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Ever borrowed money at 50% interest?
September 12, 2004 16:57 IST
For centuries, poverty stricken tribal families approached moneylenders in exigencies like farming or sickness.
In the hills of Pakur in Jharkhand's Santhal Pargana, in the absence of alternatives, tribals borrow from moneylenders at interest rates as high as 50 per cent.
"If we fail to repay the sum within six months, the mahajan (moneylender) will take our pair of bullocks. We will get back them back after we return the amount besides the cost of fodder that had been spent by him during the period," says Rameshwari, one such borrower.
"I am worried about repaying the money in view of the drought," says Rameshwari who is not the only person to live in such adverse and despairing conditions in the backward Santhal Pargana division.
Maleshwar Deheri, gram pradhan of Amirjola village in Pakur, says, "People go to mahajans as they know they will not get anything from the government. We don't even have basic facilities here."
Taking up the challenge, a voluntary organization - Badlav Foundation - has formed 509 mahila sabhas comprising 10 or more members in Dumka, Pakur, Deogarh, Godda, Sahebganj and Jamtara districts of Santhal Pargana.
"We have taken up the challenge to stop poor tribals from selling their agriculture produce to moneylenders at ridiculously cheap rates in order to free themselves from debt," secretary of the foundation, Bajrang Singh, told visiting journalists in Pakur.
Each sabha has 10 or more members who contribute between Rs 10 and Rs 20 and take loans among themselves at minimum interest rate. The money is deposited in any nationalised bank situated in their respective areas.
According to Reserve Bank of India guidelines, banks give loans to the sabhas up to four times the amount deposited in the banks with the minimum balance not less than Rs 5,000," Singh says.
"Earlier moneylenders used to exploit the tribals. Now it has been reduced though it must be happening in isolated places. With awareness among tribals on the rise, some of them even take money from moneylenders and don't return it," says Pakur Deputy Commissioner Baidehi Mishra.
"Some self-help groups have been formed among the tribals, for pooling money and offering loans," he adds.
"Unless anybody comes up with a complaint against moneylenders, how can we initiate action? No one comes forward with complaints," says Dumka Deputy commissioner Jaishanker Tiwari.
Referring to loans being taken from moneylenders by the tribals for cultivation, Tiwari says kisan credit cards had been distributed among a section of the tribals and efforts are on to distribute the same among the rest by March 31, 2005.He also suggests cultivation of 'Barbati' (a species of French bean grown in hilly areas) as they can fetch a good market price. It can be grown with assistance from the 'Adivasi Sahakarita Vikas Niyogen Limited', a government undertaking.
More reports from Jharkhand