At a conference organised to explore ways to enhance Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the backing of spiritual and religious leaders would embolden financial institutions to encourage more women entrepreneurship.
“When you have social, religious and spiritual leaders leading the self-help movement, banks find credible clients,” Nirmala said.
The finance minister was speaking on Wednesday during the inauguration of a four-day ceremony organised by the Shri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRP).
“Good institutions, good banks, NABARD and SIDBI together with dharmadhikaris can do miracles for our society,” Nirmala said, acknowledging Dharmadhikari of Dharmastala Veerendra Heggade, who was seated on the stage.
Heggade told the audience that his organisation had raised 4.75 lakh self-groups encompassing 42 lakh people and later signed an MoU with the Small Industries Bank of India to dole out Rs 100 crore in loans to SHGs at an interest rate of 10%.
These financial infusions, the finance minister explained, are intended to enhance the SHG model to create more women entrepreneurship.
But if the finance minister wanted to play up the Modi administration’s credentials when it came to fighting poverty, it was largely dashed by Dr Larry Reed, a senior fellow at RESULTS, a citizens’ advocacy group seeking to bring about legislation and policies that contribute to the elimination of extreme poverty around the world.
“Throwing money at the problem will not solve the problem. Instead, the poor have to be given roles involving leadership, which will prompt solutions to be generated by them,” Dr Reed said.