PALAKKAD: Chandran’s brother Kumaran has the regret that he could not save him.
“I live next door but didn’t initially know they had availed loan from five micro-finance companies. When I came to know about it, we planned to sell off his house and clear the debt. But it was too late and we couldn’t avoid his tragic end,” said Kumaran. “There’re several poor families who’re caught in a vortex of debt and unable to wriggle out of it.”
At their partially complete house, Chandran’s frail wife Chandrika is clueless when she thinks about the life ahead and their son, who works as a plumber in Kochi. “My husband wasn’t a tough man. I tried to give him confidence by saying we’ll find a way out. Me and our son were willing to sell our house,” Chandrika told Express even as she broke down.
CPI activist Radhakrishnan, who took up the cases of the deceased with the companies, said, “The outstanding amount of Chandran came to Rs 8.5 lakh. His weekly repayment was Rs 16,800 while his income was Rs 3,000. The micro-finance companies compete with one another to offer loan at their doorsteps. Just as with commercial banks, these units should be stopped from giving loan to those who already have liability or don’t have ways to repay the amount.”
Sarada had to repay a total Rs 12,000 monthly to four companies, but Krishnankutty, husband of Ramani, committed suicide due to a different reason. “Ramani had to pay Rs 2,000 a week to a Gujarat-based micro-finance firm. On one of the collection days, Krishnankutty went out to find money, but returned empty-handed at dusk. And finding the employees there, he walked into his compound and took the extreme step,” said social activist A M Shibu. Politicians and social activists held talks with the micro-finance unit, which agreed to deposit Rs 1 lakh each in the bank accounts of Ramani’s two children. For them, it is only a meagre amount when compared to the millions they mint.