Six national women’s organisations on September 12 wrote a letter to the Minister of Rural Development Shri Narendra Singh Tomar demanding an immediate withdrawal of the government decision of collecting the outstanding loans from women in Self-Help Groups (SHGs.)
Members of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, the All India Democratic Women’s Association, the National Federation Of Indian Women and others asked for a delay in the payment of such loans and interests, instead of the aforementioned decision that could lead to tremendous harassment of the SHG women not only by the banks but also by the Microfinancers.
The letter reminded that the issue of NPAs in bank loans to SHGs comes under the government’s Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM,) that provides support to SHGs, including in case of bank linkages. However, the letter said that the NRLM was reviewed without taking into account the unprecedented economic devastation caused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally, the NRLM planned to cover 7 crore rural poor households in the country through SHGs and enable them to increase household incomes.
“It is ironical that now the State Rural Livelihood Missions (SRLMs) have been told to ‘work out the amount to be deposited with banks before Sept 20 to avoid the account becoming irregular/NPA’. Your Ministry has asked SRLMs to ‘monitor the status of NPA district-wise’ and take ‘corrective measures’ to ‘recover overdue/outstanding dues’.” said the letter.
Moreover, newspaper reports showed that the outstanding bank loans of about 54.57 lakh SHGs across the country amounted to about Rs. 91,130 crores by March-end of which Rs 2,168 crores – 2.37 percent – were NPAs. Members pointed out that the government did not take any steps to provide livelihood opportunities during the lockdown. They said that the government should have waived the loans taken before the pandemic and provided new collateral and interest free loans to SHG women.
“SHG women are barely surviving and managing to keep the home fires burning,” they said.
Thus, the letter criticised the Centre for giving various concessions to the corporate sector including writing off of huge NPAs while the Rural Ministry targeted SHG women for recovery.
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