COVID – 19 pandemic has resulted in a national lockdown leaving a large number of people without access to wages and employment. Those worst hit by this unprecedented pandemic and lockdown are daily wage labourers, migrants, homeless, the poor and many who form the floating population. The Union Government had announced release of 500/- per month for 3 months in 20.39 Crore Women PMJDY accounts. Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), Ministry of Rural Development was given responsibility to transfer the fund with support of Department of Financial Services and Banks. Government of India also released other DBT funds like Rs.2000/- to PM Kisan Yojana accounts, MGNREGA wages payments to all rural population to address the financial stress being faced by the community.
Due to release of DBT funds, there was expected rush at Bank premises for withdrawal of the amount. The instructions regarding withdrawal were already given in advance by many Banks as to how and who can come to the Bank for withdrawal as per last digit of account numbers. In most of the cases, the services of BC Sakhis (SHG women working as Business Corresspondents for banks) were utilized for making payments to the rural households.
All banks understood the importance of BC Sakhi and Bank Sakhi and issued special ID cards for Covid-19 Lockdown Pass as Essential Service Duty. They were issued letters from the Banks and stickers/passes by local administration. They were asked to take due care in view of Covid-19 pandemic like hand sanitizer, social distancing, masks etc.
As a result, out of around 8800 BC Sakhi and 21600 Bank Sakhi, around 50% of both cadre voluntarily started working amidst Lockdown across the country right from Assam, Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur to Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh & Tamilnadu. Bank Sakhis are supporting Bank Branch Managers in managing rush at branches during DBT payment and ensuring social distancing of customers by creating awareness among rural community.
Most importantly, SHG members engaged as BC Sakhi/ Bank Sakhi are playing a vital role in ensuring the disbursement of financial relief packages provided by Government of India. Because of them, rural community facing socio-economic distress felt fortunate to have access to banking services at their door step in the unbanked areas through BC Point to meet their daily requirements during the Lockdown period.
Indeed, BC Sakhi/ Bank Sakhi has become a focal point person in disseminating information regarding the financial relief packages announced by the Government of India in the rural areas, through which financial provisions laid down under PMGKY, PM Kisan and MGNREGS reach the population during COVID-19 pandemic.