This 32-year-old is spreading financial literacy among children and youth in Vidarbha
For the past three months, Amruta Deshpande has been travelling the length of Vidarbha with a single-minded purpose – to spread financial literacy among young people in the region.
The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra is infamous for its recurring droughts, and farmers’ suicides brought on by a spiral of debt.
To use a famous catchphrase, Amruta aims to “catch them young” and inculcate a habit of savings so families can live better lives under diverse circumstances.
Earning and saving money
A cost accountant with quite a bit of experience, from government stints to corporate jobs, Amruta returned to her hometown, Nagpur, when the lockdown was announced in March 2020
“With nothing much to do, as my work could not be done from home, I began writing two books. Basics of Banking introduced young children to banking and savings while Saving and Introduction to Banking is for college students,” Amruta says.
Basics of Banking, available in both English and Marathi, introduces children to savings through a storytelling format, complemented by illustrations. It also provides information on the purpose of the RBI, banking history, bank facilities, uses of a multi-purpose ATM, schemes for children, and more.
Amruta reveals there is no shortage of intelligent children who know how to earn in rural areas. But she says they are not purpose-driven to look at the extended benefits of savings.
“I have come across so many smart boys and girls, but their only aim is to make a quick buck for a purpose. For example, earn enough to buy a phone, and then go for long periods without working till the next need crops up,” she says.
Amruta Deshpande teaches the importance of savings to school children in Vidarbha.
Teaching them young
Three months ago, she spoke to schools across the region and thus began her journey of spreading financial literacy to the underserved. So far, Amruta has visited over 65 schools and interacted with 7,000 students. This is apart from the online classes she takes for college students and MPSC/UPSC aspirants.
She takes us through a session.
“For the first 5-10 minutes, I speak on savings, depending on the age of the participants. If they are below Class 5, I share anecdotes that teach them why it is beneficial to save for the future. After that, I take them through KYC, how the ATM system can be used for purposes other than withdrawal of cash like payment of utilities, booking train tickets, depositing cash, paying insurance premiums, etc.”
Going further, she educates them on the role of the RBI as the apex bank and how fake notes are spotted by bank tellers, the locker system, where coins are minted and more. In the end, the children walk away with comprehensive knowledge of both, savings, and the banking system.
“The idea is to educate their parents through them as well. For instance, a Class 4 student had invested Rs 5,000 in the school bank. When her mother came down with COVID, she utilised the money to take her to a good hospital,” she says.
Financial literacy is a blessing in a region where several families have alcoholic men, and it’s left to the women and the children to bear the burden of the household. Often, even the children's scholarship money is squandered by their fathers.
“Since they have no source for financial information, these sessions help the children to save wisely,” she adds.
Amruta Deshpande with her students
Saving for the future
Amruta also offers advice on how to save.
“I am strictly against investing in the stock market as these people do not have surplus money to do it. There are so many post-office schemes, RBI bonds, and other saving schemes offered by the government that guarantee a steady interest on their income.”
Her interactive sessions have received a good response, with children participating with enthusiasm.
Amruta is in this alone – without any form of funding or partnership, spending her own money on travel and other expenses. However, she is not opposed to the right kind of collaboration to carry this initiative to the rest of Maharashtra.
“I plan to organise classes for disabled children and release books in Braille or audio format. My next step would be to teach college students how to read and understand the annual budget. Simultaneously, I am also searching for a job in the banking sector,” Amruta says.