Various financial institutions had offered loans at very high interest for self-employment and farming ventures. Especially women who had lost their husbands or male members of the family to the war mostly fell into debt.
Last January, a 32 year old mother of three killed herself after leaving a suicide note saying she could not repay the loans she obtained for a self-employment venture. A resident of Vishvamadu in Mullaitivu, she had obtained money from several micro-finance institutions and commercial banks. Together with the interest, she had to pay back Rs. 80,000.
In February, Sivalingam Satyendran, a father of five, took his own life after failing to repay Rs. 200,000. In Omanthai, Nagendran Sugandhini, aged 23, committed suicide along with her 2 ½ year old child due to her debt burden.
There have been more such instances from these difficult areas. In addition, those who had failed to repay the loans had been beaten up by the recovery officers sent by the lenders. It has been revealed that certain micro-finance institutions were behind the Ava Group of thugs that had been used to recover the loaned money.
The UN committee against discrimination of women has called on the government to pay immediate attention to this matter. This is becoming a serious social issue. Recently, a protest was held in Vavuniya town by the women in debt who carried placards with slogans such as ‘guns during the war, loans under Yahapaalanaya’, ‘micro-finance is a death trap’ and ‘don’t give loans to make us starve’.
The Central Bank has admitted receiving complaints about the high interest loans given by micro-finance institutions in the north.
D. Manjula Kumara - Sathhanda