Bridging the gap in Banking : Bank Sakhis and BC Sakhis as Doorstep Bankers

Banking has always been a challenging task for many of us. We are often caught signing on the cross mark made by banking officials in a hurry to get our loans or credit cards. Most people are eager to sign on the dotted line to ensure that their dream purchases of a home, car, other luxuries or education materialise. 

In contrast are our rural brethren who need money for their day to day needs and livelihoods but are largely unaware of banking systems and procedures. Distance from bank branches in the rural areas makes quality and timely access of financial Services difficult. Added to it are issues like overcrowding at branches, understaffed banks which hinders the small loans of SHGs. Therefore getting finance easily is a big challenge for self help groups. 

DAY NRLM came up with a unique plan for appointment of Bank Sakhis at Bank branches to facilitate banking for members of the self help groups. The Bank Sakhis provide much needed relief to the bank branches and function as a bridge between banks and the community. However they cannot undertake banking transactions. 

A Bank Sakhi” is someone who is a member of the self-help group and is involved in conducting banking and book-keeping activities of the group. On behalf of the bank she provides a range of financial services to the community except conducting transactions. 

The concept and role of Business Correspondents(BC) is different from that of the Bank Sakhis and was propagated by nationalised banks with gusto in the last decade. BCs are retail agents engaged by banks for providing banking services at locations other than a bank branch or ATM. BCs enable a bank to provide its limited range of banking services at low cost in remote areas. They are a great support for financial inclusion which is one of the pillars of DAY NRLM. 

Based on RBI guidelines BCs have to do a variety of functions like identification of borrowers, collection of small deposits, disbursal of small credit, recovery of principal / collection of interest, sale of micro insurance/ mutual fund products/ pension products/ other third party products, receipt and delivery of small value remittances/ other payment instruments and also create awareness about savings and other products. They are also responsible for education and advice on managing money and debt counseling etc.

Today MSRLM has more than 2000 Bank Sakhis and 2000 Financial Literacy Community Resource Persons (FLCRPs ) to initiate financial inclusion. However the number of BC Sakhis is limited to 390 BC Sakhis and 503 Digipay Sakhis. 

DAY NRLM has been propagating the concept of ‘One Gram Panchayat, One BC Sakhi. Efforts are being made to ensure the concept gains momentum. 
With the onset of Covid 19 the need for BC Sakhis has multiplied specially since the Union Government announced release of Rs.500/- per month for 3 months into PMJDY Jan Dhan accounts of women. SRLMs were given the responsibility to transfer the fund with support of the Department of Financial Services and Banks.

Government of India also released other DBT funds like Rs.2000/- to PM Kisan Yojana accounts. MGNREGA wages payments had also to be made to address the financial stress being faced by the community.

Due to release of these funds through DBT a rush was expected at the Bank premises for withdrawal of these amounts. Therefore after great planning, instructions regarding withdrawal were given in advance by many Banks as to how and who can come to the Bank for withdrawal as per last digit of account numbers. 

It was at this juncture that the services of BC Sakhis (SHG women working as Business Corresspondents for banks) came to the rescue of banks as their services were utilized for making payments to the rural households in the villages. This prevented crowding in bank branches and also proved to be a boon to senior citizens and differently abled citizens. 

The BC Sakhis played a vital role amidst lockdown by disbursing financial relief packages provided by Government of India efficiently. The rural community facing socio-economic distress felt fortunate to have access to banking services at their door step in the unbanked areas through the BC Sakhis to meet their daily requirements during the lockdown period. It’s a matter of great pride for MSRLM to acknowledge the fact that the BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have been able to handle over 2 lakh transactions worth Rs. 65 crores.

Banks have also understood the importance of BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis and have issued special ID cards to them for Covid-19 as also Lockdown Pass as Essential Service Duty. Some banks have also issued letters and stickers to them for ease in conducting business. 

MSRLM is exploring partnership with Banks & Corporate BCs in their respective locations for effective implementation of this initiative. It has already signed MoUs with IFDC First Bank, Magnot Services and CSC E-governance Services India Ltd. 

 To encourage SHGs and it’s members for increasing digital banking transactions MSRLM has taken the responsibility of training SHG members and providing them with support to get IIBF certification. MoRD has initiated a concept of ONE GP ONE BC. 

CSC E-governance is playing an important role in this by deploying SHG women as DIGIPAY Sakhis. MSRLM is planning to place about 2000 BC Sakhis in 2020-21 It has identified SHG women for the same. 

On 13th July as a part of the CSC Mahila Diwas celebrations, all districts in Maharashtra celebrated the day and distributed digipay devices. 
Bhandara,Wardha,Akola,Nashik Districts celebrated the day by distributing Digipay Devices to active SHG members who have been selected as BC Sakhi.
The Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad Bhandara, Ms. Bhuvaneswari celebrated the event by distributing 50 Digipay devices. 
The BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have made doorstep delivery of banking services a reality in rural Maharashtra. They are emerging as an alternate model in rural banking. A salute to their spirit. 
P.S.- 16th July was celebrated as CSC Diwas

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