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Amid COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown, self-help-group (SHG) women across the country have emerged as community warriors in delivering Rs 500 per month for 3 months to 20.39 crore women PMJDY accounts holders, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) funds like Rs.2000 to PM-Kisan Yojana accounts, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) wages rural population to address the financial stress being faced by the community.
During the lockdown, those worst hit by this unprecedented pandemic and lockdown are daily wage labourers, migrants, homeless, the poor and many who form the floating population. Due to release of DBT funds, there was expected rush at bank premises for withdrawal of the amount. The instructions regarding withdrawal were already given by many banks as to how and who can come to the bank for withdrawal. In most of the cases, the services of BC Sakhis (SHG women working as business correspondents for banks) are utilised for making payments to the rural households.
All banks understood the importance of BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis and issued special ID cards for COVID-19 Lockdown Pass as Essential Service Duty. They were issued letters from the banks and stickers and passes by local administration. They were asked to take due care in view of COVID-19 pandemic like hand sanitizer, social distancing, masks among other precautions.
As a result, out of around 8,800 BC Sakhi and 21,600 Bank Sakhi, around 50 percent of both cadre voluntarily started working amidst lockdown across the country right from Assam, Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Bank Sakhis are supporting branch managers in managing rush at branches during DBT payment and ensuring social distancing of customers by creating awareness among rural community.
Most importantly, SHG members engaged as BC Sakhi and Bank Sakhi are playing a vital role in ensuring the disbursement of financial relief packages provided by the Government.
Indeed, BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have become a focal point person in disseminating information regarding the financial relief packages announced by the Government in the rural areas.
BC sakhis have shown their everlasting commitment at this juncture and ensured the basic banking service at door step of the community. The strength of DAY-NRLM is approximately 690 lakh women members of around 63 lakh SHGs across the country. The motivated, enthusiastic and committed members have always contributed in addressing economic and social needs that have emerged at the community level. During the on-going crisis, SHG members have emerged as a community warriors by contributing in every possible way to contain the spread of COVID-19 and also addressing needs evolved due to the disease outbreak.