GUWAHATI, May 10 - With the COVID-19-induced lockdown casting an ominous shadow over mass livelihoods, self help groups (SHGs) have come to assist the healing process of the State�s economy. The most conspicuous engagement from the SHGs has been manifest in mask-making, a completely new vista thrown open by the contagion. Members of SHGs across villages comprising mostly womenfolk have been making large-scale cotton washable masks � branded Asomi -- with the count being well over 41 lakh now.
�Over 41 lakh masks have been made till now by 10,497 members from 4,971 SHGs across the State. Of these, 3,36,468 masks have been distributed for free and 11,10,712 masks sold. A total of 57,762 masks were distributed in tea gardens and another 1,16,185 distributed to institutions and government departments. So far 84 mask selling outlets have been opened in 31 districts, facilitating their easy availability to the masses at reasonable prices,� a Panchayat & Rural Development Dept source told The Assam Tribune.
Masks apart, sale of all perishable items from SHG members such as vegetables, eggs, milk, poultry, etc., have been connected with the district administrations so that they can procure for supply in the areas needed. Permits of sales were also obtained by SHG members to sell their products during the lockdown period.
Till date approximately 47,653 SHG members have done sale of perishable commodities worth over Rs. 5.31 crore under the Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission (ASRLM) during the lockdown.
In addition, 7,803 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) have reached out to 96,312 needy families and individuals and provided them with dry food items and sanitary items.
�Bank Sakhis (Banking Correspondence Agents-BCAs) are providing doorstep banking services to the rural masses and till now 89 BCAs have covered 2,933 households and done transaction of than Rs. 32 lakh. They have also done transaction of over Rs. 6.28 crore to 60,588 individuals of rural areas at their Customer Service Points (CSPs),� sources said.
Not just in villages, women SHGs across the urban landscape have also engaged themselves in various productive ventures during the lockdown. In Morigaon district for instance, 31 SHGs and their registered cooperative federations of Morigaon Municipal Board under Assam State Urban Livelihoods Mission Society (ASULMS) has extended every possible help and aid to the needy poor families and homeless persons of Morigaon town.
�This is in addition to their producing cheap cotton face masks to tackle mask shortage amid the contagion. Over 26,000 masks have been collectively produced and distributed �to different departments and pharmacies so far by 12 SHGs � Milijuli SHG, Gitamandir ALF, Mother Teresa SHG, Apsara SHG, Suruj SHG, Nandini SHG, Darpan SHG, among others.
Karunamoyee Sarma, member of Milijuli SHG, said, ��We started producing two- and three-layer cotton masks with traditional gamosa design and supplied to government departments and pharmacies at per unit price of Rs. 20-40 on the advice of ASULMS officials . Thus, we utilized the stock of unsold gamosa and earned profitably by selling over 2,100 masks.�
Responding to the call of City Mission Management Unit (CMMU) officials, a number of SHGs and their area-level federations had also come out with their limited capacity to help out the poorest of the poor, maintaining the norms of social distancing. They made people aware about precautions to prevent spread of the corona virus. Members of Darpan SHG and Pahi SHG of Ward No 2, Morigaon served free food to the homeless persons and poor families of Morigaon town. They also served free food to police personnel on duty and other essential service providers.
�Altogether 20 SHGs and their cooperative federations have provided relief and aid to nearly 673 poor families of the town. SHGs like Lakhimi, Pragoti, Nupur, Dharitri, Shristi, Kanaklata, Bohagi and Cooperative federations namely Kanaklata, Manikanchan, Gitamandir, Pranami, Paribartan, Puhor, Kadambari, Kuhipat, etc., provided essential food stuffs to those families,� Rupjyoti Borah, City Project manager, Morigaon Municipalty Board, said.
Kusumi Bala Sarkar, president of Paribartan Area Level Federation Cooperative Society said that reaching out to dozens of poor families and helping them with essential foodstuff gave us immense satisfaction and we thank ASULMS officials for their guidance.