Henglep village is located in North Tehsil of Churachandpur district in Manipur. It is situated 80km away from district headquarter Churachandpur North. The majority of the population in the district comprises tribal communities which have their own distinct culture and tradition. More recently Zo tribes, Meiteis and Meitei-Pangans have started settling in the district. There are narrow footpaths between villages which could accommodate a person, not even two. Some footpaths are on the edges and ridges of high cliffs. The plights of the people are added during the wet season when tall grasses in the forest seal all these footpaths. Modern scientific facilities are virtually absent in this village. The area is debarred from modern developments and its allied activities.
Now change is in the air due to CSC VLE S. Sonminlal Haokip. The VLE is a banking correspondent in Henglep village, Manipur. He provides banking services in remote and hilly areas in Churachandpur, where these services are quite inaccessible. With his Customer Service Point (CSP), he serves people from his village, as well as several other villages in a 15 km radius.
Until one year ago, people in the remote corners of this village had to travel long distances over the hillsides to do simple banking transactions. When they did reach a bank, it was usually overcrowded and understaffed. This made it difficult for rural folk, unfamiliar with formal financial systems to deposit or withdraw money, let alone borrow to meet their needs.
The VLE says, “The services I provide range from withdrawals and deposits of money, to filling forms to open new savings accounts. While there is a bank not too far from here, people from the community find the processes slow and complicated and the bank officials unhelpful, and so they come to me. My CSC also helps people access government schemes such as old-age or widow pension. Together, we help the community with all their banking needs.
I usually facilitate about 300-350 transactions in a month, for which I earn a commission. People are still scared to travel to a different village; their habits have changed as well.”
A group of daily-wage workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) come to VLE for help. It was recently announced that all pending wages under the MGNREGA will be cleared, and they want to know how to access this money. The VLE contacted the Social Welfare Department in the Churachandpur district headquarters to find out more about this. The officials there ask him whether the workers’ bank accounts are still active, because wages will only come to the active accounts. Due to inactivity for the past few months, some accounts have become inactive. To find out which accounts are active, VLE deposited Rs 10 in 20-25 daily-wage workers’ accounts out of his own pocket. He sent the list of active accounts to the Social Welfare Department, so that money can be transferred to them, and shares the list of inactive accounts with the village head, which can help them access the money.
The CSC has benefitted local communities and given SHG members a new livelihood opportunity in Churachandpur. Since the women know the local people well and engage with them on a regular basis, they help the bankers recover their dues, giving them the much-needed confidence to lend to SHGs. As a result, women’s groups are now taking loans to set up or expand small businesses, be it dairy farming, or bakery.
The VLE has been instrumental in enrolling thousands of beneficiaries under Henglep Sub-Division, Churachandpur for Ayushman Bharat Health Cards. The status of the health care system in the district is in a miserable state. Access to health services in this region become difficult due to problems in physical accessibility due to the difficult terrain. The VLE’s recent efforts in emergency preparation of Health Card for hospitalised patients at Imphal – that too without charging a single penny, has brought the credentials of CSC Churachandpur into new height as people acknowledged the importance of CSC in delivering healthcare services.
Moreover, the Enumeration of the 7th National Economic Census for the Henglep Block was done by the supervision of VLE Sonminlal alone. He is also one of the VLEs who went to Pherzawl District to conduct the 7th National Economic Census whilst also providing the benefits and entities provided by the Government to the villagers.
Today, the fulcrum of community development in remote villages of Churachandpur district in Manipur revolves around the initiatives through CSC. It has become an instrument for community development and its reach has extended to multiple communities. The VLE Sonminlal Haokip has been transforming the lives of villagers in these areas by improving the living standards and supports them for self dependent citizenry.