Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Election 09: No one talking about checking money lending

Election 09: No one talking about checking money lending

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Money lenders find an important place in history of South Asia. The vocation of lending money is followed by certain caste group from ancient times in India. This separate group is known by different caste names in different states of the country.

There is unanimity on the role of money lenders in India but there are differences over their contribution towards the society. Seldom one comes across the positive image of this group of people.

India being primarily agricultural economy and farming heavily dependent on advance money, the association of Indian peasantry with money lenders is long and checkered.

The history of South Asia is littered with the stories of dependence of ordinary folks on money lenders. In fact there are man instances where land lords too were dependent on this group of people. It’s a subject that’s widely researched.

In my research on the Partition of India, I have come across many source material that talks about rural indebtedness of Muslim peasants of west Punjab and Sindh in the hands of the Hindu money lenders.

The 1946 election in the heart of Pakistan was also a vote to get librated from those who thrived on usury. The high rate of interest charged by the money lenders had made them lead life penury.

The same role was played by the Chetirs of Tamil Nadu in Burma. The Japanese occupation of Burma came as boon for peasantry there.They felt liberated from the yoke of Indian money lenders.

The Burmese peasantry rose in revolt to chase these money lenders out of their country. These folks were forced to take a ‘long walk’ to Tamil Nadu. The memory of this ‘walk’ is still rife in this part of the world.

However, one cannot deny the fact that these money lenders played a big role in the capital formation of modern India. The history of many corporate giants of today could be traced to the humble beginning pursuing this vocation generations ago.

The modern banking system initiated by the British rule hardly changed the face of rural credit. This profession still survives in length and breadth of the country. Many people are still dependent on them for monetary credit. It’s an exploitative system in every sense of the term and anyone caught in it may find hard to escape without loosing.

Even though the alarming rate of farm suicide has been occurring in this country with impunity there is little effort to look into the practice of money lending that seem to be the main reason behind this catastrophe. The government of the day has failed to provide easy access of monetary credit to the rural folks.

This cast doubts whether there is problem with the modern banking system in India or there is deliberate attempt by the successive government to patronize this exploitative practice.

All indications suggest that the governments are hand in gloves with the money lenders and giving them the lease in perpetuity the levers of exploitation.

In this season of electioneering, when the talks about bringing back the ill gotten wealth is reaching its crescendo no one is even whispering to do away with this evil practice.

The conspiracy of silence by the political leaders over this issue suggests the mental makeup of the leadership in the country. One is bound to conclude that more farm suicides are inevitable in the days and years ahead.

Here I like to pitch in a random thought. Perhaps one of the reasons of the decline of the power base of the Muslims in South Asia could be due to the strict abhorrence of their religion towards the practice of money lending. This might have blocked the capital formation and stymied the process of industrial growth.

Thus the feudal mode production that Muslims supervised in South Asia could not cross the hump and reach the plateau of capitalism. They crystallized and fossilized there finally to decline and fall.

The ladder looks too tall now and this could be the reason of commotion that’s being witnessed here.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist baased in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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