New Delhi, Sept 29 : India Post is now poised to disburse micro-credit to Women Self Help Groups in eight states and the NorthEast in a tie-up with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
The states are Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. The scheme was so far operational in five districts in Tamil Nadu on a pilot basis. Post Offices in Tamil Nadu have successfully disbursed credit to the tune of Rs. 1.35 crores to 165 Women SHGs. No default has been noticed in the repayment.
Around 2,900 groups have so far been formed for credit linkage with the post offices in the districts of Sivaganga, Pudukottai, Tiruvannamalai, Thanjavur and Tiruvarur. 2000 Post Offices in nine postal divisions are involved in this operation.
Post Masters have been specially trained in nurturing SHGs and making inspections. 9 per cent simple interest is charged on the loans out of which India Post has a share of 3% and the remaining 6 percent goes to NABARD.
The scheme helps the Postal department in cross selling its financial and insurance services to the members of the Self Help Groups, thus strengthening their financial and life security. It also underlines the continuing relevance of rural Post Offices and their closeness to the public.
The success of the scheme reinforces that among the rural people, the Post Office remains the preferred office for financial services, a fact that has come out in successive surveys. Post Offices in the country have already disbursed about 2900 crore rupees as wages to the beneficiaries of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
The total number of accounts opened for NREGS payments is about 1.5 crores. The number of Post Offices disbursing the wages across 21 states is over 70 thousand (including Head Post Offices, Sub Post Offices and Branch Post Offices). Andhra Pradesh has the maximum number of over 94 lakh accounts.
An important concern of the NREG Scheme is that every worker is paid his/her wages for the work done expeditiously and correctly. With a view to address this concern, the Government had decided that payment of wages to the workers will be done only through Banks or Post Offices. Starting with the Andhra Pradesh Postal Circle in 2005, payment of wages under NREG Scheme has now been extended to 19 Postal Circles in 21 States.
India Post and the State Bank of India have launched a unique joint project in Punjab to provide banking facilities in the unbanked areas. The rural masses in the state can now access the loan and deposit schemes of the State Bank through post offices. The facility has already been set up in 43 post offices. The target is to extend the arrangement to 600 more post offices. Post Masters of rural postal branches have been specially trained for this purpose.
The joint venture mainly focuses on rural customers who are in need of loans but unable to reach banks. The post offices will carry out all the front office jobs for the State Bank relating to loans and deposits, including disbursement of loans. The loans will, however, be sanctioned by the SBI.
Besides delivery of mails, the basket of services being offered by Post Offices in rural and remote areas has been growing all the time.