puncture shops were able to jointly earn between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000 per month. "This economic status has given the families self respect and dignity," said Charanjeet.
With a sense of pride, she said: "Thanks to the state government as active involvement of all group members has made them aware of the need for education. Now, our children attend school and we are also able to afford medical facilities. This is due to the habit of saving that we have inculcated."
This kind of initiative was first taken up between 1971 and 1999 under the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP).
Later, it was renamed Swarnajayanti Grameen Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY) from 1999 to 2012 and now it is called the National
Rural Development Livelihood Mission: Aajeevika since 2012.
In Punjab, Aajeevika operates in five districts of Sangrur, Patiala, Ferozepur, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur. In Sangrur, the Punjab state rural livelihood mission (PSRLM) has been implemented in the Sunam block under the resource block strategy.
Under this, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Punjab government and Rajiv Gandhi Maihla Vikas Pariyojana, Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh.
Together, the office-bearers of the two organisations form new SHGs of targeted SC women - starting with village organisations, cluster-level federations (having 20-25 villages), block-level (50-60 villages) and finally the district-level organisations.
Additional deputy commissioner (development) Rajinder Singh Batra told HT: "A successful SHG is given revolving fund of Rs 15,000 after 12 weekly meetings or three months. The government gives community investment fund of Rs 55,000 per SHG to a village organisation after six months. Active women members are identified and sent for training to Rae Bareli."
District project manager Mandeep Singh Punia said: "Poor families are identified by the members from the Rae Bareli SHG and then provided training in bank-linkages and 'Panchshutra', which means weekly meetings, weekly savings, inter-loaning, repayment, and book-keeping (maintaining of accounts). "These groups are also trained to procure loans and open bank accounts."
193 self-help groups formed in Sangrur
40 villages covered
161 self-help groups provided revolving funds
Rs 29.33 lakh given as revolving fund to groups
11 village organisations formed
Rs 50 lakh as community investment fund
61 self-help groups provided cash-credit limits from banks
Rs 87.89 lakh of cash-credit limit provided