G. Nagaraja

NARSAPURAM (W.G. DISTRICT): “I am ready to lodge a police complaint and teach them a lesson”, said Tenneti Mariyamma from a Self-Help Group (SHG) at NTR Nagar here while deposing before a two-member official committee appointed by Collector A. Vani Prasad to inquire into the reported intimidation and coercion committed by a micro finance institute (MFI) named Swayam Krushi Sangham (SKS) against SHG women in recovery of loans.

Incidentally, Mariyamma is one of 37 women SHG members reportedly detained by the SKS personnel for nearly seven hours from 9-30 am a few days ago. They were all deprived of their lunch and disallowed to even take water and feed their children. Non-payment of weekly amount by a member was said to be cause for their detention. M. Jitendra, Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), and R. Sankara Rao, Lead District Manager (LDM), members of the inquiry committee, on Friday received a direct feedback from the victims on the incident.

Interestingly, Mariyamma found no supporters for her resolve as all the remaining victims backed the MFI, either overtly or covertly. As a result, the LDM had to give up his plans to foist cases against those responsible for harassment of SHG women. “We don't get loans from MFIs if we make a complaint to the police,” said Valavala Sujatha, another member, supported by almost all the victims.

“The loan of Rs 12,000 from the SKS came right to my doorstep and it took only a week to get it without any difficulty unlike in the case of banks,” recalls Irusumandu Vanita, a farm worker. She approached the SKS, like many of her fellow-SHG members, for money to repay the loan which she obtained from a lender at Rs 5 interest for her delivery expenses. The SHG concept appears to be in danger in the district as most of a little over 5 lakh women members from over 50,000 SHGs are gradually getting into the fold of MFIs for a variety of reasons and the debt-swapping scheme introduced by the administration, allowing SHG women to clear their dues obtained from MFIs by taking assistance from banks seems failing to deliver the goods.