Friday, March 31, 2006

THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING MY MOTHERLAND

In the past 22 years of my living, I never had such an emotional journey. A journey that was the first step towards understanding my nation. For a few years now, I had been roaming around with friends, running around malls, restaurants and multiplexes. I was missing something. My conscious kept reminding me that. I was moving away from my roots, my culture and most of all my nation. It was time for introspection. I had to understand my motherland, its culture that is alive in villages and not in these so called modern examples of globaliztion.

During the course of this first step of a long and unending journey, I was fortunate enough that I was shown the way by “BASIX” a Microfinance Organization run by
Dr. Vijay Mahajan. I had the oppurtunity to meet him in person on Dec 3rd 2005. I told him that I would be very happy if I am led by their team to some village visits and if I am given an oppurtunity to work in some project, which to my surprise, he readily agreed.

On Dec 24th,2005 I embarked on my journey. Here are a few people who in my view represent the real INDIA.

PLACE: A Village called Duppalli in Mahboonagar District of Andhra Pradesh
( About 130kms from Hyderabad)

I was recived by a BASIX employee ready with his motorbike to take me round the village. Here was I, a stranger from far away merely wasting their time with a Camera in hand as though I had never seen a village before. There they were taking me round the village as if I was their superior. I felt ashamed that I was merely wasting their precious time. This is the difference between them and us. They work for a cause, a cause that encompasses fellow indians. Of course we also do work for a cause, a cause that is confined only to our family, at the best to our friends and relatives.

Mehboob and his wife—Hotel


They run the most famous hotel of the village. By the time we reached there, it was nearing their daughter’s marriage. The hotel was temporarily closed and the preparations were in full swing for the marriage. They took a loan of Rs 30000/- from Krishna Bhima Samruddhi Bank (KBS) a subsidary of BASIX. The loan helped them expand their business. Their savings neared almost Rs 40000/-. All that was being spent on the marriage of their only daughter. She told me how the loan has changed their lives. They augmented their savings and are leading a more comfortable life.

Mehboob was out on some marriage preparation work. His wife offered us tea. The tea was very tasty and much more satisfying than the “capuccino’s” and the “coffee day” stuff. I took out some change to pay for the tea. After all they were running a hotel. She plainly refused to take the money. She said “ this is nothing when compared to what you people gave us”. I was so moved that not even a single word came out of my lips. Basix did not run a charity and give them the loan for free. They were a commercial bank catering to the needs of such people. All the more surprising was that I was being thanked. Neither did I help them nor was I a Basix employee. The fact that these people also live in skyscrapers, but different from those in which we live (skyscrapers of honesty,gratitude,caring nad most of all compassion) strengthened in my view.


Satyanarayana --- General Stores


He took a loan of Rs 15000/- from KBS. He now educates his two children. He recently opened a monthly savings account with KBS in his wife’s name and the insurance facility that comes with the loan is also in his wife’s name. The same story repeats, The story of how BASIX changed their lives.


Narsamma — Insurance Beneficiary


Hers was the most tragic story. Her husband used to do the cabling work in the village. He took a loan of Rs 5000/- from KBS. With the loan came the free insurance facility. (KBS has tied up with AVIVA life insurance for this. Kbs pays the premium from the EMI’s of loans they receive. KBS also extended this loan facility to cattle). She received a sum of around Rs 10000/- in insurance with which she paid off some of the debt. She still has debts in the range of Rs 10000/-.She is running a small general store for living now. BASIX has helped her clear a part of her debt.

When BASIX initially discussed this insurance plan with the villagers, they opposed saying “ Why should we pay for something which we get after death? Do we pay for
Dying?” But Narsamma’s case changed that perception. Noe they are much more interested in insurance plans and even started advising others. The BASIX employee who took me round says that villagers are easy to handle. They are not complex like us urban chaps. But they believe something only when they see it practically. Narsamma’s was one such case.

Narsamma has a little daughter whom she hopes to educate. May GOD help her.


Venkataiah

He is a Shepherd who took a loan of Rs 10000/- from KBS. He now runs a fruit shop parallel to grazing the sheep. He also has the same story to tell of how KBS helped make his living better.



Thimmanna ---Tailor


A Young guy in the village who runs a tailoring shop. He took a loan of Rs 8000/- to buy a new machine. Now he is able to earn more as well as save more.



Venkatamma


She runs a small road side mobile store that caters to the needs of ladies in the village. She does daily saving of Rs 20 in her savings account. She now has savings in excess of Rs 4000/-. She took a loan of Rs 4000/- from KBS.

All that BASIX does is to cater to the needs of those people who cannot approach the big banks for peety loans. These big banks need surities, which they cannot provide. The only option left for them is to approach the money lenders in the village who charge interests in excess of 30% a year and make them pay heavily if they fail to repay the loan in time.

BASIX introduced a concept called JLG (Joint Liability Group) where in people in groups of “4” are jointly liable. Each one of them is the surity for the other three. These JLG’s are free to be formed by villagers on their own. BASIX does not interfere in the JLG formation.

One accusation microfinance institutions(MFI’s) like BASIX have been facing is the high rate of interest they charge. BASIX charges an interest of 21% on loans and pays an interest of 8.5% on savings which is higher than any other bank. The defended by saying
“ Our target customers are the people who do not have access to government loans and who often fall into the trap of the money lenders. The interest we charge is much less than what they charge. And we also do not run a charity rather we are a commercial bank. We also have to pay our employees.” This I think is completely justified.

Now BASIX is concentrating on inculcating the culture of savings and insurance in them.

My first step was a wonderful experience. We all so called modern professionals need to change. We have to understand the real INDIA. Recognize their needs and lend a hand in their development. We have to make them a part of the much hyped “INDIA on the MOVE”

I have just started learning the alphabets of this complex language called INDIA. I would have accomplished my goal If I learn to make a sentence of my own in this language.

1 comment:

COMMITED To TARGET said...

Rakesh anna ,
your current post will be more efective if you add photos side(by side of each beneficiary) to them because a picture says what words cann't and am sure that will inspire many like me to do and start with little..........

Matam Manjunath
NITW.