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Poor Andhra Women Enable Bypass Surgery Paying 50 Paise Each

Tens of thousands of poor Andhra women have financed the bypass surgery of a fisherwoman costing Rs 60,000 by contributing 50 paise each.//

Thanks to their efforts, B. Hemavati, 35, wife of a fisherman and a mother of two, will undergo a life saving operation at the Tirupati-based Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS) very soon.

Hemavati, a farm worker in West Godavari district, was diagnosed with a heart ailment that doctors said would cost up to Rs.90,000 with at least two thirds of it to be paid in cash.

A local missionary came forward with Rs.25,000, but there was no way the rest of the money could be found.

That was when Andhra Pradesh's famed Self Help Group (SHG) movement, which brings together the poorest of poor rural women in groups of 10 to secure bank loans on easy terms for income generating activities, came to her rescue following some persuasion by officials of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).

Involved in an intense three-week campaign to raise the money was the district's 12,000 SHGs, or a total of 120,000 women. Most were farm labourers, barely earning enough to secure two meals a day.

Each woman was requested by the local leadership of the SHGs to contribute a mere 50 paise so as to raise Rs.60,000. In the end, some gave even one rupee, netting a total of Rs.61,100.

Nobody declined to chip in, despite their own grinding poverty.

"The women were surprised by what they achieved and when they realised what they were capable of," said C. Ranga Rao, an additional project director of DRDA, the agency that implements central and state government policies in rural areas.

At a function attended by the rural women, West Godavari's district collector Lav Aggarwal presented a cheque for Rs.61,100 to Hemavati and lauded the women's determination to come to the aid of someone in distress.

Rao told IANS here: "Fifty paise ca
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