Sitting across the window he was briskly updating the ledger. A boy with 50rs in his hand and dressed in a crumpled shirt, twice his size waited for his turn.
Thus establishing his identity, Mehfooz,the 14 year old manager, drew out the accounts book as big as his torso and deposited his money dutifully and waited on for the next customer in India’s most unusual financial institution owned and managed by street and working children across the capital.
The Children’s Development Khazana or Bal Vikas Bank as it is known in India is a logical evolution of BUTTERFLIES saving and credit union scheme that works on banking and cooperative principles. Run almost entirely by the youths, a bare-bones bank sponsored by a charity,it offers a place to stash meager earnings and learn about saving and planning.
Dr. Suman Sachdev, the development manager for CDK in butterflies tells us more about it.
( As told to Aahana Dhar)
DU Beat:How did the concept of this venture come into play?
Dr Suman: In April 2001, the National Foundation for India invited four NGOs based in Delhi to initiate a youth bank as a pilot project based on Youth Bank already operating in the UK facilitated by CIVA with funds from the Ford Foundation. Butterflies children had been running their own credit union since July 1995 and wanted to run their bank differently. They wanted it to be a children’s bank and to run it as a co-operative. They wanted to save, earn interest and be able to take a loan at nominal interest. The first centre was set up in fatehpuri with the help of Ford Foundation and NFI in new delhi and now we have centres acroos the globe from chennai, kolkata to south and central asia.
DU Beat:So how does Butterflies operate in synchrionising so many centres across india?
Dr. Suman:Well, Butterflies is the international secretariat for CBK. It provides the technical support to other NGOs like organising training workshops,monitering programme and publishing advovacy materials and manuals fer setting up CDK and buisness enterprise.
So all in all, we train them to start one. Each of these banks is established on the basis of a signed Memorandum of Partnership between the Secretariat and the concerned NGO with them obeying our rules and regulations. They report to us monthly about the project
DU Beat: How do you operate this bank? I mean considering majority of children range up to the age of 17, how do you decide who is able enough?
Dr Suman: There is no age to learn (smiling). We don’t select a representative, the children do. There is a council body which elects the representative themselves and we just obey!!! There is a child manager, assistant manager and promoter amongst them. The aim of the above stated is that everybody gets a chance to experience responsibility and decision making. Being the representative, they become more conscious of their conduct and in the process learn the skills of management and banking thus prioritizing their needs. To make them realize it with first hand we change the representative every six months so that everybody has a chance.
DU Beat: Is there any limit to what they can deposit? And how do you think it’s benefiting them?
Dr.Suman: How do you suppose we can put the restriction on a certain amount when what they are earning per day is so meager! They can deposit anything starting from 1re. How much they save is not important. It’s the habit of saving and not spending their money on sniffing glue, smoking, watching the same movie again and again.its a life skill to ensure sustainibility and to develop livelyhoods.We help them start their own enterprise Creating funds that are available to street and working children, many of whom have no identify card or birth certificate or address, and cannot get credit for setting up a business activity from existing sources. We provide them loans for setting up a tea stall if they want but they need to have a certain amount in their account on a regular basis. We give them soft loans without any interest to buy clothes, tickets and books. Its about making them self sufficient and secure their future.
From what I have read you have changed the name from child development bank to child development Khazana .Why?
Actually, RBI approached us and asked that if we were functioning as a bank then we had to resort to the national rules of banking in India, which meant that we had to charge a certain rate of interest and everything. We couldn’t do that. Ours is not a conventional bank, its meant to empower the children. And as suggested by one of the officials of the RBI we changed the name to Khazana. Children feel secure about the fact that their money is not stolen, blown away or picked after a long hard day of serving drinks and washing glasses at a party or rag picking. We have to realize that it is the most vulnerable part of the society and they need all the assistance they can get.