Canara Bank had adopted this tribal village in Nilgiris district

The display of ‘litter-free zone’ boards across various parts of a city may not be unusual. But one that states that the area is ‘moneylender free’ definitely is.

Canara Bank has taken this bold move by declaring Kunjupannai village in Nilgiris district a ‘moneylender free’ village.

The village is located about 20 km off Mettupalayam on the way to Kotagiri.

The bank’s General Manager for Coimbatore Circle U. Ramesh Kumar told Business Line that they had adopted this tribal village, which houses around 350 families.

Recently, the bank set up an ultra small branch in the village and appointed a business correspondent to take care of the day-to-day functions.

‘We decided to free the people from the clutches of private moneylenders. We realised that they were paying at the rate of Rs 125 a week for a Rs 1,000 loan. We conducted a camp to create awareness,’ said Ramesh Kumar.

“It was actually a mela. The villagers gathered in good numbers, and as is the custom in this part of the country, they honoured the officials with more than a dozen shawls.”

According to Kumar, the biggest challenge now is in ensuring that they do not return to the moneylender.

The bank, in the first phase, has extended credit to around 90 people. “The advance was only to swap their debt, and the maximum loan per individual did not exceed Rs 20,000. We have given the loan at 4 per cent,” he added.

Hopeful on recovery

To a query on recovery, he said: “The business correspondent is there and a village committee comprising the panchayat president, vice-president and an SHG is monitoring the transactions.

We don’t expect them to default, for they are now able to get the loan at extremely low rates.’

“We are planning to replicate this exercise across many other rural pockets,” the GM said

revathy.lakshminarasimhan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 22, 2013)
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