A BRIEF REPORT ON A FIELD VISIT TO DAIRY COOPERATIVE
SOCIETIES (DCSs) OF JALAH BLOCK, BAKSA DISTRICT, ASSAM
The Krisarthak team met with 7 members of Lasimatari DCS, along with the Secretary, Ms. Bijuli Medhi. Village: Lasimatari.
Along with Dairy farming, these members are also involved in the farming of lemons and mustard seeds along with other vegetables.
This being primarily a women DCS, the digital literacy is low. They all have feature phones; however, 100% of members have smartphones at their homes. Few watch videos on YouTube, which is administered by their children.
Out of the 7 members, with whom we interacted, 5 have accounts in AGVB and 2 in SBI. AGVB account holders don’t have ATM as the facility is not available in the Bank. The SBI account holders have ATM cards and they use it for withdrawing money.
Most women members are also members of Self-Help Groups and are involved in savings and internal lending in the respective SHGs. Many have taken loans from MFIs, especially Bandhan, due to easy accessibility, less documentation and fast processing of the loans. 1 member, among the ones we interacted with, has PMJJBY and PMSBY. 2 have applied to AGVB bank but the bank hasn’t processed the documents yet. Rest has no knowledge about any Social Security schemes.
The bank branches are very far from the village, around 20 km away, due to which the members hardly visit the banks. Also, the bank officials do not respond to their queries, which makes them feel unwelcome. No Financial Literacy Camps have been conducted in the village till date. The members are totally ignorant of the various financial Products and Services available to them.
The team met with the President and Secretary of Uttarbortari DCS. Village: Chaitanguri.
They have 20 active members in the DCS. They have accounts in Syndicate Bank, AGVB and SBI. Most members use feature phones. However, everyone has access to smartphones as family members, especially children, have smartphones.
They have no knowledge about the various financial products and services like RD, FD, Social Security Schemes, Digital banking
etc. Few know a thing or two about loans, but due to a lack of proper knowledge, they have not availed of any in spite of having requirements for the same.
The team met with the President, Secretary and 2 other members of Gati Anchalik DCS. Village: Gati.
They have 45 active members in their DCS. This is primarily a male DCS, however, they have female members too. The male members, apart from Dairy farming, are largely involved in Lemon farming. The female members of the DCS are also members of various SHGs and are actively involved in the SHG activities. The Secretary informed us that around 80% have smartphones, however, they are not fully digital-literate. Most farmers have accounts in AGVB as it is located in a nearby area. Few have
done Life insurance under LIC, but have no idea regarding Animal or Farm Insurance. They do not use any Payment Gateways like Gpay, Phone Pe etc. No Financial Literacy Camps have been conducted in the village till now. Due to the lack of proper knowledge, the farmers are not confident in availing of any financial services.
The team met with President, Mr. Kaushik Das, and 6 other members of Sanjeevani DCS. Village: Pub Khagrabari.
There are 25 active members in this DCS. Since most members in this DCS are youth, around 90% have smartphones and are digitally literate. They use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Whatsapp. Most members have accounts in Union and UCO banks as these banks have branches in nearby localities. The members use ATM for withdrawing money. Payment Gateways like Phone Pe and Gpay is also used for transactions. Most members have Life Insurance policies under LIC, however, they have not availed any Animal or Farm insurance. 7 members have availed the Atal Pension Yojana, as a special drive was conducted by the WAMUL Officials. 2 members have got loans under KCC. Many had applied for KCC, and the banks accepted the proposals but did not process till date. Many members have however taken loans from MFIs due to easy accessibility, less documentation and fast processing. No Financial Literacy Camps have been conducted in the village till date.
Met the Secretary, Mr. Suresh Talukdar, of Tapa DCS. Village: Tapa. This DCS has 35 active members. The loan is a major problem in this DCS. Many farmers applied for KCC loans but the bank has not processed any applications and has not given any updates on the same. Few have also applied for the Dairy Loan but in spite of having proper documents and willing to pay the 5% margin money, the bank refused to process the same.
- Most of the farmers of the DCSs of Jalah block are not digitally literate. They do not own smartphones and therefore do not know their usage. However, they have access to smartphones as children of every household have smartphones. Digital literacy will be a major part of the FEC workshops.
- There has been no intervention by any Financial Institute or any other organization regarding Financial Literacy. Therefore the farmers are mostly ignorant about the various Financial Products and Services. They have highly lauded the FEC initiative as they have realized that Financial Education and Counselling is the need of the hour for all kinds of development.
- Bank Officials do not respond to the queries of the farmers which make them feel unwelcome in the banks. Due to a lack of knowledge, the Farmers are not confident enough to visit banks and ask for information. Therefore even if they have requirements or are willing to avail any financial products like loans, they are hesitant to do so.
- Bank Passbooks are not updated by the Bank officials which makes it very difficult for the Dairy farmers to keep a track of the money which is transferred from WAMUL for their milk. Therefore modules on Online Banking/ Bank Apps/ Payment Gateways like Gpay etc are very important for these farmers.
- Network/ Connectivity is an issue in many villages of the Block. Therefore offline FEC will have to be considered in many places along with the digital mode.
- The pilot has to be implemented between January to March, as suggested by the DCS members since they will be busy in farming till December.
Suggestion and recommendation :
1) The DCSs could require specific digital and financial education and counselling interventions at their community level;
2) Making every dairy farmer digitally literate would help them to be information accessible and rich for their business activities and overall empowerment;
3) Focus on the women DCSs and members could address larger digital exclusion issues of women in rural areas;
4) Guiding and supporting the DCSs to have a micro digital action plan for each DCSs involving all its members with specific thinking, focus and engagement processes would help in the overall development of the cooperatives;
5) There would require sustained, localized and continuous FEC support at midand long-term levels at the level of DCSs and owned by the DCSs.
6) Digital and financial interventions would help the DCSs to access windows of information, knowledge, education and opportunities to address business-specific challenges, expand their dairy businesses and contribute to WAMUL.
7) As per the mandate of APART FEC, the team would and should focus on FEC specifics activities during the project period, with digital modes of information, communication, education and engagement for the dairy farmers.