One hundred Indian rupees is almost equivalent to two American dollars. And for the upper class Indian's it is no money. And for the politicians, who could make a loss of more than Rs1.70 lakh crore to the government through 2G spectrum scam, I wonder what it means to them. But it means a lot to poor people. To the rural poor in India, it is a hard earned money. They could even have good food for two days (and even more) with that money. As a part of my job, we used to encourage woman to save and organize them into self help groups (SHGs). The savings, is expected to meet their future needs. As a institutional process, we used to review the amount of savings done my members of SHG pertaining to a federation/federations. The number of members saved and total savings and non savers will be reviewed. They are reviewed merely as statistical figures. The amount of savings for e.g may range from Rs2.50 to Rs3.50 lakhs/month (each member saving on an average normally will be Rs100).
The woman members who started their savings from Rs10, now even save Rs200/month/member which is of course rare and most of them save Rs100/ in the present condition. Savings below this too exists based on the context.
To save Rs100 hundred, a woman member and her family has to earn sufficient income to meet the domestic needs of the family, repay the depts, she has borrowed from the SHG and from outsiders for emergency purposes and the additional demands that may rise from time to time. It is a common sight in the rural Tamilnadu that 80 % of men are addicted to alchohol. The majority of the income earned by the male member, goes to the wine shops run by the government. And the income is also not permanent. A really poor family has to struggle hard to save even Rs100/-. The effort of the woman in this respect has to be lauded. The money which they save has the smell of their poverty, hard work, pains and sufferings, commitment towards their children and husband and above all the passion to live.
The money which is saved, through hard means, is expected to give returns in future. I have seen in my experience that, the money which is saved so, did not serve the purpose to some poor women. We can say the percentage of this is negligible. But considering from the view point of the member, it means lot to them. The money they save is rotated as credit in the SHG along with the credit borrowed from Banks/external agencies. If the credit goes bad due to unforeseen circumstances, importance is given to repay the bank loan to maintain the goodwill with the banks, so that they will continue to provide credit. Ultimately it may happen that one member/few members savings will be in the hands of few other members, who are not going to repay. The members who have excess loan, may either be in a position that they could not repay or they may default willfully. Whatever may be the case the honest member gets affected. It happened so in one SHG that a member had more than Rs10000/- as savings and she continued to save Rs100/month. She had no credit in her name. She was planning to get credit for her daughters marriage and so she continued to wait. But the repayment of the loan by other members very bad and the bank loan was in overdue for longer period. However, the SHG conducted meeting every month and only 30 % of the members will attend and repay. The others wont repay even if visit was made to their individual houses. Then the day came when the member (a muslim woman) found a bride groom for her daughter and she requested for a loan of Rs30000/. The SHG was not in a position to give loan. She and her husband started pressurizing the federation for loan. We said it is impossible to give loan due to improper functioning of the group. Then they insisted that at least their savings to be returned back. The bank loan was already in default. Whatever the money collected in the SHG was sent to loan as per standard procedure. And even if this is relaxed, the money collected in the SHG was hardly Rs2000/month and so the member has to wait for five or more months to get her entire savings.
Luckily the group had Rs1.00 lakh subsidy which is not credited to the group, since the duration for availing subsidy was not yet met. Even when the subsidy is given, it will get adjusted against bank loan and however the group was in a position to get at least Rs20000/. Keeping this in mind, I gave a promise that Rs10000/ savings will be returned during next group meetings, to be held two weeks before their daughters marriage. I went to Bank, explained the situation of the group and asked the subsidy amount to be adjusted against the loan. After much persuasion, the concerned Branch Manager agreed. But due to procedural delay the amount was not credited until next month. The day of the group meeting came and I was left in an embarrassing situation. However I made up my mind to give my personal money, knowing that I can get back the money for sure, but after sometime. In the group meeting, however I did not say that I will give my personal money. I said that I will try to arrange the money from Bank within a week. But I called the muslim woman and her husband seperatly and gave them the money. They got surprised. They invited me for their daughters marriage, for which I am not able to go due to some official work. I never went to the SHG again. However the subsidy money came before the subsequent group meeting. The Muslim woman and her husband, came to my house and handed over the money in person without even asking.
What if subsidy facility is not available to the group? Would I have been so generous even then to give the money? I think that I would have done that. Of course I could not help all such members but, the trust the member had on the SHG and the cause for which money is asked moved me. Later I happened to go to their house. It was a small house and I was surprised to see many people in the house. And I learned that they lived as joint family. Occasionally I used to meet the members husband on my way to my office and he always stops to speak with me.
Again, there are many such women who have great trust in the concept and who is honest. The money they save is really hard earned one. Many of them are aged. I still do not know any answer for this question. Why the money which is hard earned by honest people, doesn’t stay with them or benefit them when they needed it most? At the same time, how could money stays with dishonest people, who did not toil but used his cunningness to earn such money?
I respect more the hundred rupees in the hand of honest people, than crores in the hands of dishonest. That, hundred rupee really is invaluable.