Padotiya* is a village 25 km off the city of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, resided by a population of 1000 people in 196 families (as of census 2011). It falls in the Bandnagar tehsil of the Ujjain district. I work as an India Fellow in the region and over the last seven months of my experience with a hundred and fifty SHGs in Ujjain’s rural and urban spheres, this particular village and the women have shared stories that raised several questions in my mind regarding their livelihoods, access to finance, and sustenance of many similar villages in the country.
The four active groups here, meet on a monthly basis; the meetings are facilitated by staff from the cooperative. Each group comprises ten women who come together to save an amount in the range of Rs. 100 – Rs. 250, thereby creating a self-funded corpus in the SHG and the cooperative which becomes a source of finance to borrow from in later days of necessity. This is the model we follow.
Private players in the microfinance sector have not failed to creep into these secluded villages as well. It is disheartening to see how government schemes to support the finance and livelihoods of the villagers here have not achieved the desired results yet.
The National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) is one among the many government schemes which aims to generate means of livelihood and eradicate poverty. NRLM aims to alleviate rural poverty and create sustainable livelihood opportunities for the rural poor. Towards this objective, NRLM seeks to promote sustainable community-based institutions which will facilitate the provision of financial services, economic services, and other entitlements to the rural poor.
However, research states that SHGs facilitated by the NRLM have been struggling to achieve their goals due to ineffective group meetings, lack of cooperation between members, inadequate income generating activities and small token size of monthly savings.  The SHGs through NRLM are provided with Revolving Funds and Community Investment Fund (CIF) to meet the credit needs of the members and the credit needs of collective livelihood activities undertaken by the community. Post this they also facilitate multiple doses of SHG-Bank credit linkages in order to meet the larger chunk of credit needs of the rural poor.
Zooming into the activities facilitated by NRLM in the groups in Padotiya, I have realized that strategies of one-size-fits-all have failed to put in place systems strong enough to meet the objectives these strategies were meant to achieve. Most of the women in the village are daily wage labourers involved in agriculture and livestock. They earn around Rs. 200-Rs. 250 for 8-10 hours of work on a daily basis. The men in the village mostly either work as labourers in the industrial city of Ujjain or are involved in agriculture in the village.
Provisioning the CIF and bank credit linkages worth amounts of 1-2 lakhs each, without ensuring proper group meetings or adequate livelihood activities has resulted in excessive flow of money into these groups. Additionally, power dynamics in these groups have resulted in the money getting concentrated in the hands 2-3 members alone.
There is no proper system in place to ensure the division of money or regular meetings. This often results in groups getting disturbed. Additionally, they get disinterested in the smaller token size of credit facilitated through internal lending and the corporative. While the NRLM has set up successful working models in several Indian states it is not delivering desired results in the groups I have interacted with in Madhya Pradesh and there is a lot to do still.
Converging the NRLM activities with NGOs like us who focus on building capacities, leadership, effective and sustainable operating systems alongside providing credit facilities is an efficient way to translate strategies to results. This can help the mission reach out more effectively to the secluded villages as well as the poorest of the poor in the country. I hope the state acknowledges this and work towards building more effective Public Private Partnerships in order to better realise major common goals of enabling livelihoods, sustaining villages, rural access to credit, and eradicating poverty.
 Making India’s villages self-sufficient
*** The views expressed here are of the author alone, and do not represent what any organization or institution she is associated with represents/prescribes.