Priyanka Yadav, PMRDF- Kanker, Chattisgarh
It was a usual slow and lazy afternoon in one of the small block of North Bastar kanker- Narharpur .
This day of January 1, 2014, finally turned out to be the most eventful day in my life, for the event that followed. I am narrating a small incidence which might be trivial for some but for me that was a live social revolution taking place! Something I can never forget in this lifetime
We had organized a workshop on livelihood opportunities for Self Help Groups (SHGs). We invited all the stakeholders there; the participants included different govt. departments and the banks as well.
Much to my surprise and prior experience in other blocks, around 600 women SHG members from 28 Village organizations formed under NRLM turned up for the event. Fortunately all the bank mangers of the blocks were present, as the CEO zila panchyat was also expected in the event. There were many problems with the bankers in the block and women had complained to me regarding the same during my regular field visits earlier. SHGs complaint of improper and rude behavior by the bank staff specially the field officers, unnecessary delays and formalities in account opening, withdrawal and passbook updation etc. The NRLM loan to SHG was a task to be achieved! We tried to solve these issues earlier on different platforms but the manifestation of the same was invisible on the field.
After all the discussion on livelihood opportunities by departments was over, I invited bankers to the forum. I chanced upon the occasion to be a good platform to confront the errant bank officials in public. I made it a direct face to face interaction between the women and the bankers.
We asked bankers one by one to Introduce themselves and present their work and schemes etc. In the end I started asking the women about what issues are they facing with the bankers? Initially they were hesitant to say anything against “the Shahibs”, but when coaxed further they started with their long list of grievances. The complaints escalated into angry accusations and chaos! The bankers obviously had no answers to the genuine questions posed by the women; it was more of their attitudinal issues rather than systemic issues. The bankers (not all, some of the errant ones) had no place to escape!!
Fortunately when the time was ripe, Mr. Bhim singh, CEO Zila panchyat( IAS) arrived in the hall and was surprised to see the situation. We explained to him why women were angry and why bankers were hiding! He was apprised of these issues earlier as well and he was himself angry on the bankers for repeatedly engaging in such behavior.
He listened to the women carefully and when he was convinced that the bankers were at odds with the public, he supported the women and said that he himself will sit on a protest outside each bank if the banks did not amend their ways! This got a thunderous applause from the women and they were assured that their complaints will be taken care of.
At this point of time, the regional office staff and the lead bank manger interjected and assured strict action against the errant bank staff at the block.
Now things are moving rather smoothly in the block and bankers are aware of the power of the Tribal, illiterate rural women!
This is the power of silent women, I smiled to myself!
[Priyanka Yadav is a fellow at District of Kanker in Chattisgarh. She is focussing on livelihood and skill building related programs and initiatives.]