By Anshuman Didwania
Amidst the splintered self-help groups, crippling bureaucracy and scattered will of Uluberia, the Bagnan-1 Mahila Bikash Cooperative Credit Society (BMBCCS) is an oasis. Spanning nearly 82 villages over an area of 75 square kilometers with more than 23,250 members and 1,120 self-help group participants, the BMBCCS is a remarkably efficient, self-sustaining enterprise, with roots deep in its philosophy of “all for one and one for all”.
The BMBCCS, a female-only cooperative (a couple of male employees/advisors are an exception), manages over Rs 11.62 crores in its savings programs, having disbursed nearly Rs 8.41 crores through personal loans in 2011-12. However, what is truly astonishing is the repayment rate of the loans: over 98.5%. With remarkably efficient cost allocations, the BMBCCS projects complete financial self-sustainability for itself, which in turn has allowed it to touch the lives of the residents of Bagnan-1 in more ways than one. Today, the organization facilitates education initiatives through its Sishuniketan and Path Kendra programs, organizes sanitation and family welfare planning drives, fosters female participation in the Panchayat Raj and even promotes best practices for local entrepreneurs.
Computerized Banking: BMBCCS has assiduously embraced technology to enable transparency
What started out in 1993 by the charismatic leader of BMBCCS, Mrs. Madhuri Ghosh, as an initiative to empower rural women by helping them attain basic literacy, slowly but steadily grew into the intricate network that it is today. Steadfast in its belief of self-sustenance, the organization has managed to grow at a tremendous rate without any external credit fund infusion. “We believe in trusting ourselves with our own responsibilities, our own fortunes, and our own fate” says Mrs. Ghosh, when asked about the magnitude of the complexities that face an organization as large as hers. Yet, walking around the facility, one realizes that here in Bagnan-1, the juxtaposition of necessity and hope, guided by the iron-will of Mrs. Ghosh, has given rise to innovation that is missing elsewhere in Uluberia. BMBCCS has been quick to embrace technology to integrate its service delivery systems, diversify its offerings to meet local needs, facilitate easier communication amongst its members through regular meetings and instill an infectious sense of responsibility.
The Catalyst of Change: Mrs. Madhuri Ghosh at the BMBCCS HQ in Bangalpur
Clad in their signature green saris, the members of the Bagnan-1 Mahila Bikash Cooperative Credit Society are the silent engines of development in Bagnan-1. Like Mrs. Chaya Ghanti, who has come from living in below poverty conditions to sponsoring her brother’s education and building a pakka house from scratch, thanks to the unwavering support of the society. Or Mrs. Jhumpa Jati, who used BMBCCS loans to establish a successful tailoring venture which now helps her support her ageing parents. Each of them has a different story to tell, a different hardship to overcome, a different picture to paint for their future. What remains constant is their fortitude and trust in BMBCCS’ ecosystem. With their help, we aim to help establish similar cooperative credit societies in Udaynarayanpur and Shyampur over the next month. The objectives remain the same, the family grows larger.