Mrunal Manmay Dash

The organised sectors also can witness representation from women, said Chetna Sinha, Founder Chairperson of Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation on Saturday.

She said this today while addressing the 13th edition of OTV’s annual convention ‘OTV Foresight 2023-- Changing Times Changing Minds’ in Bhubaneswar.

Addressing the gathering, Sinha said, “I have travelled the parts of western Odisha when I was a student and worked with many of them (women). These women are exceptional; they have no degree, and no exposure either. In spite of that, they have inspired me to a great extent.”

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Sinha shared her experience with those women and elaborated how she founded the women’s bank with illiterate women.

“I was born and raised in Mumbai. When I was a student studying at Bombay University, Jayprakash Narayan came to the campus and told the young students to work in the villages. The villages need them. I was fascinated by his words. I decided to join him and his movement across India. At that time, I came to Kalahandi when the BBC did a story on drought. While travelling, I fell in love with my husband, a farmer, married him and left Mumbai,” she said.

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Sharing an interesting anecdote, Sinha said, “While working in a remote village in Maharashtra, one day a lady, Kantabai came to me and urged me to open a savings account. She said she wants to save money to buy a tarpaulin to shelter her family during summer. However, the banks refused to entertain Kantabai saying that the savings amount is too small and she is not an eligible client for them. That was when it came to my mind that if the banks cannot help women like her, why can’t I open a bank for women like Kantabai?”

“I, along with some women applied for the banking license. I went to the Reserve Bank of India, and presented them with my idea of opening a women’s bank. But the promoters of the women’s bank, the village women were illiterate and used thumb impression as signature. The RBI denied our application on the ground that the promoters of the proposed bank are illiterate. It paved way for the literacy classes for the women,” she said.

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“After five months, I went again with 15 other women, who were the promoters too. The women said to the RBI board that we may not be able to read and write, but we can count. They challenged the Board to ask them to calculate the interest of any principal amount. If we fail, do not issue the license. Needless to say, we got the banking license,” said a beaming Sinha.

And as far as Kantabai is concerned, out of the streets, she is living now in her house which she built by taking loan from the Women’s Bank.

Speaking about innovation by the women, Sinha further said, “Even after a smooth operation of bank, we were missing digital banking. A member of our women’s group was cheated by a vendor because of cash transaction. We decided to go to UPI to apply for digital banking services. But the UPI was not very optimistic too given the remote location we were working. And when finally they agreed to give that to us, they wanted the women to remember a pin number of the mobile wallet to be able to do the digital transactions. But our women denied and rather insisted to do something with their thumb. That was when the biometric authentication was started by the UPI.”

“And that was the time it dawned upon my mind that never give poor solutions to poor people. They are smart. If we can do digital banking, they can too,” Sinha concluded with a smile on her face