The Banker Didi

Amrita Devi exemplifies the silent strength that women possess. Once she set her mind to it, Amrita Devi changed the course of her destiny.

Amrita Devi is a symbol of the silent revolution that is sweeping across the state of Jharkhand. From a housewife who did a little bit of agriculture for a living … to a go-getter who has been honoured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for her skills … it has been a journey of great success for the 23-year-old from Badajiayatu village of Ghaghara block in Gumla district.

Amrita is among the several women in the state who have benefitted from to the efforts of the government to bring about social transformation by fostering financial inclusion.

Financial inclusion is important to ensure overall economic development of a country. The growth of rural retail banking industry helps the cause by providing financial products and services to people in the farthest corners of the country.

A number of innovative initiatives have been taken from time to time to bridge the gap between the rural population and the formal retail banking system.

One such innovation is the concept of Business Correspondent Sakhi (BCS), run under the guidance and watch of the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS). Under the programme, an individual is trained to become the interface between the rural poor and the banks. The Banking didi, as she is called, is leveraged to provide support services under well-defined terms and conditions by way of contractual arrangements.

The Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society has adopted the BCS model for strengthening the financial stability of Sakhi Mandal members in rural Jharkhand. Sakhi Mandal members who are working as book-keepers are selected to be the BCS and are trained for the specialized role.

Once trained, she provides basic support services such as customer identification, collection of information/applications, credit appraisal, marketing, account opening, cash withdrawal, deposit, transfer, doing Aadhaar seeding, distributing pension to the elderly, people with disability, scholarships to school children, wage payment under MGNREGA, fund withdrawal under Pradhanmantri Awas Yojana and activates Rupay debit card.

Amrita Devi;s journey of transformation began in August 2016, when she became the member of Jai Sarna Sakhi Mandal. She took loan of Rs.8, 000 for meeting her household expenditure and also for investing in agricultural activities.

Sharing her experience, Amrita says, “The Sakhi Mandal gives me a sense of security. Now, I don’t have to look to others for assistance.  In case of any emergency, I know, my Sakhi Mandal is there for me.”

In March 2017, Amrita was selected to work as a BCS. JSLPS imparted her training, both at the state as well as at the block level. Amrita commenced rendering BCS services to her community people and others who lived in nearby villages. As there was only one bank in her locality, the Jharkhand Gramin Bank, the banking needs of many people remained unfulfilled. This gap was filled by Amrita. Simultaneously, Amrita was also doing the transactions of the Sakhi Mandals.

Gradually, Amrita established herself as a BCS and on an average she did monthly transactions worth Rs 19 to Rs 20 lakh. With the commission earned on every transaction and the honorarium received from the JSLPS, Amrita managed to earn every month anywhere between Rs 14,000 to Rs 15,000.

As time progressed, Amrita decided to branch out and increase her work area. With the support of her husband, she opened a shop in the main market of Ghaghara. The shop provided photocopy and photography services. She charged Rs 2 for photocopying a page, and with an average of 200 to 250 photocopies every day, the couple could manage to earn around Rs. 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per month.

Managing between her household responsibilities and her work was not easy, but Amrita was determined to do justice to both. Her involvement in the work was almost 24X7, but her services in lieu of financial charges started from 10 in the morning and ended at 7pm. Amrits’s day started early at 3 in the morning to ensure that her home did not suffer because of her work. There were times when she would take her two-year-old son with her on work.

“My child is my responsibility and I cannot afford to leave him on anybody else,” she says. However, despite all the hardships Amrita is a happy person today. Sharing her feelings she says, “the love that, I received from the community is a matter of honor for me. If someday, I go to somewhere, then people in my locality wait for me and also start searching for me, for getting their work done. I want to move ahead, serve my people and also earn well for the secure future of my son.”

Usha Kumari, who came to Amrita for withdrawing money said, “Here work gets easily done in less amount of time and also, I am not afraid to come here, as here is minimal paper work.”

Minaxi Kumari, who is a student, shared that she has never went to a bank because bank in the form of Amrita had come to her. Minaxi opened her saving bank account with Amrita and also got her passbook form her.

Urmila Devi, another customer of Amrita shared, “I was frightened to go to banks and even in the cases of emergency, I did not have the courage to go there. This problem has been resolved now, as at any time, I can come to Amrita for banking related services.”

Today, Amrita has made a mark for herself as Banker didi. This is just a beginning for her, as, many more achievements are awaiting her.