It took us a few hours of twists and turns on our way to the Jaikot branch of Sahastradhara KGFS, where I had planned to spend two days. Jaikot is a small village of approximately 150 households.
There was a wedding in the village so it was great to see villagers from the same & neighboring villages gather to celebrate the event. Many seemed to be involved in various preparations of Pahari delicacies. Our JLG customers were obviously part of the celebrations too. My host, Budhi Singh, a farmer by profession, and I sat and talked at length about our lives over fresh milk and rusks.
Budhi Singh, and the other villagers kept wondering as to why have we taken so much pain to come to their village and I could sense that they had a never-ending suspicion about being cheated by a financial company. It took me a while to make him and the ones who had gathered to understand that we are here to provide them all they want in terms of financial services. What seemed to worry them the most was the consequence of not repaying – ‘What are the penalties you levy?’
On a personal front their problems revolved around water. They felt that water scarcity in the area is their major problem; they can see Bhagirathi flowing down and in spite of one of Asia’s highest dam, The Tehri Dam, in the vicinity, they do not have enough to irrigate. As fields are drying and farming not giving enough revenues they are forced to migrate to Rishikesh, Delhi, Chandigarh and work as waiters and cooks. There is the NREG scheme to build canals but they say what is the point having a canal when there is no water!
Later, shadowy charms of the night and rejuvenating freshness of the morning made me wonder how can one leave this place for the polluted towns.
I also met Basanti Devi, an Ex- Pradhan of the village, our JLG member and also an MMMF account holder. She took the loan to purchase a buffalo while her other group members took it for the repayment of their previous loan, purchase of cattle and house repair. While Basanti is content with her life, her neighbor’s daughter seemed to be more progressive and was keen to know how we can facilitate her in opening a small tailoring shop.
The JLG customers seemed to be very happy about the transparency at our branch – “They do what they say”, the best thing they thought was the opportunity to have a next cycle of loan.
While it is a good start, there is still bit of apprehension amongst people that we need to win over, which I feel our sustained efforts towards building trust among the locals should address.
Sanjesh Salaria, IT Manger, Sahastradhara KGFS contributed to this post.