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SHGs played stellar role in managing COVID pandemic; need to upgrade SHGs to micro-entrepreneurs: Economic Survey

Published: Jan 31, 2023

By TIOLCorplaws News Service

NEW DELHI, JAN 31, 2023: THE years of pestilence acted as an opportunity towards mobilising Self Help Group (SHG) women to unite, transcend their group identity and collectively contribute to crisis management. They emerged as pivotal players in crisis management, leading from the front in - producing masks (with cultural variants such as Gamusa Masks in Assam), sanitisers, and 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), notes the Economic Survey 2022-23. Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the Economic Survey in Parliament today.

 The Survey observes that the production of masks by SHGs has been a noteworthy contribution, enabling access to and use of masks by communities in remote rural areas and providing vital protection against the Covid-19 virus. As on 4 January 2023, more than 16.9 crore masks were produced by SHGs under DAY-NRLM.

Government's Covid-19 Package for SHGs

Under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), the limit for collateral-free loans for women's SHGs was doubled from Rs.10 lakh to  Rs.20 lakh. This is expected to benefit 63 lakh women SHGs and 6.85 crore households.

National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) allowed for an additional Vulnerability Reduction Fund of  Rs. 1.5 lakh to be extended to Village Organisations (VOs) in Covid hotspot areas and for vulnerable groups.

Way forward

SHGs are well-placed to facilitate overall rural development owing to their access to the last mile, ability to draw on communities' trust and solidarity, knowledge of local dynamics, and ability to swiftly manufacture simple products and services through the aggregation of members' economic activities. The Pre-budget Survey recommends that the demonstration of their resilience and flexibility during crises, including Covid, needs to be thus regularised for long-run rural transformation. This includes, among other things, addressing 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.