Ravi Reddy

30 SHG members end life in Krishna district; real figure could be more than 200

Report says more cases are likely to occurMore `unnatural deaths' in places where MFIs distributed more moneyFamily members threatened against reporting death cases to police

HYDERABAD: The alleged unethical practices and harassment by micro finance institutions (MFI) have taken a tragic turn with more than 60 Self-Help Group (SHG) members committing suicide. Krishna district alone accounted for more than 30 deaths.

Flooded with cases of harassment by MFIs for repayments and after an open revolt by the women thrift group members, the Government officials had begun an in-depth enquiry. The officials were in for a shock when many cases of `unnatural deaths' relating to harassment by the MFI staff began to surface.

Preliminary reports received by the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty from Krishna, West and East Godavari, Guntur and Prakasam districts indicate that more than 60 members had committed suicide in the last few months. However, officials suspect that the number could be more than 200 as the MFIs had threatened the family members against reporting the matter to police saying they would be deprived of insurance.

A report by the Chief Executive Officer, SERP, T Vijay Kumar submitted to the Government this month had cautioned the Government that on account of crushing debt burden, a number of suicides and `unnatural deaths' had already taken place. "There is an imminent danger of more suicides occurring," the report observed.

Mr. Vijay Kumar told The Hindu over phone from Kolkata on Saturday, where he is deputed as election observer, that many 'unnatural deaths' had taken place where the MFIs had distributed more money.

Teams constituted

"A report from the Krishna Collector had documented 10 such deaths. Officials also found prima facie evidence in 11 other cases in the same district," he said and added that village-wise teams were being constituted to enquire into deaths. There was need to look into the functioning of these MFIs in all the 14 districts where they had extended loans. He said the Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy had directed that helplines be opened in the Collectorates. The District Samakhyas of the thrift groups have been asked to counsel the hapless members against taking extreme steps.