ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Defects in Self-Help Groups

LETTERS

Issn 0012-9976

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Justice for Niyamat Ansari–I

W
e condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent murder of NREGA activist Niyamat Ansari in Kope Gram Panchayat (Latehar district, Jharkhand), as well as a similar attempt – the same day – on the life of his associate Bhukhan Singh.

Briefly, the murder was the culmination of a series of acts of harassment, including at least one earlier attempt on Bhukhan’s and Niyamat’s lives. Bhukhan and Niyamat fearlessly continued to fi ght for the rights of NREGA workers and stood up against the nexus of corruption and crime in the area. Niyamat was killed just a few days after he and others exposed a fl agrant NREGA scam in Rankikalan Gram Panchayat.

We are dismayed by the insidious allegations that have been made about Niyamat in sections of the mainstream media, attempting to project him as a “criminal” to divert attention from the real issues and culprits. These reports were factually incorrect and the concerned publication carried an apology the following day.

We are most disturbed to learn from reliable sources that the murder was executed by a local Maoist squad. In fact, the South Latehar sub-zonal committee of the CPI(Maoist) itself claimed responsibility for it and attempted to justify the murder by making absurd allegations such as that Niyamat and Bhukhan were police informers. Are we to understand from this incident that there is truth in the rumour of a nexus between the local Maoist squad of that area and corrupt contractors involved in the loot of NREGA funds?

We demand immediate arrest of the prime suspects (named in the FIR), compensation for Niyamat’s family, protection for Bhukhan Singh, and a CBI enquiry into Niyamat’s murder.

We also demand an apology and explanation from the Central Committee of the CPI(Maoist), and a guarantee of safety for Bhukhan Singh who is still “wanted” by the sub-zonal committee. No explanation, however, can justify the brutal murder of a defenceless person, let alone someone who was bravely fighting for people’s

march 12, 2011

rights. This is a wholly reprehensible act and all those responsible for it must be punished.

Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy, Bela Bhatia, Cedric Prakash, Gautam Navlakha, Harsh Mander, K N Panikkar, Nandita Das, Nikhil Dey, Jean Drèze, Kavita Srivastava, Nandini Sundar, Rajinder Sachar, Reetika Khera, Satya Sivaraman, Shabnam Hashmi, Shashi Bhushan Pathak, Swami Agnivesh and Vrinda Grover

II

T
he People’s Union for Democratic Rights (pudr) condemns the killing of Niyamat Ansari by members of the CPI (Maoist) on 2 March 2011.

Niyamat Ansari and his colleague Bhukhan Singh have been active for over a decade raising issues of the right to food and employment guarantee. Niyamat was the convenor of the Manika block unit of the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan and the MNREGA Support Centre.

The involvement of the CPI(Maoist) party in the brutal killing is most horrifying. The press statement by that party gives fl imsy grounds to justify the attack. It is expected from any organisation that claims to struggle for a more just society to have a greater respect for life.

There is continued threat to the life of Bhukhan Singh, who managed to survive the attack since he was not present in the village at that time.

In the light of the above, the PUDR demands: (1) That the persons responsible for the murder of Niyamat Ansari be handed over by the CPI(Maoist) so that they be tried for their criminal actions, (2) Bhukhan Singh be provided protection and that the CPI(Maoist) publicly apologise for the criminal action and declare that no harm shall come to him.

Harish Dhawan and Paramjeet Singh Secretaries, PUDR New Delhi

Keynes and PhDs

A
propos Rajeshwari Deshpande’s illumi-nating piece, “How Does the System Encourage Academic Dishonesty?” (EPW, 19 February 2011) and the mania for doctorates in India, it is pertinent to recall Keynes’

vol xlvi no 11

EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

LETTERS

indictment of research degrees in economics, and inferentially in social sciences, when he was the external examiner for the doctoral dissertation of an Indian student, Srinivas Rao Karwankar submitted to the University of Wales on “India and the Problem of a Central Bank”.

In his report to the registrar of the university dated 18 May 1932 in rejecting the thesis he remarks, “It is disagreeable not to be able to say something warmer about an honest and careful piece of work. But there is no real remedy for this sort of thing other than the much deserved abolition of research degrees in economics.” Keynes thought it was difficult to be original in well-traversed fields like central banking in India and that mere competence in research did not merit academic imprimatur (Chandavarkar: Keynes and India, Macmillan, 1989, p 165).

Anand Chandavarkar

Washington DC

Wasting Time on the Srikrishna Report

I
t seems that the obsession of scholars with the farce of the Srikrishna Committee report is still not over. Any doubt about its fairness or validity should be clear from the recent observations by Justice L Narasimha Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh High Court describing the “secret contents of the Srikrishna Committee as full of lies and mind-boggling descriptions of non-existent things”. He further commented, “it is unfortunate that this report and its related exercise were presided over by a former judge of the Supreme Court…This committee has spent Rs 40 crore of public money for preparing its report. Any person with a semblance of faith in the system of democracy would lose faith in it.”

The decision on creation of a separate state of Telangana has to be a political one, because the merger of Telangana with Andhra was a political decision. The political power brokers are unwilling to formally accept that the events that have unfolded in the region over the past 15 months have been spontaneous and the people’s response has been overwhelmingly for a separate state. Over the last 40 years, a lot of water has fl own through

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
march 12, 2011

the Penganga and Wainganga and this time the people cannot be fooled.

M Mallikarjun

Institute of Management, Nirma University

Ahmedabad

Defects in Self-Help Groups

T
he self-help group (SHG) scheme was initiated to improve the earning capacity of the poor through some group activity.

With a view to discern the working of SHGs a small survey of such groups in three panchayats of Sarswan block in Kaushambi, a backward district of Uttar Pradesh bordering the Bundelkhand region was conducted. The study covered 32 villages and all SHGs ever formed in these villages constituted the universe of the study. The SHGs ever formed in the study area numbered 85 out of which 57 or 67% had gone out of existence.

As the poor have no incentive to form a SHG, all sorts of advantages are dangled to cajole them to form one. For example, houses under the Indira Gandhi Awas Yojana would be sanctioned only to those who have become part of an SHG. Likewise, BPL cards would also be given only to such persons. Most importantly, a bank loan of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 would be sanctioned after six months and if they continue to contribute their monthly share for one year, a sum of Rs 2 lakh, which has now been raised to Rs 4 lakh, would be credited to their bank account to be used by them to undertake remunerative activities.

The village development officers and the facilitators are under pressure from their higher-ups to form SHGs as per the target fixed for them. The latter, in order to meet the target, cajole the poor to form an SHG without taking the trouble to motivate them in a proper manner. The result is that people join SHGs in the hope of getting a bank loan after six months and a bigger loan after 12 months. They make the monthly contribution, but if someone defaults other members also become lukewarm about repayment. They are hardly told about what amount has been deposited with the bank. There are cases where the president and secretary of the SHG have embezzled the funds. The real difficulty arises when after six months they approach the banks for the first loan commonly called first grading, after the cash credit limit (CCL) is determined by the banks.

vol xlvi no 11

We found that 21 SHGs which had existed for 6 to 12 months ceased to exist because the CCL was done in the case of only two SHGs where members divided the money among themselves and that was the end of the story. It was only in the case of those SHGs which had existed for 24 months or more that roughly 40% received an average loan of Rs 90,000 instead of Rs 1 lakh because a bribe of Rs 10,000 or so had to be paid in every case. There is a subsidy of 50% on such loans and the banks are enjoined to pay Rs 2 lakh, but they generally keep the subsidy with themselves and pay only Rs 1 lakh and that too after the SHGs agree to pay a bribe. A three month instalment of the total amount to be paid back by the respective SHGs is fixed in which interest at a compound rate is charged.

It appears that corruption is sounding the death knell for the scheme. The bank officials make the SHGs run in the hope of getting a larger amount as a bribe. This causes frustration and exasperation. Bogus SHGs have also cropped up (there were four such SHGs in our study area), which are prepared to bribe on a much larger scale and have vitiated the atmosphere. Now banks consider a bribe as their right and nothing moves unless the bribe amount is settled in advance.

In order to infuse vitality into the scheme the government should undertake some innovative measures. One such measure can be the provision of a grant by the government to the SHG, equal to what the members contribute. This will make the scheme very attractive for the poor who in that case will try to contribute as much as they can. Cheaper loans can be given to SHGs if the government offers interest subvention.

Kripa Shankar

Allahabad

Erratum
Delhi’s Noor Masjid: Tales of a Martyred Mosque

The above article, published in the EPW of 5 March 2011 was authored by Laurent Gayer and Chakraverti Mahajan. The second author’s name was not published due to an internal error. The error is deeply regretted. The website contains the correct details of the authors and their institutional affi liations.

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