For scores of the disabled young living in villages across the State, there is a hope for a better future. The Disability Programme of the Society for Elimination of Poverty (SERP) of the Department of Rural Development will be extending its reach to such persons living in 110 more mandals to form self-help groups (SHGs).

The programme, a unique social initiative with no parallel anywhere in the country, launched seven years ago, has thus far ensured formation of 23,000 SHGs in 138 mandals spread in Ranga Reddy, Mahabubnagar and Anantapur districts. Each of the SHGs has five to 15 disabled members.

Quite unlike the ongoing raging controversy over the functioning of micro-credit financial institutions, banks have disbursed close to Rs. 170 crore as loans to these SHGs.

Two-thirds of it or close to Rs. 130 crore has been disbursed in the last two years alone, thanks to the initiative of the respective district Collectors.

That there are now close to 2.3 lakh financially empowered disabled persons as SHG members indicates the rural folks' acceptance of the scheme and the groups' own effective functioning as some of them have got loans ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs.15,000 directly benefitting the family as a whole.

V. Geetanath in Hyderabad