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Some of the villages in Bhor and Velhe taluka are so remote that even public transport isn’t accessible. Sakhar, Chirmuli, Kodavali, Bhajgar and Tonde are a few such places. So when some the government announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in November, the villagers were left with no option but to travel several kilometres just to visit banks and be part of the serpentine queues for hours, only to return home with no money as the banks ran out of cash.
Among these villagers, some women were members of Self Help Groups (SHG) whose trials made the coordinators of these groups come up with a solution.
“These women hailed from very tiny, remote villages and did not have much money to exchange. They had just one or two-three notes of Rs 500. So we advised them to not waste their time standing in bank queues and asked them to hand over their discontinued currency with details of their names to us. The members who had already exchanged notes took old notes from these women and gave them their new ones. The old notes were later added to the collection of SHGs and deposited in the bank,” said Bharati Khasbage, coordinator of 100 SHGs, spread across villages like Ambavane, Khopi, Sivare, Sasurdi, Nasrapur and Nidan-Sangvi, with at least 20 members in each group.
Asha Surve, who handles coordination of 30 such groups in Shivapur and Gauddra in Haveli Taluka, shares that among all the groups handled by her only 10 per cent members have accounts in Pune District Central Cooperative (PDCC). “The rest have accounts in nationalised banks. So those having accounts in nationalised banks helped out other members with notes exchange,” she said.
Bharati Kamathe, who has 25 SHGs under her, said that in the last few years a substantial number of their members had opened bank accounts in nationalised banks. “The PDCC banks give lesser interest on accounts as compared to nationalised banks and it was difficult to get loans from PDCCs. Besides, their officials would not cooperate for transactions. Hence, almost all of us opened alternate accounts with other banks. Those who didn’t, were effected by RBI’s move that debarred District Central Cooperatives (DCC) from accepting demonetised currency notes. That’s why we are helping them. Women who had borrowed money from the SHGs were also asked to pay back with old notes (whatever amount they had),” said Kamathe.
There are 82 PDCC branches, spread across 400 villages in Pune. Altogether, there are 34,648 SHGs in PDCCs across Pune, out of which, 32,099 are women SHGs. As on October 28, 2016, nearly 1,024 such groups have been given loan of Rs 574.25 lakhs, of which, 259 SHGs have unpaid dues of worth of Rs 93.24 lakhs. Ramesh Thorat, Chairman of the PDCC, said, “The SHGs are left with no option as we do not have money to dispense with. Demonetisation has ruined the micro-economy of the SHGs.”