HNB Grameen is going to sue against the mother who picks Curry leaves.
She was at the forest full of rough elephants picking Curry leaves nearly 30 miles from home when we first contacted her. This mother, an iconic symbol of the victims of the ever terrorizing Microfinance crisis draining rural villages into worse than poverty, is not just living in a house at which walls to the eyes are just shattered off. It literally is a potter’s nest. Shattering the tiled roof in her house--is a monstrous potter’s nest ruling everything. She is Ariyawathi, a woman of 57 from Galnewa Jana Udana village, living in hunger and mortal fear begging at those Microfinance agents who visit the village demanding payment instalments, with her paralyzed husband and 91 year old greying mother.
She is the amma, who could not afford to allow more suffering, took her mother to her own brother’s place and at his denial returned back home. And she, for the best she could do, borrowing at least a spoon of rice from a nearby neighbour, feeds her mother restoring her hunger, caring less of her own; feeds with a pile of fried jackfruit nuts if there is nothing left at all. Her husband is paralyzed, bed-resident, and still unable to work, since he was diagnosed with Dengue fever. Do not they have any support, even from their children? They have only daughters. Their husbands feed them through hired labour. The life has not allowed them to even think about living under standards, and at the struggle this mother and grandmother climb through, are exceptions only to survive with the mere air they breathe in. Ariyawathi and her family have no paddy fields; neither inherited estates. Even picking Curry leaves has become lesser these days, with the drought and the tyrannical rays of sunlight emerge throughout the dry zone.
Nelumyaya Foundation decided to act on giving publicity through media to the story of this mother, called by the villagers ‘Karapincha Amma’, reminiscing that she is not the only woman to suffer and is vulnerable from the Microfinance crisis terrorizing this rural village. But amongst the rest of the stories, Nelumyaya’s belief on giving prime concern to her story, as an elderly person being the sole income source in the family being mortally harassed by the Microfinance agents, made us protocoling her on the frontline. Accordingly, we saw how our article ‘“Doesn’t matter if you’re dead – the Insurance is here for you” – The HNB Grameen Drags the Old Curry Leaves Lady into the Police!’, the one about her story, made viral on the internet and heavily discussed.
We made our public debut as entrance to the topic of Microfinance crisis in Sri Lanka, addressing its effects in the internal structure of the povertyline of the rural villages, at the Independent Television Network (ITN) live program ’Sanwadaya’, in 19.06.2018. The research we had been conducting for a long period of time on the so long wrongfully orchestrated idea of Microfinance crisis affecting to only the Northern-East was based to it. When we were invited to ‘Ayubowan Subha Udasanak’ program at Jathika Rupavahini, our condition on accepting the invitation was to invite the other party responsible for this crisis, the Microfinance Practitioners’ Association, to talk face-to-face as well. Even we are the ones who coordinated them to the program. Likewise the conversation took on a very long road forward through the television and the radio; in the future would be the same. Because Nelumyaya Foundation functions on the argumentation that the villagers, as well as the Microfinance agencies, ought to face this crisis without being blasted off. What needs to be done is introduction of a more humanitarian approach to the industry, in which social welfare can be developed and a market for the villagers can be created, and not chasing over profit by pushing these enough suffered people into the pool of horror further enriching capitalism. Back ago when Mohammad Yunus made Bangladesh into the House of the Microfinance concept, he did so only by the sole foundation of developing the Rural Economy by sending the Microfinance companies into the villages and lending women money, and not under the desperation ‘Doesn’t matter if you die, payback our money!’ chasing over high profit involved by banks, Finance or Microfinance companies.
Nelumyaya Foundation collects details in relate to the incidents with the fully consent of the victims. In accordance with the laws established to victim protection, we specially insist that we hold duty and responsibility in protecting the details of the victims. Therefore, even the pictures we post along with this article displaying Karapincha Amma have been consented by her. For we were cautious on the impact she might have gotten with the revelation of her story, we had taken measures to keep a minimum profile about her identity in the previous article. So we did not post her real photos.
By now we have been receiving a number of requests asking for her personal information, such as her telephone number, account number or her address. We have refused to give her account details pointing out that it does not serve your purpose of helping her, because we know, since she is in possession of a HNB Grameen account and it is an account Microfinance loan instalments are deposited, that one’s expectation to ‘handover’ her money would definitely not be possible. If we are to give you her address, it may be true someone that independent can visit and help her. However, given the consideration to our past experience in dealing with victims of a crisis, we are hesitant with the decision for several reasons. Therefore, Nelumyaya Foundation will not be supplying any personal information of the victims, ethically sound. The decision is adjacent to our responsibility to secure the data of the victims.
By this time, Karapincha Amma has received many letters from the agencies she obtained loans, notifying her they will file against her. We will also make arrangements to supply her with legal support in the future. And we are well aware of the fact that avenging one does not simply address the whole crisis. Nelumyaya Foundation functions on the Microfinance crisis with a broader perspective in social servicing. What really needs to be done, instead of paying off the debts of the victims, is developing a more sustainable path for their livelihood, and if they are capable of producing something a market for their production; providing them with skills to improve their productivity. We stand in with the belief that just giving money does not justify the whole crisis with several reasons. Not only Karapincha Amma, for the longest period of years overwhelming majority of the rural women are those who fell into the villainous cycle of loaning, paying instalments and re-loaning. Many of whom in this cycle are living up to the standard of paying the daily instalment for the daily survival and nothing else. We have to accept this devastation, and we have to find ways to put an end to it.
We are making these details formidable, for your attention, while we are grateful for the feedback we received from the readers over the country agreeing to help her, to reveal you a hidden passageway in our society you might have not seen before.
By now Nelumyaya Foundation has taken the initiative to solve her two prime problems--to resettle electricity (which has been cut off) in her home by paying the full amount, and to deliver mandatory home necessities, including food. We would never give her hand-in money because we are uncertain of her knowledge on financial management. Otherwise judging by the heavy economic pressure she is in, she would definitely spend them to pay interest. Therefore, we have arranged to facilitate her with her fundamental requirements for living through one of our field agents. Another couple of allies have also joined us in hands in achieving this mission, and they will receive a comprehensive report about the mission.
No severe drought can be resolved by throwing a can of water. But women like Karapincha Amma, as many women before and after her, find grudging to survive in a position even a drop of water is a major reassurance, pleading for life from you, and me!
- Attorney Radika Gunaratne | Nelumyaya Foundation