Twelve-year-old Reshma Praveen is a resident of the Lal Kothi urban slum in Patna, Bihar. She lives in a one-room hut with her mother, father and four siblings. Life for her family is difficult, as her father is the sole earning member, making ends meet as a rickshaw puller. Most other families in the slum also live in similar conditions. As far as the eye can see, the houses are all dilapidated and extremely small, with no or very limited sunlight coming in.
While the aspiration of most children her age was to start earning an income as soon as possible, often taking up the occupation of the elders in the household, Reshma’s focus was on getting her schoolbooks, uniform and being able to continue her education. Life was never easy for Reshma. Money was always limited as her father struggled to make ends meet, bringing up Reshma and her siblings.
Reshma often worried that given the limited resources at home, she may have had to drop out of school. She knew that her parents could not continue to afford the recurrent expenses for her uniform and school materials. From her school she learnt that the government supports students like her with educational stipends. However, in order to receive the stipend, Reshma would need to open a bank account. She had no idea how to do this and had never visited a bank in her life.
In spite of losing a day’s wage, Reshma’s father, after much persuasion, went with Reshma to the nearest bank. However, her father was unable to manage the minimum balance required to open an account. Having thought that a bank account was going to be the end of all her obstacles to continue her studies, Reshma was shattered that her family could not open a bank account.
In 2015, the Aga Khan Foundation in India had commenced a programme in the urban city councils of Danapur, Khagaul and Phulwarisharief in Patna, working with government-mandated Common Service Centres on facilitating access to government schemes and entitlements and building community knowledge on how to access these schemes. A key project activity was door-to-door campaigns and community meetings providing basic information on how to avail of government entitlements.
Reshma approached the AKF team during one such community meeting. Following a discussion with her, the project team facilitated a camp in Reshma’s school ensuring information about the government’s Jan Dhan Yojana. The Foundation linked the school to the nearest Common Service Centre and a bank-authorised Customer Service Point was introduced to the school to help students with the necessary documentation. Subsequent to that, camps for opening student bank accounts were organised at the school where students registered themselves in batches. Zero balance accounts were opened for the students. Within a couple of working days, they could all operate their own bank accounts. The students are thankful to Reshma, whom they credit for bringing the scheme to their school, while she expresses her gratitude towards the AKF team on the ground.
Recently while interacting with one of our team members she happily shared, “I have received enough money from the government to take care of my school expenses. I have bought my textbooks, a school bag and new slippers too. Even after all this, I have managed a saving of 500 rupees which I will use to buy more books in the future.”