Debt Swapping Scheme in rural areas

8 Jun 2008, TNN

CHANDIGARH: “Debt swapping” is the latest mantra of Punjab cooperation ministry to provide relief to debt-ridden rural families. Under the scheme, people, especially women, can take money to repay loan to banks or moneylenders from government at a lower interest rate. Rs 9 crore have already been transferred under the scheme to 2,500 self help groups operating in various villages of Punjab.

Disclosing this during a workshop held here on Saturday, Kanwaljit Singh, state cooperation minister, said, “The scheme provides loans to women who had taken advances on high rate of interest from private money lenders and others. It would be implemented under ‘Mai Bhago’ women empowerment scheme.”

Stating that the government has decided to go for a full-fledged campaign for women empowerment at village level, Kanwaljit Singh said that under the scheme, launched six months back, 2,500 societies had been formed at village level. There are 91,959 women members out of which 4,659 members have been advanced loans for making them self-reliant and generate their own incomes, he said.

A credit limit of Rs 2 lakh has been fixed for each society and they would advance loans to its members. Money thus advanced by coop societies would be refinanced by cooperative banks for maintaining their cash reserve, the minister said.

Taking a hint from their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, the minister added, “The scheme would have an organizational face. Officers of cooperative department would govern it in the first phase, but gradually its leadership would be handed over to progressive women, who would get a fixed amount as allowance, from the society itself.” This would help reduce unemployment on a large scale, he said.

The minister also said that Punjab government, in association with Andhra Pradesh government, will ensure effective implementation of this rural-level women empowerment scheme. Vijay Kumar, heading the department of rural development which successfully implemented the self help scheme in Andhra Pradesh, was present at the workshop and suggested measures to Punjab.