VYCCU Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization based in Gaindakot-8, Nawalpur has regularly delivered its day-to-day service by providing personal protective equipment (PPEs) to its frontline employees. Adhering to its organizational motto of providing services to its members from the 'womb to tomb', VYCCU is continually providing its service even during the never-ever experienced a difficult time.
In doing so, VYCCU has come up with emergency service plan including safety orientations, the arrangement of protective gear and financial incentives for frontline employees, waiver in interest rates, the formation of risk management task force, relief loan to its members and doorstep service to the indigent clients during an emergency, informed Prem Prasad Sapkota 'Raju', secretary of the cooperative organization.
The organization developed the emergency plan and continued the service in keeping with the most-essential service delivery directives of the government, safety protocols recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and different guidelines circulated by the Department of Cooperatives, Nepal Federation of Savings and Credit Cooperative Unions Limited (NEFSCUN) and National Cooperative Bank Limited as well as the letter and spirit of the cooperative principles, Sapkota added.
VYCCU Chief Executive Officer Madhab Prasad Poudel shared the single-purpose cooperative organization with a base of 75,000 members and annual turnover of Rs 5 billion is continually delivering service such as cash deposit, cash payment, loan re-payment and remittance to its members facing problem due to lockdown enforced to stop the outbreak of COVID-19.
Keeping members' demand in mind, the organization has been providing daily service from its head office and all 17 service centers in Nawalpur and Chitwan during the critical time. In an average of 500 to 600 members are daily receiving necessary service from its points, the official record revealed.
"Each member seeking service washes hand with soap, use sanitizer and also maintain physical distancing while receiving service," Poudel said. All the service centers have been arranged with hand-washing soap and water, sanitizer at entrance and service delivery point, a logbook with records of service recipients as well as draw-box. Likewise, money deposited from members has also been sanitized for three days as part of safety protocol, Poudel said. Among other safety arrangements placed are staff rotational duty, office vehicular service, and work from home for the officer level staff responsible for policy, planning, and reporting.
Arrangements have been put in place in a way that members could receive most of the services including mobile recharge, utility payments, and cash transfers from home and free of cost ATM service.
Secretary Sapkota further explained, "VYCCU in accordance with its emergency plan has initiated lending Rs 15,000 each to the members facing problem in eking out a daily livelihood for three months without any interest," he said, adding the organization will pay medical bills of Rs 50,000 in case of hospital emergency such as maternity service and accident which the recipients should payback within two months. As per the central bank directive, the cooperative organization also has decided to waive 10 percent in the interest of the loan taken by its members up to 4 July 2020 (end of Nepali month Asar).
According to the official record, five members have so far received emergency medical payment service, and 492 received doorstep service since the emergency plan came into effect.
Guman Bahadur Adhikari, a local of Gaindakot-11 and a member of VYCCU, was supported with the medical emergency service while he was helpless at the hospital during treatment. "Receiving service at the very difficult time at the hospital gave me a feeling that there was a mercy of god itself to rescue my hubby," his wife Tulasi Adhikari recounted with tears in happiness.
Likewise, another member Manilal Mahato, a local of Gaindakot-12, received doorstep service with cash which he said: "was a big help for him during the time of lockdown to take his mother to the hospital." Her mother is still being treated at the Intensive Care Unit at Bharatpur Hospital.
Besides, the cooperative organization has ramped up its member education and awareness on the existing emergency services through the medium of community radio (Vijaya FM 101.6, official Facebook page, and VYCCU apps. "The members are being approached with financial literacy, preventive measures against COVID-19 and health and hygiene through Public Service Announcements and dedicated radio program", the secretary informed.
VYCCU is continuing its full-fledged service when all local cooperatives have shut their service and banks also limit their operation amidst lockdown. With this unswerving commitment for member service, VYCCU has established the notion that cooperatives indeed are in need.
In the earlier days of the lockdown, VYCCU also disrupted its regular service, Poudel said, adding, "We, however, reached out to members through doorstep service by mobilizing focal persons of service centers". "As the humanitarian crisis grows with the elongation of lockdown against COVID-19, we decided to proactively continue member service. It is a testing time for us whether the existing hardware and software structures and mechanisms of VYCCU – one of the most capable cooperative organizations of the country – can manage crisis and deliver services", Poudel added.
VYCCU came to life in 1992 under the initiative of Vijay Development Resource Centre with the slogan “Saving is seed for development” and the movement kick-started with each member contributing 50 paisa a day. VYCCU has received the International ACCSS (A1 Cooperative Choice for Excellence in Service and Soundness) Brand of Asian Standard being assessed on the basis of four criteria – financial capability, member service, operational efficiency, and consistency in learning and expansion. ACCESS brand – developed by NEFSCUN with the technical support of Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) – is a tool to institutionalize the SACCOS and enhance its services to the members.
Highlighting the role of cooperative organizations, cooperative expert Keshab Prasad Sapkota said, "The cooperative should design and deliver protective packages to boost up the confidence of poor and indigent people. This is critically important because the rich people can somehow manage their lives even during difficult time but the lower-rung people are always at the receiving end of the crisis".
The COVID-19 crisis will surely increase risks to the cooperative organizations mainly in their operations, service delivery modality and safety and sustainability arrangements, he said, adding, "The cooperative organization with institutionalized good governance and community trust however can thrive in difficult time and provide much-needed service to its members".
He further noted the reduction in income-generating opportunities and production measures in and aftermath of lockdown may result in widening the vicious circle of multi-dimensional poverty and increase the number of poor in society.
The disruption of supply chain and subsequent rise in inflation, as well as its multifarious effects on the health, education, and livelihood of members, will create big challenges in coming days, he said, adding, "In order to manage the imminent situation, the cooperatives working in the close network of grassroots people should explore alternative service delivery mechanisms such as virtual points, call centers and mobile banking and nearby service centers during the critical times and tailor service packages in a way to promote viable micro-enterprises and revitalize embattled lives of the members.