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Heralding a silent revolution

Rishikesh Bahadur Desai

72 p.c. poor families now have access to financial services


According to 2001-02 figures, Bidar has the lowest per capita income in the State

SHGs have collectively received bank loans five times their savings


Bidar: The success of the self-help group (SHG) movement in Bidar district has proved that women are silently asserting their power.

The first SHG in the district was started by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) 15 years ago. The first weekly savings of the 10 members of that group was Rs. 50. Now, there are 18,317 SHGs in the district with over one lakh members collectively with a total savings of Rs. 38 crore.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has recognised Bidar for its complete SHG-bank linkage efforts, making each SHG eligible for loans. Banks in the district have given Rs. 153.45 crore to the SHGs, which is five times their total savings. The rate of recovery is 98 per cent.

Additional income

Most of the SHG members have taken up animal rearing — they keep cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats. This has not only freed them from the clutches of money lenders, but also added to their family income, says Niranjan Sheelavant of Nirantara, an NGO that works with SHGs.

“This is no mean achievement in a backward district like Bidar,” says NABARD Assistant General Manager Satish B. Rao. “Bidar has 600 villages and 300 hamlets. Over one-third of the 15 lakh people belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. According to 2001-02 figures, Bidar is the district with the lowest per capita income in the State. Only 10 per cent of cultivated land in Bidar is irrigated. As much as 52 per cent of the 2.8 lakh families live below the poverty line. The SHGs have been the most effective tool of socio-economic dynamism,” he said.

Indirect benefits

If these are the direct benefits of SHGs, there have been several invaluable indirect benefits. According to a NABARD research paper on the SHGs and banking in Bidar, 72 per cent of poor families are SHG members with access to financial services. SHG banking is considered the main factor in the turnaround of primary cooperatives from loss-making entities into active societies that have slowly begun making profits.

The paper says that many moneylenders have gone out of business and the remaining ones have reduced their interest rates due to competition from SHGs.

Empowerment

The paper says that the movement has increased self-confidence among women who are increasingly active in community development programmes and local politics, increasing awareness about social evils such as child marriage and dowry and most importantly, changing male attitude towards women.

“I call it the silent revenge of the women,” says B.R. Konda, a professor and resource person at the Sahakari Rural Development Academy that trains bank officials and SHG leaders.

“If there was any non-violent revolt against male-dominated society in the world, this is it,” he says.

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