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Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd.

 

About Usha

Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd. (Usha) is a Multipurpose (Agricultural & Non-Agricultural Credit) society. The society was registered in the year 1995 by the Deputy Director of Cooperative Societies, Central zone, Kolkata, bearing Registration no. 6/Cal dated 21 June 1995, exclusively for sex workers, of sex workers and by sex workers. The Bye-Laws of the society has lastly been amended on 14/09/2009.

History of Usha
Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited (Usha) was formed in response to the economic and social conditions prevailing in Sonagachi, the red light area in Kolkata in the early 1990s. The sex workers working in Sonagachidid not have access to facilities to save money. They could not open bank accounts without identification and residence proof – documents that their illegal occupation did not allow them to possess. Sex workers also faced humiliation when banks insisted that they bring their ‘husbands’ along. Most sex workers kept their earnings with madams or pimps, who often duped or cheated them. Sex workers were also robbed of money by local goondas or extortions by Police. As a result, most sex workers chose not to save and spent the day’s income that day itself.  In the absence of savings, sex workers were forced to borrow money to meet unforeseen expenses resulting from illness, marriage or death in the family. Women had to take loans from local money lenders at interest rates as high as 300% or approach chit funds with unfair lending deals. Consequently, sex workers found themselves in deep economic debt and were compelled to engage in risky and unsafe work. Economic desperation exposed sex workers to severe vulnerability and exploitation. With the advent of health services through the Sexual Health and HIV Intervention Programme (SHIP) in 1992 led by ‘peers’ from the community, a group of sex workers deliberated on the problem. In order to address economic concerns of sex workers, it was decided that a financial institution be set up exclusively for sex workers and members of the sex work community. It was agreed that such an agency would offer easy access and low threshold services to sex workers’ while simultaneously ensuring prudent management for financial viability.

Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited was established on June 21, 1995 in Kolkata with the aim of providing financial security to sex workers and securing educational and career building opportunities for children of sex workers. It is run by a board of 9 directors, all of whom are sex workers themselves. The directors are elected through a 2 tier electoral system and hold office for a term of 3 years. It has a workforce of 47, of which two-thirds are women employees. Older sex workers and daughters of sex workers are given priority in recruitment. It draws its membership exclusively from sex workers. Usha operates in all the districts of West Bengal and has set up branch offices in the following towns:- Basirhat and Titagarh in North 24 Parganas district, Siliguri in Darjeeling district, Asansol and Kalna in Burdwan district, Domjur in Howrah district, and Sheoraphuli in Hooghly district. It has an infrastructure in Baruipur in South 24 Parganas, which can be utilized for rehabilitation activities.
The field of operation of the sex workers in the state has been shown as under. However, the list is not exhaustive and may change with the economic conditions prevailing in the country.


Name of the district and field of operation

KOLKATA

 

BURDWAN

DARJEELING

a) Lakar Math

o) JoraBagan

1) Asansol

a) Islampur

b) Khidirpore

p) Seth Bagan

2) Kalna

c) Panjipara

c) Kalighat

q) Rabindra Sarani

3)  Durgapur

MURSHIDABAD

d) Chetla

r)  Moniruddin Lane

24 PARGANAS (N)

a) Dhuliyan

e) A K  Street

s)  Street

a) Titagarh

COOCHBIHAR

f) Masjid Bari Street

t) Tollygunge

b) Basirhat

i) Alipurduar

g) G S Lane

HOWRAH

MEDINIPUR (E)

ii) Dinhata

h) D C M Street – 1

i) Bandhaghat

i) Kharagpur

iii)  Coochbehar

i)  D C M Street – 2

ii) Rajgunj

HOOGHLY

 

k) Sonagachi Lane

iii) Uluberia

i) Sheoraphuli

 

i)Imam Box Lane

iv) Domjur

MEDINIPUR (W)

 

m) Bow bazar

NADIA

a) Contai

 

n) Rambagan

i) Santipur

b) Ghatal

 

Out of the above fields, we have been able to open branches in the following centers:-
Name of branch                  year of opening
i) Kalighat (Kolkata)        -      2004
ii) Dinhata (Coochbehar) -      2010
Our vision for the next one year from now is to open six more new branches in the fields as under:-
a)      Domjur b) Sheoraphuli, c) Asansol d) Durgapur e) Basirhat and f) Santipur.

While Usha would like to open branches as per serials shown above, it would, however, depend on local and other conditions.