Many villages in Maharashtra like Sakhar, Chirmuli, Kodavali, Bhajgar, Tonde, Velhe and Bhor etc have bare minimal access to banks as the people have to travel a lot to go to the nearest branch. And Bhor and Velhe are so inaccessible that even public transport doesn’t go to these villages. With these problems, demonetization came like a huge blow to these villagers with no other solution but to travel all the distance and stand in bank queues, that too, with no guarantee whether cash will be given by the time the villagers reach the officials.

However, these villages have a few Self-Help Groups that basically collected some amount of money from the women every month. Having money, but in 500s, the coordinators of these groups thought of taking their discontinued currency with their contact details and information and exchange them with members who had already changed their money.

“These women hailed from very tiny, remote villages and did not have much money to exchange. They had just one or two-three notes of Rs 500. So we advised them to not waste their time standing in bank queues and asked them to hand over their discontinued currency with details of their names to us. The members, who had already exchanged notes, took old notes from these women and gave them their new ones. The old notes were later added to the collection of SHGs and deposited in the bank,” said Bharati Khasbage to Indian Express.

Khasbage is the coordinator of 100 SHGs, spread across villages like Ambavane, Khopi, Sivare, Sasurdi, Nasrapur and Nidan-Sangvi, with at least 20 members in each group. It was difficult for those 10% members having accounts in Pune District Central Cooperative (PDCC) to exchange notes. So those members were helped by other members who have accounts in nationalised banks in the money exchange process.

There are in total 82 PDCC branches in the 400 villages of Pune. Of the 34,648 SHGs working in these villages, 32,099 are women SHGs.

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“The PDCC banks give lesser interest on accounts as compared to nationalised banks and it was difficult to get loans from PDCCs. Besides, their officials would not cooperate for transactions. Hence, almost all of us opened accounts with other banks. Those who didn’t, were affected by RBI’s move that debarred District Central Cooperatives (DCC) from accepting demonetised currency notes. That’s why we are helping them. Women who had borrowed money from the SHGs were also asked to pay back with old notes (whatever amount they had),” said Bharati Kamathe, who has 25 SHGs under her. She added that in the last few years, many members in the groups have opened accounts in nationalised banks.

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