Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beginning of an unforgettable experience

As a part of my summer internship I am suppose to do a survey of the slums in Mumbai. The survey is to find out extent of Financial Inclusion in Slums of Mumbai. Financial inclusion is defined as, "The process of ensuring access to financial services and timely and adequate credit where needed by vulnerable groups such as weaker sections and low income groups at an affordable cost."
Much has been done for the rural poor – not that the life of the rural poor is significantly better now, but at least at the level of policy making, there are a host of policies framed keeping the rural poor in mind. Since I am doing my summer at the central bank of India (RBI), I do not have much exposure to the implementation of such policies thus I limit my self here at the policy making stage.
Facilities like-
Business Correspondent (BC) -where bank send officials to provide banking services at the footsteps of the rural poor , such officials are BC's and they provide a host of services to the poor, ranging from Savings ( both deposit and withdrawal) , filling up forms of opening a bank account or applying for a loan . This has helped the rural poor to a great extend as now he need not travel to the bank branch.
Smart card - These are bio metric cards given to the rural poor, these are equivalents of ATM's, the difference being the access is not through a pin code but through finger print and which can be used through BC's.
There are a lot many such options available to the rural poor, however the urban poor has been neglected since a long time, the only privilege he has got is "No frills account" which RBI had asked all the bank branches to compulsorily open. These account have minimum balance in the range of INR 0- 500, also the host of documents required to open savings account( ID proof, Address proof,etc) are relaxed , thus encouraging the urban poor to open a savings account . Yet the urban poor are deprived of the basic access to formal credit and saving account.

My project is with respect to the urban poor, I am suppose to find out why is it that the urban poor are still financial excluded.
Last 2 weeks have been spend on identifying the slums where I would conduct the survey, and framing the questionnaire and finally today am going to begin my survey.

The slums identified are –

Chamunda nagar – Slum consisting of roughly 125 families, in Bhandup. People leaving here work mostly as maids, sweepers and daily workers. .

Ganesh Nagar – a slum located at Borivali, consisting of 175 families , and the most developed slum among the 3 that I have chosen ( By developed I mean, few men in these slums speak correct English and are working in banks, yet there are also house maids and sweepers living as their neighbours )

Pathadwadi – A slum located at Byculla, these are mostly pavement dwellers , and this slum is one among 8 slums located at the same place . These are mostly daily workers.

These 3 slums are chosen as it covers the 3 corners of Mumbai.

Bhandup being at North East Mumbai.
Borivali being at North West Mumbai
Byculla being at South Mumbai.

I have had a few visits to slums last week for identifying the slums for the survey, and the experience was unique in its own kind.It pains to see that 49% of Mumbai lives in the places called slum ( All India Average being 15%- That is 15% of the urban India lives in slums ) .

Yesterday I had gone to a slum named Sudan jhopri, it's in Colaba . For those who are not familiar with Mumbai, colaba is a posh area in south Mumbai .On my way to the jhopri I had to walk though colaba market, it is a place where one can see more foreigners than Indians, who come there to buy Indian jewellery, antique decorative items , Cloths with Gods/Goddesses printed on them and more of these .
There was a at least a dozed Brand outlets there in the same road, and ironically hardly 5 min walk from such a place is Sudam Jhopri where people live in make shift huts, and the few who are lucky to have a House made of Bricks share it with a dozen others making the huts look more spacious. As I walked in , and started speaking to a man in his 40's , the first question he asked me was " Mujhe kya faeda hoga" , he was asking me if he agrees to answer my question how would he be benefited, it took me a good 10 min to explain things to him . But isn't this what all of us think always – " our benefit" .

Inside I was spoke to 7 people in total, and Few myths which were there in my mind were broken few of them being

I always thought that since the urban poor do not have any Identification proof they are unable to open a savings account, but the fact is that they all had Ration cards ( which is accepted by banks as a proof to open "no frills account") , and out of these 7 people only 2 had a bank account .

I was told that the poor were denied access to credit , but I realized that they did not want credit, :) they prefer living with what little they had than taking credit, out of these 7 only 1 man had taken credit that too, to repair his house .

Those who did have a bank account were not aware of basic facilities like ATM, and those who did , were not given ATM's by the bank . Later when I did visit a bank ,I realized that though the bank claims that the "no frill account" holders can avail of ATM's , but it was given to them only if they requested for it. I wander how they expected the urban poor to know the usage and benefits of ATM .


These findings were based only on 1 visit. So PLEASE do not jump to any conclusion.
Once my survey is done I would share my experience and the findings in the blog space.
I am really looking forward the survey today, I am visiting Byculla today. I will share my experience of the survey soon.

9 comments:

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Some interesting facts! Thanks for sharing and also for embarking upon what I see to be a very noble cause, in many ways!

Komal Ali said...

I could really picture the other side of Mumbai now. Very interesting :)

Waiting for your next post!

Arnav said...

@Rakesh,Komal-
Thanks for the visit,
I did visit 2 slums and going to visit the 3rd soon, some very interesting experiece some heart breaking stories ... will write about them soon...

Pallav said...

thts so intersting..
i m looking fwd to know more abt mumbai

hey how things r shaping for summer training
hope all is welll..
All the best..

Pallav

Arnav said...

@Pallav
Summer Training is going good, loads to learn here...
Yup things are great :)
Would soon write about the experience I had when I visited the slums - one incident was scary, while the other left me wandering why is it that some people are born at these slum , while others are born at luxurious homes

Mahesh Sindbandge said...

Well first of all, bahut kuch sikhne ko mil raha hai tumhe..

I am happy for that..:)

Interesting facts.. i wonder why madhur bhandarkar is not making a movie on this...

Its always good to know the truth by self than hearing from people..:)

dizzy said...

with u being so sensitive to societal issues...i sometimes wonder if mba is the right pick for you...i'v also visited some slums in delhi and taken interviews...its difficult to forget them.
with this kind of work, u'l be learning a lot more than what RBI has to offer to you.

Arnav said...

2 dizzy..
well i some times ask myself the same question :)
and u r right it s very difficult to forget them...

Arnav said...

@Mahesh..
True. the experience is something which would linger with me for a long time..