It was not a surprise when the United Nations named Salami Shashankar of Toyaput village in the Maoist insurgency affected area of Koraput district in Odisha as one among the real life heroes on World Humanitarian Day.
Known as Bank Madam, 27 year old Salami Shashankar has been riding through the villages and providing banking services since the lock down began on March 25, 2020.
On World Humanitarian day that falls on August 19, the United Nations has paid tribute to real life heroes who have committed their lives to helping others in the most extreme circumstances, especially during Covid 19 pandemic.
Salami is an outsourced staff of State Bank of India (SBI)’s Laxmipur branch. She has been travelling around 20 tribal hamlets adjoining Toyaput village on a two wheeler, providing banking services to needy customers. In her bag, she carried all the things needed by her customers such as withdrawal slips, deposit slips, stamp pad, biometric device to verify client details, bank register and, of course, money. She also follows all precautions by wearing a mask, carrying a hand sanitizer and maintaining a safe distance from others.
For the Tribals, Salami Shashankar is their “Bank Madam.” And she is the only medium for these people to have access to state as well as centre schemes.
After graduating from college in 2019, she joined the UNFPA supported Mission Uday as a volunteer. Her first step was an awareness program about government schemes for the poor. She identified community members who were qualified to avail benefits from these schemes but were completely at a loss about how to do so. Salami assisted them in submitting their applications and documents, and also educated them about loan facilities and subsidies related to the schemes.
These support activities helped Salami hone her people and humanitarian skills. She learnt to be a keen listener and was quick to identify solutions to people’s problems.
NO LOCKDOWN TO HELP PEOPLE
It was in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, that she got an opportunity to work with the State Bank of India as an outsourced employee at their Laxmipur Branch. She was assigned to reach out to people across 20 remote tribal hamlets adjoining her native village.
In the beginning, she had a small workstation at the Toyaput Panchayat Office. However, she realised that she cannot wait at the work station and wait for the people to approach her. Thus she began her travel in a two wheeler to the villages and met people.
“After reaching my remote customers, I look for space to do my work… it could be under a shady tree or a mat made of leaves where I can sit comfortably and provide banking services to my clients for four to five hours,” Salami said about her visits.
As testimony to her works, the United Nations quotes SBI Laxmipur Branch Ranjan Sahoo as saying that more than 1,000 customers benefited because of Salami’s work. She provided constant service to her clients in times of dire need. Whenever the Bank Madam arrives, the villagers walk up to her with their Aadhar Cards (an identification card issued by the Government) and passbooks. When the lockdown was announced, she was determined to reach her customers at any cost, the Branch Manager said.