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Making banks accessible to migrant workers

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

1 July 2021

Community Champions from the Gram Vikas ‘Safe and Dignified Migration of the Rural Poor’, help migrant workers and their families start bank accounts. This will help raise household savings, make money transfer and access easy, and increase their financial security in the long term.

Ramesh Naik, a Community Champion discusses on opening saving bank accounts and encourages the migrant worker dependent families to save in village Bendajhola, Gopalpur Gram Panchayat.

Photograph by Pinyas Gamango

When Gram Vikas’ Tambudhar Nayak met migrant worker Santasila Majhi of Jabang village under Kaniguma Gram Panchayat in Kalahandi district, he was desperate to return to Kerala. He had returned to his village from Kerala a year back after the lockdown was announced. Santasila is still struggling to find a job.

“I have not been able to earn any money in the village since I came back last year. We are surviving on whatever we grow in our land. The money which I earned in Kerala has been exhausted. I want to go back to Kerala now”, says Santasila.

Every month, Santasila would deposit his money to a relative’s bank account, who would then withdraw and send the cash to his family. Like Santasila, thousands of migrant workers who work outside the state remit money to their families through friends, relatives or anyone else in their village having a savings bank account.

To educate the migrant workers on financial literacy, Gram Vikas collaborated with ESAF Small Finance Bank in Kerala to undertake campaigns in the source villages. The initiative is part of the ‘Safe and Dignified Migration of the Rural Poor’ programme supported by Arghyam and implemented in Gunupur, Gopalpur and Adri Gram Panchayats in the Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi district.

Balabhadra Nayak, 22 years, from Karang village, in Thuamul Gram Panchayat, has been working in stone quarries in Rayagada district of Odisha for two years now. He comes back to his village once in six months, carrying the entire sum of his earnings in cash. He visited a local bank twice in Gunupur Panchayat, which is 10kms from his village, but could not open a bank account.

“The bank officials thrust a form in my hands and asked me to fill it up. I didn’t know how to fill up the form and also didn’t have the necessary documents. I was unable to understand the formalities required. So, I came back”, he says.

Gram Vikas simplified the process for him and opened an account in his name in one day. Santasila has a bank account now and no longer relies on his relatives.

“This passbook gives me a sense of confidence. It’s a big thing for us as my wife can now plan to save some money in this account from what I earn from Kerala”, says Santasila.

More than half of the migrant workers from Kalahandi district who work outside the state have an average monthly income of ₹9,000. The push towards opening bank accounts and promoting cashless transactions is to encourage them to save and not spend the entire amount.

The initiative had gained momentum towards the end of March but the pandemic lockdown has dampened the pace. So far, we have opened bank accounts for 34 migrant-dependant households from Gopalpur, Adri, and Gunupur Gram Panchayats in Kalahandi.

Puran Majhi, a Community Champion reaching out to migrant dependent families and encouraging them to open savings bank accounts in village Chirika, Adri Gram Panchayat.

Photograph by Pramita Majhi

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Reporting by Tambudhara Nayak, a member of the Community Champions Network of the Gram Vikas Safe and Dignified Migration of the Rural Poor programme supported by Arghyam. Tazeen Qureshy edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik is a Junior Manager, Communications, with Gram Vikas.

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