People Behind the Bank

Lakhimi Baruah : The Woman Behind Co-operative Bank Movement in Assam.

Many women in rural parts of Assam are economically not self-reliant yet. Even if they have money, they still lags behind in proper utilization of that money. One of the prime reasons is lack of saving opportunities in rural areas. Even if there are saving mechanisms, many of the rural womenfolk are not aware of it or financial institutions do not reach out to them. Lack of education might have contributed to the lack of awareness on the importance of saving the hard-earned money of these women.

But one organization has taken up the cudgel on behalf of these women, especially for those residing in remote parts of the state, by showing them how savings can be a powerful tool to become economically empowered. Kanaklata Women Urban Co-operative Bank has been doing yeomen services by throwing open bank services to these women in Jorhat district of the state. The co-operative bank has become the agent of socio-economic change in the lives of many rural women in the district.

And one lady is the force behind this noble change. It is Lakhimi Baruah, who established the only co-operative Bank for women in Assam with an aim to bring about social change.

This bank now has sixteen thousand account holders, many of them were understand. But the management has taken up the initiative to educate these account holder on various aspect of savings and financial services. The bank which has 6000 women member s, open its head office in November 14, 1998 and it has now graduated into a financial institute of Rs 5 Crore capital money.

Behind this transformation is Lakhimi’s hard work, dedication and a commitment to something good for the poor women. Lakhimi had to toil hard and fulfill various terms and conditions laid down by the reserve Bank of India to set up the co-operative bank.

Under Lakhimi’s initiative the bank was registered by Resave Bank of India on May 22, 1998, as a financial institution. The general assembly of the bank appointed her as its managing director and she is still working from this post. As time passed by the bank expended its activities by opening new branches. From its inception, the bank has not suffered any loss. Thank to the able leadership of Lakhimi. It has become one of the most trustworthy financial institutions for women, who are able to get loans at low interest rate. Even rickshaw pillars and daily wage earners are also benefit by bank’s schemes. About 300 women self help groups have availed loans provided from the bank.

The idea to open a bank exclusively for women came to Lakhimi’s mind in February, 1990. But there is history behind the idea.

In 1983 Lakhimi Established Mahila Samiti at Dakshin Sarbaibandha area of Jorhat district. As she started working with large number of economically and educationally backward women, Lakhimi realized their financial insecurity. Even if the women were engaged in small income- generating works, they did not have saving mechanism. Then the idea of opening a bank that would cater to the needs of these women came to Lakhimi’s mind.

This bank has given women the opportunity to open an account without a single penny. Lakhimi also harboured the desire to open an army school for girls. However, that did not materialize because of some technical barriers. But Lakhimi went on putting all her efforts and time to run the co-operative Bank, which in due course of time become a powerful financial institution to spread the awareness on financial service for rural women in the district.

Lakhimi was born in September 5, 1949 at Dergoan in Golaghat district of Assam. Lakhimi was always inspired by her father Makhan Chandra Mahanta and mother Nalini to do works for the good of society. After passing the Pre-University Examination in 1967 she graduated from Bahana College. Later she got married to Prabhat Baruah of Jorhat, Lakhimi is also a homemaker and mother of two sons and a daughter. Even after marriage and running the family, Lakhimi did not give up her desire to work for the society. She used to take part in rural development works, adult education, rehabilitation of distressed and destitute women and caring for orphaned babies.

The government has recognized the financial institution as an ideal cooperative bank. This recognition has further boosted Lakhimi and other members of the bank to work for the development of rural citizens. It is because of their efficient and effective ways of running a cooperative various women development training programme. Lakhimi is arguably one of the most powerful agents of positive change in the lives of many rural women in the state. She is also the one who had shown the path of running an efficient cooperative bank for social development.

Source: Inspiration- Stories of Women Leaders of Assam published by Women in Governance, Assam(WinG-Assam), Tarajan Kakoti Gaon, Jorhat-785001, Assam ph:+91-376-2372162