Saturday, February 02, 2008

Between Hope and Despair...

Last one week was an amazing experience... I had the opportunity (in connection of an NGO assessment work I am involved in) of travelling and interacting with the unnoticed entrepreneurs/changemakers in the interiors of the modern India.

These interactions were simultaneously exhilirating and unsettling. Here is a snapshot of one of those (among many):


I met Sheetla Devi (and her friend... I could not catch her name) on the outskirts of Hazaribagh.

“how much loan did you take?”, I asked her (she was one of the beneficiaries of the SIDBI loans through NBJK (Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra) under the Rural Industries Programme (RIP)).

Rs.15,000/-“, she told me, and had built a business – livelihood – from that money… She had opened a dhabaa from that money… had paid back the loan, and was self-sufficient now.

“What about you?”, I asked her friend. “Did you also take a loan?”

She pointed to the “Beej Bhandaar” (the seeds store) opposite the road. She had taken a loan of Rs. 30,000/-

“But, do you sit there, yourself ?”, I asked.

“Yes, I do. But I do not know how to read or write. So I get my son to manage the finances. I only tell them what they should buy for the season.”

They had both paid back the loans, and were now managing business independently.

“How was it before you got the loan?”, I asked.

Miserable, they told me. The day-to-day living was in jeopardy. Mostly, they and the family, used to get some work as construction labours – that too, not regularly. And more often than not, the contractor would not give them wages – or deduct some money for some reasons.

“Now”, she explained, “we can manage our own lives.”

“now, my daughter goes to school,” she added with a tinge of pride.


I made a mental calculation. Only Rs 45k (i.e., Rs. 15k + 30k) – paid as loan and recovered - were enough to bring these two illiterate women (and perhaps 8-10 other lives in their families) out of a precarious existence of a day-to-day survival.

Why was this interaction "simultaneously exhilirating and unsettling"?

Well... because, I teach in a Business School, where the expectation of a middle-class graduating youngster is a minimum of around Rs.45-50k per month as the starting salary...!!!


gaddeswarup said...

Profssor Shukla,
On my recent trip to A.P. I came across a similar effort organized by Benjamin Kaila and a village pastor P. Sundar. I posted about this in 'A micro effort', 'Dilip's question' and
The loans were much smaller, the initial ones are only 2,500 rupees each. In one case, a woman with 3 children whose husband passed away started a dhaba with the money and is making a living and sending one of the children to school. She probably needs help for an year or two more and may be a larger loan to make it self sustaining. The organization has no name and is confined to three villages familar to Rev. Sundar. I think that pastors are ideally suited for this kind of work but I had lot of objections from friends and relatives who said that the money may be used for conversions. That is possible but it does help the poor now.
I think that similar small efforts through reliable people in villages may work. I will be enquiring through friends to find similar people in villages from other communities e.g. school teachers, retired people etc.

Goli said...

Nice Story

This story also bought to my mind of how farmers in Maharashtra were forced to kill themselves for loan amounts to the effect of few thousands, which I spend so easily in Pizza hut.

Rajeeve Chelanat said...

Good one Sir. I hope you might have read about P.Sainath. He gives such stories..

BTW, myself, Rajeeve from Kerala, now in Dubi and a blogger.

Rajeeve Chelanat