Bankers come in pint size at an urban slum in Ranchi. And they run a bank for the children, by the children and of the children.
Ten-year-old Nisha Kumari has an account in the bank — Children’s Development Khazana (CDK)—which opened in 2014. And her small pleasures of childhood is not held hostage to the priorities of her poor family.
“During Durga Puja last year, a few relatives had visited us and had given me some money which I had saved in my account. Later, I took out the money to buy some new clothes for myself,” said Kumari.
Opened in 2014 and managed entirely by children, the bank now has 130 accounts of children aged between 9 and 18 years in its Ranchi branch in slums of Jagannathpur. The CDK has a total of three branches in Jharkhand, two in Ranchi and one in Khunti district with 240 accounts in total.
“Any child below 18 years can open an account with a minimum balance of Rs 2. It helps them learn about savings and not waste money on unnecessary things,” said 12-year-old Ranju Kumari who is the assistant child volunteer manager at the bank.
The children have assigned themselves posts in the bank, maintain cash books, ledgers and pass books of each account holder. These bankers park the savings money, which is around Rs 20,000 now, in a bank run by elders.
And the working hours are after school, three days a week. The bank also has an executive committee that sanctions loan for an applicant and whets whether the requirement is genuine.
“We ask for an application from the child for any transaction which exceeds Rs. 200. The application needs to state the source from where they received the money or why they need to withdraw the amount,” said 12-year-old Neha Kumari, the secretary of CDK
The icing on top is that loan comes interest-free. And the bank provides 10% yearly interest on savings.
Neha said she had taken a loan from the bank to set up a game stall in the fete they had organised.
“I had set up a glass and ball game stall which was a huge hit. I also earned some profit on it which I deposited in my account,” she said.
The CDK is an initiative of NGO Pratigya and Delhi- based organisation Butterflies, both of which work with underprivileged children.
Explaining the logistics, trustee-cum-president of Pratigya Ajay Kumar said the NGO keeps a fixed amount of money to cover bad debts and manage interests on savings.
“A criterion for granting loans is that the child applicant should have at least 20% of the loan amount in his/her account,” Kumar said.
“There is no fixed time frame for repayment of loans. However, we motivate them to cut down spending on unnecessary items and repay the amount within the same financial year,” said Kumar.
“There have been no bad loans till now,” he said.
Most of the children’s parents work as labourers or domestic helps. Coming from a background with limited resources, these children have learnt the importance of savings.
“Most of us usually withdraw money from our accounts to buy new clothes or books and notebooks or any other item which our parents cannot buy for us,” said 11-year-old Saraswati Oraon, a student of Prabhat Tara High School.
The children also organise membership drives, going from house to house, to create awareness among children about savings and also sensitise their guardians.