Calling for a withdrawal of the decision taken by the Centre to recover outstanding dues from self-help groups (SHGs), six women’s organisations have written to Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Rural Development, Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare & Panchayati Raj.
The organisations mentioned that the decision to recover outstanding dues was taken without a review of the “unprecedented economic devastation faced by the SHG women in the country.”
The six organisations include the All India Progressive Women’s Association, the All India Democratic Women’s Association, the National Federation of Indian Women, the Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, the All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan and the All India Agragami Mahila Samiti.
“The issue of NPAs in bank loans to SHGs which comes under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission, under which the government provides support to SHGs, including bank linkages was reviewed without taking into account the unprecedented economic devastation faced by the SHG women in the country,” the organisations wrote in their letter.
They mention that the NRLM had intended to cover about seven crore rural households across the country through the SHGs and support them in order to increase their household incomes.
A report in the Indian Express had mentioned that the rural development ministry had asked states to “monitor the status of NPA district-wise” and put “corrective measures” in place for the recovery of outstanding dues.
According to the report, outstanding bank loans to 54.57 lakh SHGs in the country came up to around Rs 91,130 crores at the end of March. A total of Rs 2,168 crores – about 2.37% of the total amount – has been categorised as Non-Performing Assets (NPAs).
“The government did not take any steps to provide livelihood opportunities during the pandemic and lockdown. SHG women are barely surviving and managing to keep the home fires burning,” the organisations mentioned in their letter.
They also wrote that the move comes at a time when the government “is giving various concessions to the corporate sector, which include writing off some amounts of their huge NPAs.” They also wrote that the ministry has chosen to “target the poor, marginalised sections of SHG women for recovery. The government should have in fact waived the loans taken before the pandemic and provided new collateral and interest free loans to the SHG women,” they added.
“This decision of your ministry will lead to tremendous harassment of the SHG women not only by the banks but also the MFIs. Hence, we request that this decision be immediately withdrawn and a moratorium be applied on the payment of loans and interest till the situation normalises,” the organisations mentioned.