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Shopian's DIGI-Pay Sakhi delivering services in far-off villages

Shahnaza also plays a crucial role in generating awareness among the residents about various government schemes
12:00 AM Apr 09, 2024 IST | Gulzar Bhat
shopian s digi pay sakhi delivering services in far off villages

24-year-old Shahnaza Ali is surrounded by a knot of men all wearing turbans. An old man with a long henna-dyed beard and a deep crow’s feet etched on his face occupies a decrepit chair with his elbows resting on a table. Shahnaza is instructing him to put his finger on a biometric device and the man is silently following her instructions. Their purpose is to process an Ayushman Bharat Card.


Shahnaza is a DIGI-Pay Sakhi, running a Common Service Centre (CEC) in Sedow, an outlying village nestled among lofty pine trees, some 13 kms from south Kashmir’s Shopian district. The village is ring-fenced by small hamlets inhabited by the marginalized Gujjar community.


Every day since morning, people begin trickling into her centre to access various services, saving them the hassle of travelling long distances.


“A couple of years ago, people had to travel to Shopian to foot their utility bills. It was not only time-consuming but also inconvenient and burdensome for many," said Shahnaza.


She said that residents in the area, being disadvantaged, lack knowledge about accessing these services.


Ghulam Mohammad, a member of the Gujjar community, told Greater Kashmir that he never thought that his e-sharm card could be made in his own area.


According to Shahnaza, she has made at least 200 such cards.


Shahnaza established the CEC in 2022 after taking part in a social mobilization programme organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Rural Livelihood Mission (JKRLM). She formed a Self-Help Group (SHG) of ten local women to embark on their journey of earning a livelihood.

“I was trained as a DIGI-Pay Sakhi by the JKRLM-UMEED. This short training programme acquainted with using different digital tools for providing a host of services to clients residing in remote areas," said Shahnaza.

DIGI-Pay Sakhi module was rolled out by the Ministry of Rural Development through Self Help Groups (SHGs) to enhance the network of Banking Correspondents / DIGI-Pay in one Gram Panchayat. The initiative is aimed at promoting door-to-door digital banking financial services in far-off places.

“It enables transactions, balance enquiry and payouts, thus streamlining the financial operations," said an official from JKRLM.

In Jammu and Kashmir, Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha launched the One-Gram Panchayat- One DIGI-Pay scheme in 2021. As part of the initiative, J&K Rural Livelihood Mission trained 125 from Self Help Groups as DIGI-Pay Sakhis across 2000 villages under the mission.

“The DIGI-Pay Sakhis were also provided training on an array of online processes like PAN card registration, health card registration and e-Sharm registration among others," said the official.
Shahnaza says that the Centre at her village not only disburses services to the residents at their doorsteps but also helps her earn a decent livelihood.

“ I earn enough to make ends meet," she said.

Shahnaza also plays a crucial role in generating awareness among the residents about various government schemes as well. JKRM has also acknowledged her role and facilitated her during a function at district headquarters.