'When money comes walking': How micro-banking in villages work

The ‘BC Sakhi’ model provides doorstep banking in remote areas, saving time and creating jobs, reports Mukesh Ranjan
SHG members are trained to become an interface between poor and banks. These ‘Bank Didis’ provide financial services to villagers at their doorstep | express
SHG members are trained to become an interface between poor and banks. These ‘Bank Didis’ provide financial services to villagers at their doorstep | express

JHARKHAND: Money can come walking in, that’s the new language and metaphor of banking in remote rural villages. In Jharkhand, they call it Sakhi, the “money machine” working for those who need cash the most – pensioners, small borrowers, MGNREGA workers and the likes. If you want to know how the micro-banking works, take a look.

Muniya Nagesiya of Lodh village under Mahuadanr block in Latehar district would either foot it or took a bus for a 15km travel to a brick-and-mortar bank building to claim her pension. It cost her money and a full day, and at times, she’d return empty-handed as either her turn in the queue came too late or the bank simply didn’t have the cash.

Today, young Sunita Beck comes to her doorstep. Beck has got a job of Sakhi, or BC, under well-defined conditions set by banks and carries with her a laptop and a finger-recognition machine. She hands out cash only through bank accounts which are Aadhaar-seeded. “Things are much easier now,” says Muniya Nagesiya. “I don’t have to stand in a long queue and I also save on bus fare,” said Nagesia. She doesn’t have to do any paperwork – one click by Sunita on her computer does all the work.

This is the initiative of the National Rural Development Mission under the Ministry of Rural Development. Supported by the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS), the State Rural Development Department, the self-help group members are identified and trained to become an interface between the rural poor and banks. They are also called ‘Bank Didis’ who provide financial services to villagers at their doorstep.

The Sakhis’ prepare basic financial services such as customer identification, collection of information/applications, individual account opening, cash withdrawal, deposit, transfer, Aadhar seeding, pension services, scholarships to school children, wage payment under MGNREGA, fund withdrawal under PMAY and many more. The state currently has 1473 BC-Sakhi with an average transaction of Rs 1 lakh every day.

There are only two banks in Mahuadanr block, around 15 km from some villages. It is Sunita’s responsibility to ensure money reaches the beneficiaries. “Customers from nearby villages come to me for transactions. In some cases I visit senior citizens who can’t come over. The facility is available on all days, Sunday or any other public holiday included,” says Sunita. She carries out transactions worth Rs 6 lakh every month and earns around Rs 5,000 per month with the commission earned on each transaction.

“The BC Sakhi are the face of banks in distant areas of Jharkhand,” says senior manager at State Level Banker’s Committee Vaibhav Kumar.Jharkhand Rajya Gramin Bank chairman Sunil Vinayak Zodey says since rural women are mostly illiterate, a BC Sakhi also provides financial awareness to them. “Jharkhand has the maximum number of BC Sakhi in the country,” said Zodey. According to JSLPS chief executive officer Rajeev Kumar, banking services are reaching very easily to the rural population through BC Sakhi.  

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