Odisha: SHGs Bridging The Gap Between Banks and Villagers During Lockdown

With the lockdown having seriously curtailed the mobility of people across the state, the Sambalpur district administration has taken steps to provide banking services in remote areas with the help of Customer Service Points (CSPs) of the banks being run by members of Self-Help Groups in the district. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are informal associations of people who choose to come together to find ways to improve their living conditions.

To further the cause, the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Utkal Grameen Bank (UGB) and the State Bank of India (SBI), to authorise and subsequently provide adequate training to a select number of SHG volunteers in rudimentary financial services. These members would then go on to operate a service unit at the panchayat and village levels. So far, around 12 SHG members have been trained as business correspondents for the banks located in Bamra, Jamankira, Jujumura and the Kuchinda blocks.

Sources from the District Collector’s Office said that most of the villagers were daily wagers by profession and naturally have a high number of daily transactions. They could not travel the distance from their respective villages to the banks, especially amidst a strict lockdown. Hence, the banks were determined to reach their customers through the CSPs at their nearest points.

The SHG members are playing a crucial role in the timely disbursement of financial support packages being rolled out by the government and bringing the convenience of banking at one’s doorsteps in rural areas while adhering to COVID norms.

Puspashree Nayak, who heads the OLM as its Project Director, said that the SHG members operating the CSPs have completed the requisite training and have been equipped with personal computers or laptops, network routers, biometric scanners and other hardware for managing all the services. “We are getting a very good response from the CSP and are in the process of training more SHG members once the lockdown ends and start more CSPs at other blocks,” he said.

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