Country’s apex agriculture and rural development body, NABARD, is endeavouring hard to promote integrated rural development and secure prosperity in the villages of Kerala, Chief General Manager, NABARD (Kerala region), Ramesh Tenkil tells to Vishwas Dass of Elets News Network (ENN) and also shares the plethora of initiatives undertaken by NABARD to ensure rural folk’s livelihood
NABARD has transformed into a leading development financial institution. How do you see this transition?
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is a development bank which provides and regulate credit and other facilities for the promotion and development of agriculture, small-scale industries, cottage and village industries, handicrafts, other active rural crafts and allied economic activities in rural areas with a view to promote integrated rural development and securing prosperity of rural areas. In discharging its role as a facilitator for rural prosperity, con- NABARD is entrusted with matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural parts, promoting institutional development and evaluating, monitoring and inspecting the client banks.
The development bank also acts as a coordinator in the operations of rural credit institutions, extends assistance to the government, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and other organisations in matters relating to rural development, . It offers training and research facilities for rural development banks and cooperatives and helps the state governments in reaching their targets of providing assistance to eligible institutions in agriculture and rural development.
Banking in India has grown rapidly in the last two decades. In terms of technology, Indian banks have adopted latest technology for their operations and enhanced their standards of customer service. Besides such developments, a sizeable population especially in rural areas remain excluded from basic banking services. Also, the cooperative sector and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) which are at the forefront for providing banking services to the rural population was lagging behind on the IT platform. It was thus imperative for NABARD to step in to facilitate onboarding of Cooperative Banks onto Core Banking Solution (CBS) platform so that they can provide banking services to the needy people at their door step.
In order to address the issues of financial inclusion, two funds-Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF) for meeting developmental and promotional interventions and Financial Inclusion Technology Fund (FITF) to meet the cost of technology, were constituted by us. We act as an enabler on both demand side and supply side. On demand side, numerous financial literacy programmes, street plays, mass awareness through radio, banner on buses, trains and jingles in railway stations are conducted to create awareness about formal banking services, types of services, modes of access, documentation requirement, need for banking and financial services.
On supply side, NABARD has helped strengthening RRBs and District Cooperative banks by providing capacity building to the staff to make them aware of the requirements of rural people, facilitating Cooperative banks to on- board Core Banking Solution (CBS) platform, implement post CBS technologies such as RTGS/ NEFT, CTS, Internet/mobile banking, support for issuing RuPay Debit and Kisan Credit cards, establishing ATMs and micro ATMs as well as for setting up of Financial Literacy Centres (FLCs) for creating awareness among rural citizens.
What are the key financial inclusion and IT-related initiatives undertaken by NABARD in the recent years?
NABARD, Kerala Regional Office has initiated scores of financial inclusion initiatives like establishing FLCs for providing free financial counselling especially to marginalised people. The workshops are aimed at spreading awareness among people on importance of banking, process and docu- mentation involved, benefits of insurance and pension schemes especially government’s social security schemes, responsible credit, timely repayment, family budgeting, other income generation activity, support available from other government departments. Recently, Kottayam DCB has been awarded Best Performing Bank under the Cooperatives Bank Category for enroling maximum accounts under Atal Pension Yojana (APY).
To be specific, the financial literacy mass awareness programmes through community radio-“Thangum Thanalum” has bagged national award for sustainability 2013 and the Manthan Award South Asia and Asia Pacific 2012 jury’s special mention in community broadcasting category signifying the potential of such initiatives and their outcomes. Further, NABARD sponsored radio programmes through All India Radio (AIR) named “Shobhanam Gramajeevitham” and “Gramvikasanam NABARDiloode” have been garnering huge support and appreciation from all stakeholders. The programmes are in local language keep- ing in mind the connection with the people at grassroot level.
How NABARD’s awareness campaign on financial literacy is beneficial to the villagers?
We have been conducting street plays to create awareness on financial inclusion. Two such plays “Bango Bango” by “Thodupuzha Farmers Clubs” and “Anamika Pennorukkam” by High Range Development Society discuss about the various problems faced by men and women of the family due to financial exclusion and show ways to overcome them.
In addition, we have created jingles about financial inclusion which is broadcasted in various railway stations. Many banks informed that they had received queries on various topics after hearing these jingles in stations. The banks approached NABARD for utilising these jingles in their FLCs and in all meetings with SHGs/ JLGs /Farmers Clubs.
We have also introduced the concept of financial inclusion, banking, and rural development among school and college students by conducting quizzes and drawing competitions. Banks were also requested to customise a banking product for students to imbibe the habit and to encourage them to access banking and financial services. Importantly, Kozhikode and Wayanad DCBs have devel- oped customised banking products which have become an instant success with the student community.
For the purpose of technology adoption, mobile vans have been sanctioned to the Cooperative Banks and Kerala Gramin Bank for demonstrating various banking technologies such as the usage of RuPay Cards, micro ATMs and ATMs among the people where this kind of technology is very new or yet to reach them. Kozhikode DCB and Wayanad DCB have launched their mobile vans which has become a huge hit among people.
Along with creation of demand amongst the people, banks should also be ready to meet such huge demand. This can only happen when banks are technologically enabled and thus supply side also needs to be strengthened.
Kindly give us details of key IT initiatives undertaken by NABARD.
Some of the IT initiatives taken by NABARD are facilitation of on-boarding nine Co-operative Banks onto CBS plat- form in the state. The banks have progressed further by providing RTGS/NEFT, CTS, DBT, ATM and other services to their customers. All the banks have become members of NPCI. Most of the banks have issued RuPay Debit cards to their custom- ers, some are in the process of issuing cards shortly. Besides this, NABARD has also provided grant support to Kerala Gramin Bank and Cooperative Banks for issuance of RuPay debit cards, Kisan Credit Cards and installation of micro ATMs. A total of Rs. 2.65 crore and Rs. 1.39 crore has been sanctioned to Cooperative Banks and Kerala Gramin Bank for the purposes, respectively. We are also mulling to bring Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) onto CBS as well as onto the payment platform which in turn will help the customers of the PACS to use all the advanced IT services of a bank.
NABARD has been instrumental in grounding rural, social innovations and social enter- prises in the rural hinterlands. This endeavour is perhaps unparalleled in the country. It has in the process, partnered with about 4000 organisations in grounding many of the interventions, be it, SHG-Bank Linkage programme, tree-based tribal communities’ livelihoods initiative, watershed approach in soil and water conservation, increasing crop productivity initiatives through lead crop initiative or dis- semination of information flow to agrarian communities through farmer clubs.
Despite this, it pays huge taxes too, to the exchequer – figuring in the top 50 tax payers consistently. NABARD virtually ploughs back all the profits for development spending, in their unending search for solutions and answers. We have developed a huge amount of trust capital in three decades of work with rural communities and will continue to do so in the years to come.