While Digital Bharat has promised last-mile connectivity, the interiors of the north Indian heartland continue to struggle with multiple challenges. Logistical issues such as the lack of consistently high-speed internet bandwidth and deeper socio-cultural ones such as the barriers to access due to caste and gender continue to plague these geographies. The effect of the above is felt most keenly in the lives and livelihoods of those who live and work at the peripheries of our democracy. How has technology really improved the access to finance and other welfare services for these citizens of our country? Has it revolutionised access or merely become one more bureaucratic obstruction to smooth delivery of governance or entitlements for the rural poor?
In this collaborative video series, the Future of Finance Initiative at Dvara Research has supported Khabar Lahariya, the award-winning rural digital journalism platform run by women in the media-dark hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) to understand how individuals in rural households are managing their financial lives at a time of great uncertainty. With a focus on the rural and small-town geographies of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, this collaboration attempts to map consumer journeys in finance: from understanding people’s needs, and the realities of access and redress in finance amongst the different communities identified in Uttar Pradesh. These stories of evidence will also unpack how gender, caste and income levels impact the access for various groups, examining the structural barriers often sustained by socio-cultural practices and mindsets.
Interacting directly with members of their communities, Khabar Lahariya’s journalists identify the technological and systemic failures up-close and understand the structural nuances that make them possible. While there are several state-led programmes for cash transfers, digital banking, procurement of seeds and fertilisers from farmer credit schemes, labour welfare entitlements in these regions, in this series we try to understand how these schemes really play out on the field, and who the end beneficiary really is.
In this first video of a six-part series, we follow tribal women in the town of Manikpur, Uttar Pradesh who are managing the shocks to their income due to the COVID-19-induced national lockdowns. The closure of railway services during the lockdown has directly affected their earnings, as they take these trains to sell the wood that they collect to various nearby towns and use that money to finance household expenditure. How have they experienced the recent months? How have they managed the shocks to their household finances? Have they been able to access state support to tide over these difficult times? Some answers, and many questions are raised from our first video in the series…
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