Microfinance

Assam off Grameen Bank list – Manpower crunch stalled project, says official

Guwahati, June 8: Assam — which was supposed to be the stepping stone for the Indian operations of Grameen Bank on the “build-operate-transfer” model — has been put off the list.

“A decision has been taken that we will not include Assam in our operations in India at present, but we could think of it later,” B.N. Kulkarni, director of Grameen Trust India, told The Telegraph today.

Last year, Grameen Bank, universally known as the Mohammed Yunus bank for the poor, had decided to launch its maiden microcredit project on a build-operate-transfer basis in Tezpur in Sonitpur district.

The project was to be implemented in two phases within a three-year timeframe and was targeted to cover 18,000 families. Constraints like manpower shortage and other priorities forced a rethink.

“We cannot come right now as there is problem of manpower shortage and we have become engrossed somewhere else,” Kulkarni said.


The Indian operations of the Grameen Bank have been christened Grameen Trust of India, which opened its office in India in 2007. It planned to operate the project by training the locals before handing over it formally.

Sources said the investment would have run into a few crores of rupees.

In February 2008, chief minister Tarun Gogoi met Mohammed Yunus in Delhi and invited the Nobel Laureate to Assam to open microcredit financial institutions on the lines of the Bangladeshi bank to improve lending facilities in the rural areas of the state.

Under this project, only those families falling in the below-the-poverty-line will be covered with an emphasis on women. There are two models with the Grameen Bank — direct intervention or through the local NGOs in Sonitpur district.

“There is not enough manpower now for direct intervention,” Kulkarni said.

For the bank to start operations in Assam, it would require a licence as it is a foreign financial institution.

The plan was for three branches in blocks of Tezpur, Balipara and Bishwanath Chariali in the first phase and another three in Rangapara, Chaiduar and Dhekiajuli in the second phase.

The Grameen Bank model looks upon credit as a cost-effective weapon to fight poverty and serves as a catalyst in the overall development of socio-economic conditions of the poor who have been kept outside the banking orbit.

“Our plan is to reach to the poor with no bias to any particular community,” Kulkarni said.

Telegraph

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