Cassian Baliarsingh

After startling revelations by the Odisha Assembly Standing Committee on the utilisation of loans by self-help groups (SHGs), Odisha’s leading news channel OTV did a reality check and surprisingly the ground reality has painted the government into a corner.

Following the reality check, OTV unearthed several irregularities and loopholes in the utilisation of interest-free loans funded by the government that is claimed to make SHG members self-sufficient.

The ground report revealed the loan money is used for bizarre purposes like marriages and other personal reasons instead of the intended purposes.

In a glaring example is ‘The Lady Lion SHG’ of Jeypore in Koraput. Established in 2019, the SHG has received over Rs 4.40 lakh ever since its inception. The SHG members make papad, pickles and other food items. Interestingly, they give interest-free loan money to their clients on an interest-basis.

The condition of SHG from Singhakhunta of Soro in Balasore district is no different. The SHG members are reportedly distributing the money amongst themselves for interest.

“They have used the money for their children’s education. We have given the money for 1% interest rate. Sukanti Sahu, President, Singhakhunta Panchayat Mahasangh. Similar is the scene of SHG groups in Udala, Mayurbhanj. Instead of mushroom farming or investing it in some business, the SHG members have distributed the loan money amongst selves and are now failing to repay the loans.

“We had brought the money for mushroom farming. If we had done business, we could have used the money for some good things. But, the SHG has broken now and we are getting notices to repay the loan amount now,” said Basanti Nayak, member, Laxminarayan SHG.

BJP MLA Nauri Nayak said, “The SHGs are using the money for earning interests from people instead of using it for the intended purposes. This has affected the very purpose of SHGs and breaking the backbone of women who really want to put the money to good use.”

On the other hand, Arun Sahu, BJD MLA said, “Women empowerment, Mission Shakti is a commendable step by the state government. It is a case study and has gone a long way in improving the social and financial condition of the women of our state.”

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