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Money’s Cloying influence….

February 27, 2012

Greetings,

Many moons ago, a man, Professor M. Yunus from Bangladesh pioneered a method to make lending possible to poor people. Perhaps, like all things, the intentions at the start were good. Help poor people get loans, so they can move up in life.

He started the Grameen Bank (Village Bank). Micro-credit.

And then the money masters smelled an opportunity, gave Yunus the Kiss of Death, a Nobel prize. And a host of other awards. And then took the process over.

Here is how it is playing out in India:

SKS Under Spotlight in Suicides

MUMBAI, India — First they were stripped of their utensils, furniture, mobile phones, televisions, ration cards and heirloom gold jewelry. Then, some of them drank pesticide. One woman threw herself in a pond. Another jumped into a well with her children.

Sometimes, the debt collectors watched nearby.

Bloomberg NewsA file photo of a woman receiving a micro-loan during a meeting organized by SKS Microfinance in Sadasivpet, India, on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010.

More than 200 poor, debt-ridden residents of Andhra Pradesh killed themselves in late 2010, according to media reports compiled by the government of the south Indian state. The state blamed microfinance companies–which give small loans intended to lift up the very poor–for fueling a frenzy of overindebtedness and then pressuring borrowers so relentlessly that

some took their own lives.

The companies, including market leader SKS Microfinance, denied it.

However, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, independent researchers and videotaped testimony from the families of the dead, show top SKS officials had information implicating company employees in some of the suicides.

An independent investigation commissioned by the company linked SKS employees to at least seven of the deaths. A second investigation commissioned by an industry umbrella group that probed the role of many microfinance companies did not draw conclusions but pointed to SKS involvement in two more cases that ended in suicide. Neither study has been made public.

Both reports said SKS employees had verbally harassed over-indebted borrowers, forced them to pawn valuable items, incited other borrowers to humiliate them and orchestrated sit-ins outside their homes to publicly shame them. In some cases, the SKS staff physically harassed defaulters, according to the report commissioned by the company. Only in death would the debts be forgiven.

The videos and reports tell stark stories: One woman drank pesticide and died a day after an SKS loan agent told her to prostitute her daughters to pay off her debt. She had been given 150,000 rupees ($3,000) in loans but only made 600 rupees ($12) a week.

Another SKS debt collector told a delinquent borrower to drown herself in a pond if she wanted her loan waived. The next day, she did. She left behind four children.

One agent blocked a woman from bringing her young son, weak with diarrhea, to the hospital, demanding payment first. Other borrowers, who could not get any new loans until she paid, told her that if she wanted to die, they would bring her pesticide. An SKS staff member was there when she drank the poison. She survived.

An 18-year-old girl, pressured until she handed over 150 rupees ($3)–meant for a school examination fee–also drank pesticide.

She left a suicide note: “Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.”

For the rest, go here: STORY

Our relationship with money is terminally broken. For any return to health, individually and collectively, we have to re-orient our-selves with respect to money.

Mammon Madness.

A piece of paper is worth more than a life. Especially when the implied value on that piece of paper is an electronically created one.

And some hard-heads will say “Hey, if you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it”.  And so, lacking empathy, collection note in hand, hand-in-hand, down we go.

Ponder this deeply, take a piece of money/paper and burn it ritually.

Be well.

In Truth,

Vivek

PS: If you dig into the story, the fall of SKS micro-finance really began in earnest when a pair of prominent American Venture (Vulture) Capitalists came in, smelling blood. And you want me to go dance with them? Ehhhh? 😉

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2012 3:30 pm

    I’ve worked on two micro-loan programs (one for low-income women in the S.F. Bay Area and another one I helped set up in the DR). There’s an obvious design flaw in the program you mentioned, in that they were engaging other community members in the debt-collecting process. This is vicious. When it comes to money, If anything can go wrong, it will.

    The loan programs I worked with functioned as a type of grant, in that the incentive to pay back was the possibility to get a bigger loan to expand the business once the smaller one had been paid off and the legitimacy/profitability of the business had been verified. No collections, no venture capitalist involved (unless they were donating the money). The other catch was that, in order to get the loan, people had to go through a training program guided by a business coach. They’d need to show a plan including budget and feasibility analysis and then ask themselves if this is something they want to move forward with, always starting small. Additional trainings were offered for personal/business development moving forward… all free.

    These programs have worked for many and have lifted many out of poverty; but they need to function in conjunction with a training/accompaniment process and cannot function as a business, that is – it should not have the expectation of profitability since a good share of the loans are not repaid in time. Yes, money can corrupt and spoils many well-meaning endeavors, but it is also the desire for protagonism and the spotlight that comes along with certain “prizes” that corrupts as well.

    There are many people doing good out there every day, silently and constantly. I would say, do take that dollar and ponder its influence, but if you don’t need it, don’t burn it – give it to someone who does and then resist the urge to tell everyone how generous you are.

  2. February 27, 2012 5:13 pm

    There is nothing quite so destabilizing as being unable to care for those closest to you including yourself because you have been mentally tortured into the false belief there is nowhere to turn, nothing you can do. And then, to know, entire populations are ravaged because they stand in the way of some unknown and fabulously wealthy entities’ insatiable greed-game(!) totally void of ANY compassion. You wonder what life is all about anyway, and see the journey as trivial, cheap, a trip going from bad to worse so why bother continuing, “perhaps its better to step away, you have no useful purpose, never did” etc.

    Some of the brightest, most sincere and generous of our species walk that road and are saved from suicide by spirituality. Some are not. May the Divine Force find them in time. May they come to recognize the illusion for what it is and find joy in simply breathing.

    Incredible post Vivek.

  3. February 27, 2012 5:20 pm

    There is something else, too. Something larger. What we are seeing unfold is the dramatically negative aspect of human nature for dominance taken to unimaginable extremes so that all activities carried out by those who sit in judgement of others is manifest. Our problem is: since we can’t imagine the magnitude of the extremes, we miss all the right clues that could be positive and helpful to all. Clues such as naming dominance movements as something along the lines of Total Dominance and it appears to the public as just another weird battle term.

  4. February 27, 2012 5:22 pm

    As if that kind of destruction is heroic, righteous, holy…

  5. tom kauser permalink
    April 22, 2014 3:44 pm

    On the 12th of FEB.1771 not withstanding the great severity of the late famine and the great reduction of people thereby some increase has been made in the settlements both of the Bengal and behar provinces for the present year! About a third of Bengal STARVED to death THE EAST INDIA COMPANY DID NOT CARE they collected more!

    • April 22, 2014 4:13 pm

      Shocking isn’t it? Staggering. We are definitely being run by a machine mind, else so many humans would never have died so need-lessly.

      They say 30 million starved to death in Bengal in the great famine of the last 20’s and early 30’s. And all their gold was shipped off to England to pay her war dues.

      On and on….

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