About 15 self-help groups (SHGs) have been operating for the past ten years in Pindri panchayat of Bahadurpur block in Darbhanga district. They are registered through NGOs and received funding from the government at the time of the registration. The women in these groups are from the Party base, as this is an area where the Party works intensively. For 6 years these groups had been very active, with active participation by the members. The group held weekly meetings, and members used to avail of loans from the SHGs. The women found these loans simpler to avail of, and moreover more affordable when compared to loans from local moneylenders. Participation of women in this process was on the increase, and they deposited their share in the group account even if they had to borrow money for doing so. In recent years, the government has made a change in the structure and monitoring arrangements of these self-help groups. A state level organization ‘Jivika’ has been formed, which works as a governmental NGO and through which the self-help groups are sought to be organized and run in a new form. And now, each group has received a bank notice informing them that they should deposit the loan amount, otherwise there would be a legal case registered against them.
Worried by this notice, the women in the groups brought their problem to the Party. They were eager to start an agitation against the SHG coordinators and the bank. A special meeting of the self-help group women was called at Manth Chhaprar. AIPWA state secretary Shashi Yadav, Party block secretary Abhishek Kumar, panchayat chief Jangi Yadav, and other comrades took part in the meeting. 120 women from about 15 groups took part in the meeting. The women have altogether deposited about Rs 88000 in the bank through their monthly savings, and now a debt of Rs 2. 50 lakhs was being shown against them. They had also received notices for repayment of loans. The women said that the group coordinator of the SHGs and the bank manager have connived together to take out loans in the name of the women’s group, and have shared the spoils between them.
After enquiring into the matter, the meeting decided on a plan of protracted agitation and also stressed the importance of legal action. The day after the meeting, the bank held a camp in that area, in which the women participated and gheraoed the bank manager. The bank manager assured the women that he would take up the matter with the higher authorities and would not file a certificate case as of now. After that, the women demonstrated in front of the Collectorate on 4 August 2014. About 250 women participated in the demonstration, demanding scrapping of the fraudulent loans and arrest of the scamster coordinators and bank manager. A memorandum was submitted to the Collector giving a 15-day ultimatum, at the end of which, if expected action is not taken, an indefinite agitation would be launched in front of the Collectorate. A vigilant and organized endeavour is required in this matter as there is a widespread attempt across the state to bring more and more women under the organization ‘Jivika’. In this situation, the CPI(ML) and associated organizations especially AIPWA and KHEMAS will take the initiatives to agitate across Bihar against this fraud in the days to come.