Interview with Swapna: Jagganguda village, Andhra Pradesh
Duration: 00:23:34; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 56.236; Saturation: 0.038; Lightness: 0.489; Volume: 0.228; Cuts per Minute: 2.205; Words per Minute: 102.959
The Identity project emerged as a result of our dissatisfaction at the nature of the debate that was emerging on the area of digital governance in India.
Over the past three years we have conducted numerous field visits in seven Indian states.These visits include numerous video-conversations, some short and others very long, with a diverse number of those who were involved with this entire process of participating in the emergence of a digital ecosystem of governance. These are interviews with people being enrolled into the Aadhaar programme, with district-level Panchayat and other officials, with numerous State government bureaucrats, with private enrollment representatives, representatives of various governmental services, with operators and other members of this digital workforce. Conversations are often long, spontaneous and deliberately unstructured: and the focus is mainly on a vérité style using amateur video.
Some key issues that we shortlisted for detailed inquiry were issues of migrants, both domestic and across international borders, homelessness in cities, and the financially excluded. Each of these areas was discussed in considerable detail at major public consultations held in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore, in partnership with the CSDS, the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and the Urban Research and Policy Programme Initiative of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. All videos of all presentations made at these events are also available here.
CSCS also has an extensive text archives of material on the field as a whole, available on http://eprints.cscsarchives.org
Swapna is a resident of Jagganguda village of Shamirpet Mandal of Ranga Reddy district. A highly indebted borrower, Swapna is also a ‘Leader’ of an MFI joint liability group (JLG), responsible for bringing community pressure to defaulting borrowers in the village. The interview throws significant light on the impact of JLGs on the village community, and the role of peer pressure.
INTERVIEWER: What does your husband do?
Swapna: He drives a school bus.
INTERVIEWER: What is his name? Where is the school?
Swapna: Venkatesh. The school is in Mazipur.
INTERVIEWER: Is this your village. Do you own any agriculture land?
Swapna: Yes, this is our village. We do not own any agriculture land.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any business?
Swapna: No, my husband is a driver and I stay at home. I have young children. I have two daughters. One of them is studying in the UKG.
INTERVIEWER: Do your in-laws live here?
Swapna: Yes, thats my father-in-law. All of us used to live in a joint family and have seperated recently.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have your own house?
INTERVIEWER: Where did you borrow money if you need money?
INTERVIEWER: Is it from private individual lenders?
INTERVIEWER: Are they from the village?
Swapna: Yes from the village.
INTERVIEWER: What is the interest rate?
Swapna: Monthly 3%.
INTERVIEWER: Do you pay interest monthly?
Swapna: Yes. Have to pay it as soon as my husband gets salary.
INTERVIEWER: Do you also repay the loan principal?
INTERVIEWER: How much did you borrow?
Swapna: Rs.5000. Another time we took another Rs.5000. Usually it is about Rs.5000.
INTERVIEWER: Is the lender a resident of this village?
Swapna: Yes. He is a farmer; he has money so he lends it out.
INTERVIEWER: When did you borrow from a MFI the first time?
Swapna: About four years back.
INTERVIEWER: Which company?
INTERVIEWER: You borrowed only from SKS or are there others?
Swapna: Yes, only SKS. We stopped about 6 months back or else till four years back we were borrowing from SKS.
INTERVIEWER: Did you stop borrowing because of the crisis or before that?
Swapna: We stopped before that. We could not repay. My husband gets his salary on a monthly basis and we have to pay on a weekly basis. We were finding it difficult so we stopped.
INTERVIEWER: How much loan did you take?
Swapna: First time we took Rs.10,000 and then Rs.16,000
INTERVIEWER: How much did you pay per week (as installment)?
Swapna: First Rs.245 per week. For the Rs.16,000 loan we had to pay Rs.380 per week.
INTERVIEWER: Do you take a smaller loan apart from this?
INTERVIEWER: How many weeks did you have to pay Rs.380 instalment?
Swapna: 50 weeks.
INTERVIEWER: Did you get the second loan after fully repaying the first loan or did you get in the middle?
Swapna: After repaying the first loan. After 25 weeks, we were offered a smaller loan (chinna loan), but we did not take it.
INTERVIEWER: How much is a smaller loan?
Swapna: Rs.1000 or 2000.
INTERVIEWER: What was the stated purpose of the loan that you took?
Swapna: I told them I wanted to buy a buffalo. They asked me if I actually bought one. I told them yes I bought. I was told that they will come to my house and check if I bought one. I told them they can come and I will show them a buffalo. But, I did not buy any. We used the money for other purposes. My youngest daughter was born so we had to use it for medical costs.
INTERVIEWER: When you joined the JLG (Joint Liability Group), who were the other members? Were they your relatives? How did you all come together to form a JLG in the first place?
Swapna: I needed money as did my sister. So we met Saritha and she asked us to form a group. I gathered another four and my sister gathered another four. We are in different groups. Saritha introduced us to the MFIs. Based on her introduction we were given a loan.
INTERVIEWER: Can two members of the same family be a part of one group.
Swapna: No. If two members of the same family are in one group then there will be problems if both of them face difficulties or if we go out at the same time. The other three members will not agree if two of the same members of the family do not pay. We searched for the other members.
INTERVIEWER: Who are the other members? Neighbours?
Swapna: Yes. Those who needed money. Saritha got together members like me who needed money.
INTERVIEWER: You worked as a central leader. What is a central leader?
Swapna: You had to ask other members, gather money to pay and ask them to sit silently.
INTERVIEWER: What is meant by sit silently?
Swapna: People start shouting; some of them say they don’t have money we are supposed to make them sit silently in order to conduct the meeting.
INTERVIEWER: Where are the meetings held?
Swapna: Either in our house or we go and sit in the community hall. We go and gather there and wait for the Saar.
INTERVIEWER: What time do they come?
Swapna: 8.30 or 9 in the morning.
INTERVIEWER: What do you do if somebody does not attend the meeting?
Swapna: We all go together to their house and shame (izzaatt) them.
INTERVIEWER: All of you go?
INTERVIEWER: What do you mean by shame them?
Swapna: Means we shout at them. Once we do that they either cry or borrow from somebody and pay the money. We trouble them to pay up.
INTERVIEWER: What do the company people do?
Swapna: They will ask us to ask the defaulters. Why should they interfere?
INTERVIEWER: Was this non-interference by employees only after the crisis or before that?
Swapna: Right from the beginning.
INTERVIEWER: As a central leader, are there any benefits for you personally?
Swapna: Nothing. I will collect the dues and then sign the company document saying that people have received their money and the company has received their instalment.
Sometimes the saar says that I am a surety. I will tell him that I am not the only one responsible. Sometimes when the husbands are sick, I will sign saying that the husband is sick and the person has received the amount.
INTERVIEWER: If a number of people require money, do they give the loan to the person who is recommended by the group leader? What if the whole group wants a loan at the same time?
Swapna: Nothing like that. They follow their rules. Sometimes we reach a consensus and ask them to give the loan to a particular person.
INTERVIEWER: Who has to sign the application forms before the loan is disbursed?
Swapna: Husband has to be present.
INTERVIEWER: Won’t they disburse the loan if the husband is not present?
Swapna: No they won’t give. Only when there is great personal problem, then based on word from the Central leader they disburse the loan, but that is very rare.
INTERVIEWER: Do they tell you the interest rate and terms of the loan?
Swapna: They tell us but our necessity is such that we take the loan irrespective of the conditions. There is nobody who gives us the loans when we need them badly. They are giving it to us so we take from them. What is wrong with that? When we are desperate and when somebody gives us a loan when we are about to die, we think they are god and take the loan.
INTERVIEWER: If the husband is dead, will the widow get a loan?
Swapna: They will get. Parents or brothers have to sign.
INTERVIEWER: What if the woman is 50 years?
Swapna: No they usually don't give them the loan as they won't have the capacity to repay and others have to repay.
INTERVIEWER: Have there been instances where you have had to pay in case your group member defaults?
INTERVIEWER: What were the reasons?
Swapna: Family difficulties, why them even we have problems repaying sometimes. Sometimes our children are ill, sometimes we are ill, we also have to attend functions. So we spend on those things and have no money left. So if they are unable to pay, someone else pays.
INTERVIEWER: Do you return the money.
Swapna: We do after 3-4 days.
INTERVIEWER: When people don’t pay do you go and ask or do you adjust and then they repay you?
Swapna: They will come and pay us or the central leader will go and ask.
INTERVIEWER: Sometimes you go to the house and ask them to repay the dues, what sort of impact does that have? Does it leads to any problems are the defaulters may be offended?
Swapna: Yes it happens. Most of the time those things happen. We are not able to repay our installments and when somebody defaults, we tend to think that the people have money and are intentionally not repaying the money.
Swapna: Lot of such incidents have happened. Even to this day some of them are not on talking terms. These were problems that were there amongst us. Only recently has this become an issue. Saying don’t repay your loans.
INTERVIEWER: Have people who borrowed money used the money for starting a business or have they taken the loan for other purposes but have claimed that they are using it to start a business? What has been the experience in the groups for which you were a central leader?
Swapna: Very few. People borrow more for needs than business.
INTERVIEWER: You are a leader for 25 people. Has everybody borrowed money or are there people who have not borrowed money?
Swapna: Everybody has borrowed money. People join a group only because they want to borrow, otherwise why will they join a group?
INTERVIEWER: Out of the 25 people in your group, how many have borrowed for business and how many have borrowed the money for other needs?
Swapna: Very few. Maximum 10-15 people. Most of them access loans for other needs. We have taken it for other purposes. We used it for health purposes, functions, marriages. We don’t get salaries regularly. Ours our not government jobs and we need it for some emergency need.
INTERVIEWER: Is this your child? What is her school fee?
Swapna: It’s free for her since her father is a driver at the same school. But we have to buy her books etc.
INTERVIEWER: Are you a member of the SHGs. Do you take part in dokara meetings? (DWCRA: Interest Subvention Scheme of the A.P. Government)
Swapna: Yes. There are 12 members in our SHG. Till recently we contributed Rs.50 per month. Now we are increasing the thrift so that we can access higher amounts of loan. Now we are paying Rs.100 per month.
INTERVIEWER: So you are being thrifty because you get a loan? Would you join the dokara otherwise?
Swapna: Why sir, we would join. It’s not only about the loan. It’s been four years since I joined and it’s only recently that I got Rs.5000. If there is some need them we use the money that we have saved through the thrift group at Rs.1 interest and we slowly pay it back.
INTERVIEWER: Why are you saying Rs.2 as the interest?
Swapna:So the money the thrift group has collected. They give us the money that we have contributed to the group. Then we first pay the interest and then the principal.
INTERVIEWER: Do you pay the installments at banks directly or does the leader pay on your behalf?
Swapna: The leader can go and sometimes if they are not trustworthy even we go. Anyone can go at the bank.
INTERVIEWER: Do you ever get it back the money that you gave initially? That you yourself have taken as a loan.
Swapna: Yes, it comes back. The interst that we have paid comes back once in a year or two years to all the members of the group. Something called the revolving fund.
INTERVIEWER: Do the MFIs return the thrift that you pay?
Swapna: They deducted Rs.300 from the money that I had paid as thrift and returned it. I paid Rs.2000 but received only Rs.1700.
INTERVIEWER: Is there anybody in your village who has been repaid their thrift in full after completeing 5 years?
Swapna: Nobody has completed five years.
INTERVIEWER: What about insurance? Did you the full amount once before you took the loan or did you pay monthly?
Swapna: Nothing like that sir, we paid weekly. As soon as they give the loan they take Rs.400 or 500.
INTERVIEWER: You have taken a loan of Rs.16,000. So how much did they deduct?
Swapna: First about Rs.400 and said it was for the insurance that covers the husband and wife. They are vague and say sometimes it can cover the wife only. If in case the wife passes away they say that the husband will not be responsible to clear the loan.
INTERVIEWER: Did you pay anything else apart from this Rs.450?
INTERVIEWER: So just this.
Swapna: Yes, we have to pay the Rs.450 in advance and then we get the loan of Rs.16,000. We have to start paying the weekly installments after that.
INTERVIEWER: So insurance means that your family members are not liable for your loan.
Swapna: Yes, that’s right.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know how many people in your village take loans from micro-finance companies? What are the companies?
Swapna: Say about 17,000 people. Spandana and SKS.
INTERVIEWER:Did you get the loan because you were part of the dokara?
Swapna: They are not related. They scared us saying that if you take micro finance loans you will not get government loans because you can't pay back either.
INTERVIEWER: About 17,000 people have taken loans. You are a group leader with 25 people under you. Who has taken the biggest loan amount?
Swapna: Lot of people took lots of money. About Rs.16-20,000.
INTERVIEWER: Did anybody get a loan that exceeds Rs.20,000
INTERVIEWER: How come Saritha was given Rs.50,000?
Swapna: Don’t know about that. She gathered everybody. Probably because they trusted her for that.
INTERVIEWER: Why did you withdraw?
Swapna: My husband’s salary is Rs.5000. In that we have to pay for children’s schooling and the rations that we need. It was getting difficult so we thought best to withdraw.
INTERVIEWER: When did you withdraw?
Swapna: About six months back.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever take a loan from Spandana.
INTERVIEWER: Did they ask you about why you withdrew.
Swapna: They asked, we said we don’t want and said we will take when needed. But it difficult for us to manage, so we have stopped taking loans.
INTERVIEWER: Because of your financial difficulties you have never started a business. Then how did you repay your loans?
Swapna: We paid with the monthly salary. Sometimes we had to pay the installments even if we had household expenditure.
INTERVIEWER: How much is your monthly expenditure?
Swapna: Say about Rs. 3000. We get rations from the ration shop. We get about 30kgs of rice at about Rs.2. Apart from the Rs.3000 there are the unforeseen expenditure. For functions we spend about Rs.1000. You will need money where ever you go.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have the Arogyashree card?
INTERVIEWER: You still have to spend for health in spite of having the Arogyashree card?
Swapna: The card is only for major ailments and not for small issues like fever.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any of your old loan documents?
Swapna: I don't have most of them. I have one book for the SKS loans.