By Diksha Belwal, Rang De Team
My journey to Orissa started with excitement. I reached Chennai Egmore railway station as instructed by the travel agent. Only after reaching did I realize that my train was departing from Chennai Central (a few kilometers from Chennai Egmore). I got to know that at around 10:15pm and my train was scheduled to depart at 10:30pm. I rushed to Chennai Central and somehow managed to get into the train before it left the platform.
It was a good to start to my field work with meeting loan officers at Pragati, one of our field partners in Orissa. It was their review day and all of them were present at exactly10 O’clock in the morning. I explained to them about our Vocational training program which was a great experience. Their eagerness to learn more about the program set the ball rolling for a high powered interaction. After clarifying all their doubts, Basant Ji (CEO of Pragati) and the loan officers gave me a timeline to finish the process of finalizing the borrowers, visiting the gurukuls and sending us a final batch by the end of June.
Borrowers in Pragati, Orissa have found Rang De loans beneficial and would like higher loan amounts to scale their micro-enterprises.
Another purpose of visiting Pragati was to get a first hand experience of how far Rang De is able to create an impact on borrower’s life. I met several borrowers at their business locations. Some are into vegetable selling, some are running a tea stall but the most common thing I found was that most of the borrowers are into Pattachitra or betel leaf selling business. There are two villages Raghurajpur (famous for palm leaf craft called Pattachitra) and Chandanpur (famous for the betel leaf cultivation). They all are quite laborious and utilized the loan properly into their businesses. One could figure out the level of poverty there by the fact that a loan amount of Rs.5000 is really creating a positive change in borrower’s life. They were demanding a higher loan amount next time to scale up their enterprises.
Borrowers doing various businesses in parallel to supplement the income they earn by selling betel leaves.
Most of the people belong to Raghurajpur and are involved in Pattachitra work. They do not want to shift into any other business as they say it’s their traditional business which their ancestors were doing since ages. It is very time consuming and cumbersome work providing a meager income of Rs.1500–2500/month and therefore some of them have also started other parallel businesses like wick making or coconut selling to meet their family expenses.
It was totally a different experience altogether. Our field partner Pragati in Puri is spot on in terms of the target group. I am used to screening applications in the office at Rang De. To see the faces and the lives behind those loan applications was like being in a different world altogether. Like all field trips, this was tiring but there is always a sweet sense of satisfaction during the journey back — the satisfaction of having reached out to the right people and for being able to uphold the values for which Rang De stands.
For more pictures of my field visit, visit the album titled ‘Field visit to partner NGO Pragati’ on our facebook page.