Microfinance have come a long way in meeting the financial needs of the poor. We are witnessing a transformation of micro-finance as a growth industry. More and more women are mobilized into SHGs all over the country. They are further mobilized into higher order federations. Bank linkages are growing rapidly. Some banks have started to offer cash credit lines of Rs. 5 lakh per group. Credit Cards to farmers, weavers etc. are not uncommon now. While a lot more poor still need to be reached out with access to microfinance services, and some more services can be loaded onto microfinance bandwagoan, many poor and their organizations are struggling to find ideas to invest the funds in remunerative activities. The problem moves form the lack of funds to the lack of ideas to invest the funds. The sector moves from the microfinance to microfinance plus all across. Each one is exploring the ‘plus’. The ‘plus’ may include insurance, loans and repayments in kind, food loans, businesses by the groups and federations themselves, public services for fee etc.
Vast majority of the poor have to become partners in the high growth of the country. The issue is how we take some poor out of the existing traditional activities so that the remaining poor have better returns. What kind of vocations we can think of offering to them so that they come out and prosper? The situation at migration is not ‘great’. How do we ensure that minimum wages come to workers? How do we address the issue of education and literacy on which the long-term solution to the poverty lies? How do we ensure that the poor have access to public services like health which form the most of the family’s expenditure? We still have lot of gender disparities to cope with and address. Civil Society efforts are, at best, weak.
MFIs are spreading across the country. SHG movement is growing rapidly. The proble of access to finance is being addressed. The need for the Govt. and the civil society is to move into livelihoods domain. These efforts require large number of human resources at the community level, grass-root and at higher levels- paraprofessionals, professionals and volunteers, with passion, commitment and best brains. The poor need to have a hope for better life and this support can give that hope. Further policy support in terms of institutional framework like Mutually Aided cooperative Societies’ Act, increased research into areas of livelihoods of the poor like dry land agriculture, minimum support prices for all products of the poor, ensuring minimum wages for all workers, risk covers for a wide variety of livelihoods of the poor etc. are important.