Bangladesh: Micro-credit drives Yunus to death!
A Barisal rickshaw-puller has taken his own life, buckling under heaps of micro-loans, his wife says.
Barely 20, Laiju Begum found her husband hanging from the ceiling on Saturday as she returned to their dingy rented room on Rokeya Azim Avenue in the city.
25-year old Yunus Sardar was son of one Seresta Ali.
Laiju said Yunus had borrowed Tk 70,000 from seven micro-credit agencies and a further Tk 20,000 from moneylenders against her name and he had become the guarantor.
Laiju told bdnews24.com that they had begun taking loans because Yunus wanted to drive an auto-rickshaw. The rickshaw was proving too much of an exertion for him.
At the end, his weekly instalments were Tk 2,010. “But more often than not, he couldn’t pay them,” says Laiju.
“The loan officers of the NGOs would often insult him.”
The agencies he had taken loans from include Grameen Bank, Islami Bank and ASA.
The widow said police had caught Yunus carrying the banned cough-syrup Phensidyl. “A fare had forced him to take the bottles when he had protested. But he was the one who got caught.”
Laiju ended up spending all the money to get him out of jail. “He had become anxious about how to make the instalments,” she said breaking down in tears.
Kaunia Police Station’s sub-inspector Abdur Rahman told bdnews24.com, “An unnatural death case has been lodged with the police station over the incident of suicide. The body has been handed over to the family on Sunday after autopsy.”
Tahmina Begum, a development worker of the Bangladesh Rural Development Board under Barisal Sadar sub-district, told bdnews24.com, “According to micro-credit regulations a recipient becomes ineligible for further credit from other agencies.”
“The borrower must have a permanent address, too.”
Samanwita Samaj Unnayan Sangstha executive director Anwar Zahid told bdnews24.com that the loan applicants often conceal information. “But the field workers are also negligent sometimes.” He said that the management system needs improvement.
Laiju said they borrowed Tk 8,000 from Grameen Bank, Tk 10,000 from Islami Bank, Tk 8,000 from ASA, Tk 11,000 from Chetana Mahila Unnayan Sangstha, Tk 13,000 from Samanwito Samaj Unnayan Sangstha, Tk 10,000 from Hilful Fuzul Samaj Kalyan Sangstha and Tk 10,000 from the Organisation of Social and Economic Development (OSED) this year saying that he would raise chickens.
Yunus also borrowed from individuals with interest rates as high as 180 percent. Laiju said his monthly instalment for a Tk 6,000 loan was Tk 900. She said they had borrowed another Tk 10,000 from relatives.
She could not hold back her tears thinking of how she had found her husband on Saturday after she had made her daily round of the house where she works as a domestic aid. The neighbours had come running when they heard her cry out.
One of them told bdnews24.com that the NGOs give loans without checking the borrower’s ability to repay.
She said, other than his debt, Yunus did not have other problems. He could not make the instalments from just pulling rickshaws.
Laiju had told the NGO loan officers that she would repay every penny. “I will put together every little bit as I work in the houses and repay their loans. I told them so.”
Officials from ASA, one of the agencies that had given her a loan, took away the documents after they heard about suicide, said Laiju.
Nazrul Islam, district manager for ASA, told bdnews24.com, “Yunus used to pay his instalments regularly. He still owes us Tk 1,400 but we will write it off.”
Regarding his workers bringing back all the loan documents from Laiju, he said, “He has some Tk 800-900 saved with us, and we need the documents to give those savings to their next of kin.”
He said although the loans are registered against one person, both the husband and wife are responsible for paying back. “But we write it off whenever one of them dies.”
A woman of about 50, Laiju’s neighbour, had been listening to her speaking to this bdnews24.com correspondent. She appeared to become agitated all of a sudden. “They never check the recipient’s ability. Why did they have to go and given this boy these loans? Now you see, they have killed him with their micro-credit.”