Claiming that “workers in the informal sector” were facing difficulties due to the demonetisation process, Ela Bhatt, the founder of SEWA Bank (Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank Ltd) said Friday that she is “disturbed” by the
present situation in the banking sector that is headed into “uncharted areas” of the economy. “Banking is a continued relationship of trust… But looking at the future, I am quite disturbed at the present situation; so wasteful and maybe destructive. I won’t elaborate on that, but we have to go into new uncharted areas of the economy,” said Bhatt while talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a two-day conference on “Building an Economy of Nurturance” organised by SEWA Bank and Friends of Women’s World Banking (FWWB).
When asked if demonetisation process was having any negative effect, Elaben said, “It is getting difficult for those who are in the informal sector. They have been patient so far as far as SEWA bank is concerned; still there is difficultly in consumption, production and distribution. They do not have big money.” According to her, a “balance” between cash and digital economies have to be achieved. “The weaker sections function largely on cash and so everything cannot be digital. There has to be a balance between the two,” she added.
Elaben who described Ahmedabad as “centre for women’s finance” said that the issue of “demonetisation” though not predominant, did come up during discussion at the conference where 100 women leaders, across eight states, representing producer groups, coopertives and federation of self-help groups, are participating.
“Not everybody is lucky to be linked to a bank like SEWA. Many women who have come here are from farm-producers groups and self-employed women from places like Manipur… They need a working capital (in cash) on a daily basis. They said they cannot afford to stand in bank queues for 5-6 hours and so they opted to get their old denominations exchanged for lesser value. For instance for Rs 1000 notes, they got Rs 800 and for Rs 500, they got Rs 300 in new denominations,” said Vijayalakshmi Das, Chief Executive Officer of FWWB while narrating the experiences of women who were attending the event.
“Those in agriculture are going through a severe (cash) crunch, because they are small and marginal farmers. They need cash not just for purchasing seeds and fertilisers, but they also need it to pay labourers. The group
from Rajasthan said they have postponed their Rabi crop,” Das added.
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Jayshree Vyas, MD of SEWA Bank that provides banking facilities to over 4.32 lakh depositors most of whom are small business women selling vegetables and other household items, hawkers, vendors, home-based workers and manual labourers said, “They (women depositors) are now finding it difficult to run their business, as majority of them use cash. It seems it is temporary.”