No banks, so Jharkhand villagers turn to moneylenders

June 21st, 2008 - 10:44 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

Ranchi, June 21 (IANS) Ramdhan Mahto, a villager in Jharkhand, deposits his savings with a moneylender as no bank exists in the vicinity of his house. He does so without getting any interest, but sometimes finds it difficult to get the money back. At a time when many schemes are in place to help rural populations through banks, over 40,000 people in three village blocks of Chatra district in Jharkhand are under the clutches of moneylenders.

There are no banks in the Lawalong, Giddor and Pundda blocks. The villagers - most of them daily wagers - resort to the 150 odd moneylenders there in times of need.

It is due to security reasons that banks have not opened branches there - Chatra is a den of Maoist rebels. There used to be a Bank of India branch in Lawalong but it was closed a few years ago due to the threat of Maoist attacks.

“The state government has failed to provide security to banks. Maoists and criminals pose a threat to banks. Many banks have been looted by Maoist rebels and this was the reason that bank branches were closed,” an official of the State Level Banker Committee (SLBC) told IANS.

SLBCs are meant to look into banking related issues in a state.

When the villagers deposit money with the moneylenders in the hope of having some savings, they get no interest. And when they borrow, it is at very high rates.

“To get my daughter married, I had to take a loan of Rs.20,000 from a moneylender at the rate of five percent per month. I had to pay back Rs.36,000 in a period of less than one year,” said Kuwar Mali, a resident of Giddhor block.

The three blocks make up one of the most backward areas of the state. They do not have a regular Block Development Officer (BDO) who looks after development work at the block level.

Central Home Minister Shivraj Patil last week visited Lawalong to assess development work. But local legislator Ramchandra Ram of the Communist Party of India (CPI) claims he was not allowed to share the dais with Patil.

“I was deliberately not invited to the function. The district administration was afraid that I would expose them before Patil. According to protocol, the local representative should be invited in any official programme,” said the CPI legislator.

R.N. Singh, president of the Jharkhand SLBC, said: “We are planning to open 500 more branches in the state. We will look into the possibility of opening branches in these blocks.”

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