Divyangs are at increased risk in the COVID- pandemic due to the need for close contact with service providers, as well as an increased risk of infection and complications due to underlying health conditions and socioeconomic inequalities, including poor access to services and health care. Persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities are at risk of being deprioritised or denied access to basic financial services based on the assumption that their chances of survival are less compared to those without disabilities. This would be considered a violation of basic human rights. Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, around 3 crore Divyang in India are experiencing greater difficulty accessing vital services and opportunities in education and employment. But with 4 lakh CSC VLEs’ disability-informed approach in Rural India, Divyangs are at minimise risk of being further left behind and falling into poverty.
In Majorganj block of Sitamarhi district in Bihar, CSC Banking has outshined as a critical tool in establishing a connection between Divyang and their banks. VLE Keshav Kumar Jha made it possible for people to fulfil their monetary needs while providing access to banking services at doorsteps.
Financial inclusion is one of the primary issues in this area along with sub-standard transport facilities. People have to travel long distances to reach the main bank branch in order to withdraw and deposit money. It was further a task for Divyang and old age persons to get their pensions on a monthly basis. It was not possible for them to hire a personal vehicle and more often than not they would be unable to find anyone for assistance. Keshav and his team are working tirelessly in the direction of bridging these gaps and towards making Divyangs in villages financially independent. The VLE has taken countless steps in order to engage and empower citizens; regular awareness camps are set up in the district to impart knowledge on the benefits of the various CSC services.
VLE says, “Divyangs in remote villages are among excluded groups in our society. They often find it tough to access services, education, or employment opportunities. As a result, they are less likely to participate in the economy, which in turn drives them to poverty.”
MCA graduate Keshav adds, “I started working as a CSC Banking correspondent in November 2019 with ICICI Bank. First few months went in understanding the scope of operations under the banking vertical. I started with providing monthly pension to old age and disabled people of the village. One person from the team was dedicated for this job who went from one home to another to assist people with disabilities. It gives us immense satisfaction and blessings from elderly while providing them CSC services.”
Several services are available at the CSC run by Keshav. For instance, customers can deposit money, withdraw money, check account balance, open new accounts, apply for loans, open fixed deposits, recurring deposits etc. With qualifications from IIBF, Keshav’s CSC is equipped to offer opening of new bank accounts ranging from savings, farmers, current to business accounts.
300 accounts have been opened at the CSC under HDFC Bank where Keshav works as a Business facilitator. Customers no longer have to travel an overtaxing distance to reach the main branch. One of the biggest benefits of CSC is its availability; the centre is even open on holidays when banks are shut allowing customers to take full advantage of all banking services.
Apart from banking, Keshav has done a commendable amount of work in the vertical of Digital Education. VLE says, “Challenges emerging from the pandemic include poor care home settings, increased domestic violence and discrimination in social environments, which can include access to information. The digital divide makes learning difficult for Divyangs, especially those already living below the poverty line.”
290 enrolments have been done under PMGDisha scheme especially Divyangs. Students have successfully completed other courses such as Diploma and Advance Diploma in computer application in addition to over 200 registrations for the Tally software. One of the beneficiaries named Rajeev Ranjan Mishra from Muzaffarnagar now works as a technical support engineer at a reputed firm after getting digitally literate through CSC. Beneficiary Radhe Lal who is running a Cyber Cafe in Majorganj, says, “For the first time, the world has experienced self-isolation. Being a wheelchair user myself since my childhood, I understand feelings. Let’s be more kind and be more accepting towards one another. Now is the time to be more kind for Divyangs in villages. CSC has presented an opportunity to reimagine disability inclusion.”
In Keshav’s words, “I am really grateful to CSC for setting a firm platform wherein we could build a strong business. I started with just 2 laptops in early 2017. In the present day, we have proudly expanded our work and have added 2 more laptops, 2 printers and a biometric device at the centre. My inclination towards internet and computers acted as a catalyst in my entrepreneurial journey. I try to resolve issues faced by other VLEs in my village and also encourage youngsters to work independently. A business that began with mobile bill payment and recharge now has over 50 services to offer. I intend to add many more services in the coming times so that people can be benefitted.”