MFI agent ‘forces’ a debtor to commit suicide so that his loan is repaid

MFI agent ‘forces’ a debtor to commit suicide so that his loan is repaid

Biswabrata Goswami

KRISHNAGAR, 7 JUNE: In a shocking and serious incident, a Micro Finance Institution (MFI) agent has encouraged an aged debtor, who failed to pay his equated monthly installment (EMI) for about a few months due to pandemic situation, to commit suicide so that his loan is repaid. This happens at Charjijira area under Santipur police station limits in Nadia because the borrower is covered by insurance.

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The borrower, Samar Bhattacharya, has lodged a complaint with the Santipur police against the MFI and its agent yesterday, but police have not taken any step yet.

Mr Bhattacharya, who is a private teacher, is currently struggling hard to maintain his family as he could not run his profession due to this pandemic situation.

He borrowed Rs 40000 from a MFI on online mode in the early months of 2020 at 24 EMIs. Within months after taking loan from the MFI, the state declared lockdown for pandemic situation. He became unemployed as he could not continue his private tuition. Amidst this stringent situation, he repaid 11 installments. But, he failed to repay the EMI for the month of April.

Mr Bhattacharya said a recovery agent of the MFI came to his house and abused his wife. The agent even took a photograph of his wife and threatened her that he would publish her photograph as a loan defaulter in the social media.

Being worried, his wife then borrowed Rs 1200 from her neighbours and gave the money to him.

Yesterday, the recovery agent again called him over phone and hurled abusive languages to him. The agent even encouraged him to commit suicide so that the loan is repaid.

Mr Bhattacharya, a high pressure patient, started feeling uneasy. He was immediately taken to the Santipur State General hospital where he was examined for five hours.

On hearing the news, several people and NGOs came forward to him and raised question how a MFI agent can encourage a debtor to commit suicide. “It’s a very serious incident because debtor is not a criminal. This apart, Indian law never allows MFIs to encourage the borrowers to commit suicide,” said Biswajit Biswas, a school teacher.   

It can be mentioned that in 2010, Andhra Pradesh witnessed a series of suicides. These were not cases of farmers’ suicides—a regular occurrence in the state which continues to be in the grip of an agrarian crisis. The first information reports (FIRs) of the police reveal that most of the suicides were due to coercive loan recovery tactics adopted by the mighty microfinance institutions (MFIs) that had given these people a few thousands of rupees as loans.

As many as 76 suicides, allegedly due to debt recovery-related harassment were reported that year in the state. Police cases were registered, many of them under the section 306 of the Indian Penal Code for abetment of suicide. It was pointed out that since the loans were insured, many of the victims were driven to suicide.

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