Indian Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley delivered the keynote address on the occasion of the NABARD-led self-help group (SHG) bank linkage programme 25th anniversary celebration.
The programme, launched in 1992 with a target of linking 500 SHGs in a year’s time, has transformed into the world’s largest micro-finance program, touching a phenomenal over 100 million poor rural households. NABARD dedicated its 36th Foundation Day to this milestone by holding a seminar which was inaugurated by the finance minister at Vigyan Bhawan on 11 July.
The SHG bank linkage programme is the largest such programme for women development with a staggering 85% of the groups belonging to women. Around 8.5 crore rural women have been able to chart their own destinies under this initiative. The programme has also been one of the largest ever financial inclusion drives and a major business opportunity for the Indian banking system with over Rs61,500 crore outstanding bank loans and another Rs16,000 crore in savings accounts as on 31 March. Interestingly, the SHG Bank Linkage Programme accounts for almost half of the microfinance sector in India.
In its new avatar, the program is leveraging technology and more than 1.27 lakh SHGs are being brought onto the digital platform under NABARD’s E-SHAKTI project covering more than 1.46 million household across 18,500 villages. Complete data of all the SHGs is being hosted on a dedicated website which will benefit banks in taking informed decisions on the credit needs of such SHGs. The finance minister lauded the achievements while urging them to rise to the challenges posed by an ever-changing economic scenario and demands of newer technology.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Jaitley said,” “There is a natural tendency for certain sections of the society to be left behind in the growth story of a nation. And this happens in spite of all our best intentions and various development schemes of the government. The NABARD-led SHG bank linkage programme gains increased importance because it addresses these very sections of the society which are excluded even after development. The large number of participants and participating agencies makes me hopeful about its expansion.”
The event saw participation of eminent personalities like Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Dr. C Rangarajan; Shri Aloysius Fernandez, Padmashree awardee and Member Secretary of MYRADA; Banks like SBI, Indian Bank, ICICI; SHG members and NGOs who made significant contribution to the programme were congratulated by the minister.
Speaking on the occasion, NABARD Chairman Dr. Harsh Kumar Bhanwala said: “NABARD has played an active role in this programme by taking up various roles of policy advocacy, capacity building of the channel partners and banks. It has also assisted in extending support for promotion of groups, nurturing Self-Help Promotion Institutes and collaborating with NRLM. We are aware of the need for product innovations here and the need for leveraging digital technology to ensure that SHGs realize their full potential. ESHAKTI, our latest initiative, is a step in that direction.”
Smt. Anjuly Chib Duggal, Secretary, Department of Financial Services also spoke on the occasion and stressed upon the positive impact which synergy between NABARD and SIDBI can bring around in the fields of occupational and entrepreneurial training besides financial literacy and market outreach among these groups.
NABARD Deputy Managing Director Shri H R Dave in his address assured the finance minister that NABARD will continue engaging itself vigorously with the SHG bank linkage program which is not only the largest microfinance programme in the world but also the largest in terms of number of partners engaged.
A commemorative memoir book titled 25 years of SHG Movement and a report on Status of Micro Finance in India 2017 were also released at the occasion followed by thematic discussion on SHG Bank Linkage Programme - Giant Leap in Women Empowerment & Financial Inclusion, where the leading microfinance practitioners and bankers spoke.