Women Protest for Freedom from Debt
loan waiver

Responding to the call given by AIPWA and Self Help Groups Sangharsh Samiti, Freedom from Debt Day was observed across the country on 13 August 2020.

Loans given by micro-finance companies and private banks have become a deathly debt trap for rural women who are unable to come out of the vicious cycle. The interest rate is so high that in many cases it has become equal to the principal amount. This is the new form of usu-ry. If the central government can give waive loans worth billions of rupees and give bail-out packages to big corporates, why cannot the loans of small debtors be waived?

The following demands were made by women on Freedom from Debt Day:

  1. Waive group loans of all women in Self Help Groups.
  2. Waive all Lockdown period installments of individual loans up to Rs 1 lakh, whether they are loans taken from the government, micro-finance companies or private banks.
  3. Stop debt collection on all small loans till 31 March 2021.
  4. Ensure employment for women in Self Help Groups and guarantee procurement of their products.
  5. Make loans up to Rs 1 lakh interest-free.
  6. Make education loans interest-free.
  7. Form a State level Regulatory Authority for group loans.
  8. Interest rate for loans for self-employment up to Rs 10 lakhs should be 0-4%.
  9. All small loans for which interest has been paid equal to or more than the loan amount should be closed.

Rural women, midday meal cooks, scheme workers and members of SHGs participated with great strength in the Freedom from Debt programs.

Speaking at Chitkohra in Patna, AIPWA Bihar Secretary Shashi Yadav said that the Reserve Bank of India has issued orders banning debt collection till 31 August, but micro-finance companies and private banks are forcibly collecting installments even during this time. At some places they have backed down due to women’s movements but at other places they are intimidating women and forcibly collecting installments. In one case where a woman ex-pressed inability to pay, she was told to sell her body and arrange the payment! Where wom-en are not in a position to pay, their household goods are being taken away. Corona and Lockdown have already broken the back of households; in this situation how can women be expected to pay installments?

Liberation Archive