Microfinance Institutions- Entitled to Torture

The SKS Microfinance media coverage has heightened the awareness of government, regulators and public on the improper functioning of microfinance companies. Finally they are waking up to the issues of corporate governance and ethics adopted by microfinance institutions.

Today, in Economic Times the headline is “AP plans law to curb microfinance firms” highlights the issue. Finally the chief minister of Andra Pradesh state has said “The state government will soon bring an ordinance to control microfinance institutions” Additional excerpt from the newspaper article – “A spate of suicides in recent weeks and months has also been blamed on them. Microfinance employees and agents have also been accused of kidnapping women and children, and torturing them to recover loans. The DGP is also thinking of setting up a special cell for MFI harassment under the central investigation department.”

It is quite outrageous that government is still thinking about making laws and starting investigation cells. From the data available with National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 199,132 farmers committed suicide between 1997-2008.  In 2008 itself 16,196 farmers committed suicide. The Big 5 States (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) account for two-thirds of all farmer suicides during 2003-08.Farmer suicide account for 1 of every 10 suicides in the country.

Farmers are committing suicide due to their inability to payback the EMI’s on their loans. Rural Indian population primary source of income is from agriculture. Indian population and government are showing significant apathy to their plight. Under the circumstances, microfinance companies consider themselves licensed to kill to recover their loans.

The present foreclosure issue in USA has shown that public outrage can force government including the president to think twice before approving laws favoring financial institutions. Indians are happy to discuss the mortgage and foreclosure issue of USA in social circles and blogs. However, very few are discussing regarding the issue at home about Indian farmers. Is it because it does not add to the social image?

Aamir Khan productions recently produced the movie “Pepli Live”, a satire on the farmer suicide issue. It mocked the methods with which media and government use the issue for their own self-interest. The movie is India’s nomination for the Oscars. I am sure if the movie receives an award the Indian population will be mighty pleased and happy.

But will it make urban Indians stand up and voice their concerns on the real issue of farmers suicide. Or will they as usual have a short-term memory regarding rural poor? I apologize for being nasty, but when will we stop inhuman treatment? Are poor people less entitled to live?

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10 comments on “Microfinance Institutions- Entitled to Torture

  1. Thanks for bringing this to my notice, Sonia. It shows that there is a break down in government. It is essential to regulate the banking sector. Not everyone can be allowed to operate.

    • Sanjeev,

      Presently, with the real scenario in India regarding the banking sector quite a few should not be allowed to exploit. Sometime back the urban Indians who had taken loans from multinational banks were terrorized. Goons were sent to their homes by these banks for recovering the loans. The urban population created a lot of noise so RBI prohibited them from adopting such recovery tactics. It comes as no surprise to me, that now the same tactics are being used on rural poor.

      Sonia

    • Yesterday, Andra Pradesh government finally passed the law to monitor MFI’s. Now MFI’s will have to register themselves, indicate the interest rates being charged ( in some cases they were charging 24-40%) and the process of recovery. Talks are also on with nationalized banks to ease the burden of the farmers. Hope something good comes out of it.

    • Geoffrey, that is the trouble. What is created for social good, actually turns exploitative. And here in this article I have given numbers of deaths, not the number of farmers who have lost their land to these financiars and become landless labourers. They have come to the cities and are working at construction sites, to earn a living. Tragic, urban rich Indians have become so ruthless in their pursuit for money. I feel like asking “Sir, where is your heart?”

      Sonia

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