Twenty-four months have elapsed but hardly five per cent of the 141 wards have been brought under the centrally-funded Thrift and Credit Fund Scheme for poor women in the city. The blame for the slow motion lies with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) board.
The essence of the scheme is to encourage women in families below the poverty line to manage their finances better after taking their token contributions and providing them with a matching grant under the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojana.
“I don’t understand why no steps have been taken by the slum improvement department to popularise and publicise the scheme among councillors and the poor,” said member, mayor-in-council, Javed Ahmed Khan, after assuming charge of the slum improvement department of the CMC.
The wards brought under the scheme till now are 13, 28, 32, 38, 58, 59, 122, 127 and 128. All nine are manned by CPM councillors.
The slum improvement department has now decided to launch a vigorous campaign among the councillors and poor women living in the slum areas about the existence of the scheme.
Under the scheme, women living below the poverty line (BPL) are organised into groups. If each member of a 10-woman group contributes a rupee daily, the accumulated sum of Rs 3,650 in a year will be deposited in a bank and the CMC, under the Swarna Jyoti scheme, will deposit a matching amount in the account.
A member of a group is entitled to loan facilities up to 75 per cent of the deposited amount, at two per cent rate of interest. According to Khan, Rs 11 lakh has so far been disbursed as matching grants.
Councillors will now be requested to form more neighbourhood committees in the slum areas. So far, 48 such committees have been formed. Civic records reveal how leader of the opposition in the CMC board, Nirmal Mukherjee, tops the list in terms of popular involvement in his ward 127, where 1,000 women have deposited Rs 8 lakh and the CMC has disbursed a matching amount.
“A zeal to work for the poor is the basic condition for the success of such a scheme. Since the Trinamul Congress is generally apathetic to the sufferings of the poor, former mayor-in-council member Pradip Ghosh did not care to make the councillors aware of the scheme,” observed Mukherjee.