If one happens to be in Dhemaji town, one is unlikely to miss a small tea outlet run by Sunmoni Chutia. The outlet is conspicuous because it is in the heart of the town and the fact that Sunmoni manages it so well that she takes care of her mother, her sister, and her 11-year-old son with income from this establishment.
All was not well with her during Covid as most would by now know. There was no income for her during those dreaded times since there was hardly any commercial activity in the town like the rest of the country. But what came as a manna from heaven for her and many street vendors spread across the length and breadth of the country was the scheme PM SVANidhi launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to facilitated hassle free loans to the Sunmonis of the world to give them dignity and a means to live.
The Scheme, called PM Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi), took off in June 2020. Sunmoni is one of the successful representatives of this welfare initiative. It is the likes of her and others that Assam emerged as the best State in the country in disbursing loans with 90.84% as on September 1. (Please see table for updated figures)
“I would get up at 2 am. Work on all the food products that my customer would need during the day. At around 5 am, I would open my stall and work on it till 6 pm,” she told Asom Barta over phone from Dhemaji.
“Each day is one of struggle for people like us. But Covid was much beyond what we were used to. However, PM SVANidhi came as a boon. I went for the first tranche of
₹10,000 once I came to know of the scheme. I then repaid and took ₹20,000 as a fresh loan,” she informed this reporter while profusely thanking officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (DoHUA) who supported her all through.
Jukrun Nisa of Tezpur is another example of how effective this scheme has been. She has not only repaid two tranches of her loan but has now opted for the highest ceiling under the Scheme of ₹50,000. “Chachi Tea Stall” is her outlet near Chitralekha Udyan in the heart of the town. She has been running this stall for eight years after losing her husband in 2015.
“It was a turbulent period for me when I lost my husband. But with the thought of my children and their future, I plunged into business. Luckily, that idea clicked. I must tell you that my son today is a student in Tezpur Law College. He is also a helping hand to me.”
She said that the money received under the scheme was a relief for her post-Covid.
“From the loan that we received, we invested in expanding our existing business. I help my mother during morning and evening hours. Now, we are planning the way forward with the help of the third instalment that has been allotted to us,” said Shabir Seikh (23), Jukrun’s son.
Success stories like that of Subal Debnath of Hailakandi, and Dayal Das of Guwahati also point to the wider implication of the scheme across the geographical frontiers of Assam.
DoHUA is executing the scheme in the State with support from the Assam State Urban Livelihood Mission Society. “We meet regularly to take stock of the successful implementation of this scheme, and see to it that vendors get information and support to make choices in the best interest of their business,” a senior official in the Department told this newsletter buoyed by the data published by MoHUA.