Economic Survey 2022-23 lauds the cruical role played by Self-Help Groups

Self-Help Groups (SHG) of India are regarded as the world’s largest microfinance project. The Economic Survey (ES) 2022-23 tabled on 31st January, highlighted the significant role played by SHGs in empowering women with strengthening the rural economy. According to data cited in the Economic Survey, SHG-Bank Linkage Programme covers 14.2 crore families with saving deposits of Rs 47,240 crore.

The number of SHGs credit linked has grown at a CAGR of 10.8% during the last ten years (Financial Year 2013 to Financial Year 2022), notes the ES.

Long-run rural transformation, recommends survey:

More than 8.5 crore families have been linked with around 80 lakh SHGs under DAY-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM). “Mission 1 lakh, 2024”, was also launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) in 2021, aimed at raising the annual income of each woman in self-help groups (SHGs) to Rs 1 lakh per year by 2024.

Owing to the last-mile connectivity of SHGs, they have the ability to build trust in the communities and generate economic activities as per the local needs. The pre-budget survey also highlights the potential of SHG and says that they are well-placed to facilitate overall rural development.

The ES has recommended addressing the inter-regional disparity in the deepening of the SHG movement, graduating SHG members into micro-entrepreneurs, culturally contextualised skill development for moving up the value chain in products and services, and including the least privileged under the SHG umbrella.

Role of Self-Help Groups in crisis management:

SHGs played a leading role in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. As on 4th January 2023, more than 16.9 crore masks were produced by SHGs under DAY-NRLM. The women from the SHGs of Madhya Pradesh itself produced 1,42,710 masks and 15,574 litres of sanitiser and hand wash only a few days after the country went on a lockdown. SHGs from Assam produced masks with a cultural touch, they were called Gamusa Masks.

The ES notes that the activities of SHGs ranged from producing protective gear, creating awareness about the pandemic (e.g. Patrakar Didis of Jharkhand), delivering essential goods (e.g. floating supermarkets in Kerala), running community kitchens (e.g. Prerna Canteens in Uttar Pradesh), supporting farm livelihoods (e.g. Pashu Sakhis for animal health care services, Aajeevika Farm Fresh Online selling and distribution mechanism for vegetables in Jharkhand), convergence with MGNREGS (in UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh), and in delivery of financial services (e.g. Bank Sakhis managing bank rush for availing Covid-relief DBT cash transfers).

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