The Uber vehicle accelerated forward. Some of my co-fellows waived us off. After the midpoint training at India Fellow, a co-fellow and I, both working in Odisha, with different organizations, were starting our journey back from Delhi to Rayagada and Kalahandi. The distance is considerable, about 1220 kms. The last ten days were spent in a residential facility, with sessions and workshops that led to a lot of self-reflection. At this moment, I was feeling lost probably because of a lack of sleep and an early dinner the previous night.
It was still early in the morning when we arrived at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Railway Station. On seeing idli, dosa, and some more street food outside the station, I felt hungry, desperately wanting to eat something, and told Rakshikha (my co-fellow) that I don’t have a single rupee of cash with me. She asked me to calm down and assured me that we will figure it out. We decided to go inside the station and then eat something.
There were only a few options and we settled for snack items that provided momentary relief from hunger. Next, we boarded the train and got side lower and side upper seats. Rakshikha decided to sleep within a few minutes but I was still dreaming of some more food. An upma wala arrived after a while, and I’m glad that he did. I was getting too restless and thought of waking Rakshikha to lend me some money to buy food. But I didn’t wake her up. I don’t like when I’m disturbed while I am sleeping unless it’s an emergency, so why do it to others, I thought.
Now that hunger had died. I focused on relaxing my body and mind. Getting into a ‘Shavasana’ position, I slept off only to wake up in the afternoon. Different kinds of Biryani – egg, double egg, chicken, and vegetarian – passed in front of me. I had no cash and my co-fellow was still asleep. I told myself, “You won’t die if you skip one or two meals, so stop daydreaming and go to bed.”
This time, unable to fall asleep, I simply lay down and stared at the distant mountains. Then I noticed Rakshikha descending from the upper berth. She freshened up, we bought chai and samosa, and she asked if I had lunch. On telling her how hungry I’ve been and why I couldn’t eat, she immediately offered me 500 rupees. I felt relieved and uncomfortable at the same time. In the past, my friends, friends of friends, and even complete strangers have spent money on me and I felt okay with that. However, this time I did not. It kept me thinking of an incident that led me to ponder upon ‘financial exclusion’.
In a recent conversation with my cousin, she shared how she feels dependent on her husband when it comes to financial decisions. She doesn’t have an income, therefore she always has to ask her husband for money for even basic necessities. She once described to me how horrible it feels to not have any of your own money to spend. I was unable to empathize with her that day. However, I feel I understand her situation now. I could connect to how it feels to ask someone for money every day, whether they be a friend, parent, relative, co-worker, or anybody else.
I couldn’t relate to it then but this incident took me closer to understanding how difficult it is to operate when you are not in control of your money. Even a small amount made and spent might make one feel braver and more glad to live in a society.
Many women still lack financial stability in India, both in urban and rural areas. Financial dependence, as we all know, is one of the major problems in our patriarchal culture. This trip helped me begin to understand how it feels and I am grateful for my co-fellow’s sleep. Financial exclusion should be treated seriously and inclusion should be enforced strictly. The statistics produced by various government agencies can be used to demonstrate this.
- It is noted that all women are employed, but few are paid. Only 25.4% of women aged 15 to 49 who worked in the past 12 months received payment in cash, according to a 2019–21 study in India. It is the right of women to be paid for the work done by then and this financial inclusion gives women economic independence and acknowledges the value of their work. According to the study, less than 18% of women in the Hindi-speaking states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand received pay for their employment
- Digital transformation benefits everyone and helps tackle the issues of financial exclusion. Unfortunately, In Hindi-speaking states, only about 50% of women typically have access to smartphones. This has affected the women drastically during the pandemic as a result the women are left with no money
- Limited incomes and low labor force participation are factors in the low use of financial services. Due to the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts, the gender gap in bank account ownership has narrowed during the past several years. Approximately half of Jan Dhan account users right now are women. But merely having access to financial services does not constitute financial inclusion
- The loan refusal rate of women entrepreneurs is two and a half times greater than men. They are unable to obtain loans for their own start-up because of a lack of collateral, difficulty finding a guarantor, poor property rights, and a variety of cultural hurdles. As a result, women will feel reluctant to apply for loans and they remain idle and do not enjoy financial inclusion
- Due to the limited digital literacy, women in low-income homes leave their phones at home when they go for work, and may not have full control over how to use their phones. Due to these unethical tactics, it is extremely difficult for them to complete phone-based transfers, transactions, and loan repayments
 What does NFHS-5 data tell us about state of women empowerment in India
 India’s gender gap in financial inclusion
 How financial inclusion is giving women’s empowerment a leg up
Recently, I stayed in our district office in Rayagada for some work. In between, I got a break. I asked project coordinator if we could go near someplace in the evening. He takes me to the Baisingi viewpoint. The place is 5 KM away from Rayagada city. We can see the full view of the city from that viewpoint. Rain started pouring for a bit during the bike journey. I was slightly scared about the slippery roads. In my eyes, Rayagada city came smaller and smaller with every hairpin view. Finally, we both reached the top of that mountain road. I was so excited to see that view. Moreover, I felt fresh. Anyways in that rain and cool climate, my mind was asking for something hot to revive the lost freshness. I gave full freedom to my eyes to look around, finally, they stuck to one of the shops. The reason it stuck there was because I was intrigued by the shop name ‘BSC Graduate Chaiwala’. My next thought was that the unemployment rate is going very high so we need to do some work right … suddenly I noticed another caption – 1st Time Kind Odisha, Cooker Coffee.
I looked at the shop very keenly. There was no plastic usage, and it was full of Khullads. And instead of the ususal tea dishes, there was a cooker. I related those things to the headline. I looked for my coordinator. He was calmly sitting on a bench and looking at the view. I asked him if he had coffee from here. He said yes. I am not a coffee person but I decided to. In between, I was very enthusiastic to see how he is making coffee from the cooker.
That taste was something different. I felt good. I enquired about the person who prepared the coffee. He said this shop owner is a BSC graduate and that’s why he added that he had a government job that he dropped and started a tea shop here. I was surprised because getting a government job is the dream of most youngsters. I heard a lot of people in the private or IT sector change to this kind of startup. But not from the government sector. So I decided to talk to the owner. Jitu. He is the employee in this shop. He is also a graduate in Arts.
He shows me the way of making coffee. After that, I talked with Sunil who is the owner of this shop. Sunil was working as a quality manager in RMC Rayagada. From the job salary wise and work wise, he was not satisfied. So he decided to quit the job and start his own business. He started with 26,000 rupees. The graduate degree, he uses for marketing his tea and coffee, to spike curiosity and drive traffic to the shop. His first motto is that people should get something different from another shop. So he searched for different tea styles and finally he arrived with cooker coffee and Kulhad tea. These tea and coffee are made without a single drop of water.
In cooker coffee, the coffee is made by vapor which comes from the nozzle of the cooker. Like another express coffee machine. This idea he saw and learned from YouTube. The steam vending machine cost is approximately 1,20,000/- but he made it himself with 3,500 rupees.
Also, he mentioned the monthly turnover is approximately 1,00,000 rupees and the profit is 30,000 rupees. Here the coffee price is 20 rupees. He recollected the memories of not getting the support as much he expected from the family. But later they believed in his new venture. A bitter experience he got from some of his friends was getting mocked for being a Chaiwala; later some of newspapers published articles about him. Later on, they also accepted his venture.