Disaster taught savings habit

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FUTURE NEEDS: Selvanathan of Periakalapet showing the receipt of his fixed deposit. Photo: T. Singaravelou.
FUTURE NEEDS: Selvanathan of Periakalapet showing the receipt of his fixed deposit. Photo: T. Singaravelou.

Rajesh Nair


The sea had always been their past, present and future. There had been no uncertainty about the future as the sea was to them an abundance of wealth. For a majority of fishermen, a day's earnings were meant for that day alone.

The `no-to-savings' attitude of many fisher folks has changed after the devastating tsunami, which made them roofless; wait for outside help for drinking water, food and shelter.

Coupled with personal experiences, the subsequent vagaries in the sea, monsoon and rumours of another tsunami had compelled many in the coastal hamlets of Pondicherry and Karaikal deposit a portion of their daily earning in banks.

"It was never part of our lifestyle. Now many of us fear the sea. After the tsunami whenever we venture into the sea, it gives a feeling that the water level has risen. We also hear that there will be another tsunami. We are unsure of what will happen tomorrow", says Vadivelu of Pattinacherry, who had lost his one-year-old daughter, his wife and mother in the tsunami.

He has deposited Rs 50,000 from the relief amount in the name of Shalani, his seven year-old-daughter, for a period of seven years in a bank.

His friend Veramuthu says, "earlier we used to go to the sea and stay there for one day and come back. But now after five to seven hours of fishing we return to the shore". He also deposited same amount in the name of his three children.

Selvanathan of Kalapet, whose wife and children had a narrow miss, is unsure whether in future the government and NGOs would show the same generosity if such calamities happen in future. "I deposited Rs.25,000 for six years in a Mumbai-based financial institution,'' he said.

Saravanan, marketing manager of the financial institution, who is from Kalapet, said he got deposits to the tune of Rs 45 lakh from the four coastal villages of north Pondicherry.

Inquiries with banks, chit funds and local fishermen in Karaikal reveal that in villages such as Karaikalmedu and Kilinjalmedu, a majority of them have ATM cards and deposits.

For example, a private bank has issued 80 ATMs in Karaikalmedu and got fixed deposits to the tune of Rs 50 lakh.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 26, 2005)
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