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GS Road Molestation Case and Journalistic Ethics

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Media is expected to be act as the fourth pillar of the democracy and it is being done by many dedicated and courageous journalists too. In the recent past we witnessed a great job done by Indian electronic media to unearth the scams and corruptions cases. It may be CWG scam or 2G scam; media played a vital role to pull out the corruptions to light.

But at the same time, the incident of paid news and yellow journalism are increasing day by day. It will not be enough to say that some of so called journalists are creating news to save their job! And the GS Road molestation case is the result of such frustration.

While watching the video footage of GS Road incident one scene from a Bangladeshi movie comes to my mind. In that movie, the shroud (Kaafan) seller contracts with the villain to kill the villager and the shroud seller pays commission to the villain on each piece of shroud sold to the villagers. Somehow, I get a connection between the scene of that movie and the footage of the GS Road molestation case. Otherwise, how the journalist can dare instigate a mob to do such heinous act of molestation! And most significantly, the editorial team appreciates his effort and aired the story!! The whole story isn’t indicates that the editorial team and the journalist was packed up as like as shroud merchant and the villain of that Bangaldeshi movie.

The GS Road incident is not the first incident in Guwahati. I guess, the story of Mina Begum is not forgotten. Mina Begum was also a victim of so called vigil journalist of electronic media. Her face was forcefully pulled before the camera to take an appropriate shoot. Our police are always insane as well. If administration would have taken strong action against the unethical journalists and police officers, the GS Road incident could be avoided.

But what is the role of civil society? Why we are so reluctant to these issues? Why are becoming so self centric? Are these the effect of globalization?

Today, our youth, our women do gather at bars, pubs etc and abandoned the Naamghars. Some years back, while coming to Guwahati Mahasweta Devi observed that Guwahati got more wine shops than grocery! Her observation indicated- where the Assamese society was going? And now we have reached to this stage! Once, British introduced opium to Assamese society to dominate and establish their rule. No doubt, the recent cultural aggression is another attempt to ruin the Assamese society. If we continued to be indifferent towards our cultures many more Mina and Mousomi’s life will be spoiled.

International Workshop on Inclusive Financial Innovation at XLRI, Jamshedpur

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Last month I got an invitation from Professor HK Pradan of XLRI Jamshedpur to attend the three-day International Workshop on Inclusive Financial Innovation: Making Finance and Insurance Markets Work for the Poor, conducted during March 1-3, 2012 XLRI Jamshedpur and it was a great learning experience in deed.

The international event was graced by eminent personalities from finance domain with focus on financial inclusion, academia, business leaders from the microfinance industry and financial institution, NGO workers and field level practitioners. The event brought them all in single platform to discuss the challenges and issues concerned to financial inclusion.
Father E Abraham, Director of XLRI Jamshedpur argued that credit should be given the status of basic needs like food, cloth, shelter, education etc. He also condemned the coercive collection practice of some MFIs in Andra Pradesh referring the recent article published in Hindu regarding the AP Microfinance crisis.

Dr. David Dror, Chairman of Micro Insurance Academy (MIA) New Delhi while delivering his inaugural presentation stressed on micro health insurance. Dr. Dror argued for a demand driven, community based insurance, where the community assesses their own risk and designs their insurance for a right price. His research and expertise on community based health insurance has opened the doors of opportunity to serve the under privileged in a profitable business way. According to Dr. Dror charity can’t provide a long term permanent solution to any kind of problem.

Basix group of companies were represented by Dr S.S. Tabrez Nasar, Associate Director, BASIX Academy for Livelihoods and Micro Banking Practice and Mihir Sahana, Director Indian Grameen Services. They presented case studies of potato growers of Jharkhand. The innovative livelihood development project was taken by Basix, where farmers were given credit by Basix and potato were bought by Pepsico at a pre determined price. Dr. Nasar said that credit without insurance is one kind of responsibility and stressed on weather insurance. (Basix is the first organization to adopt weather insurance in collaboration of ICICI Lombard)

Another innovative model was presented by Dr. Rangan Varadan, CEO of Microgram. Dr. Varadan said that financial inclusion doesn’t mean merely opening a no frill bank account or providing just credit. Credit is necessary but it is not sufficient, to uplift the poor, an ecosystem is needed, that encourages the customer orientation of products and ownership among of the beneficiaries. He also stated that Microgram has started such model on profit sharing between customers and the investors.

In a penal discussion Dr. Muhammad Masudur Rahaman from Bangladesh Microcredit Regulatory Authority advocated sustainable microfinance. In his note he advocated “financial inclusion for poverty eradication”. He also suggested regulatory reform for Indian microfinance industry to allow MFIs to offer other financial products like savings, insurance and remittance etc to scale up the poverty alleviation initiative. He refers the importance of creating specialized bank like Bangladesh Grameen Bank and wholesale funding agency for microfinance. He criticized the supply driven microfinance approach in India, where demand side (customer orientation) is ignored. Dr. Alok Misra CEO, Micro-Credit Rating International Limited (M-CRIL) supporting Dr. Rahman said that our government is not taking the risk to allow the MFIs to offer savings for merely regulatory comfort. Dr. Misra also predicts that if the MFIs are allowed to take savings, it will build a holistic relationship between customer and MFIs and will also decrease the cost of credit.

Another important outcome of the workshop was call for forming an international research network on inclusive finance like SSRN (Social Science Research Network). Dr. HK Pradan, Professor of Finance and Economics, XLRI Jamshedpur, the mentor and architect of the focused event said that such network will help to share and recognize the innovative ideas among the industry giant, academia, policy maker and field level practitioners to bring out the poor from the misery of poverty cycle.

The valedictory function of the three day international event was addressed by SBI Managing Director, Mr. A Krishna Kumar. He is optimistic regarding the Business Correspondence model for financial inclusion for the maximum out reach.

Barpeta Kirtanghar: The Centre of Neo-vaishnavite Culture of Assam

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Introduction: The term culture includes each and every parts of a society during an era. E. B. Tylor explained culture in such a way “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and other habits and capabilities acquired by man as a member of a society.” The culture is also a continuous process. It has no end, it may take different shape. Edward Sapir says “culture is technically used by ethnologist and culture historian to embody any socially inherited element in the life of a man, material and spiritual. Culture, so defined, is conterminous with man for himself even the lowliest savages live in a social world characterized by a complex network of traditionally conserved habits usages and attitudes”

The Neo-Vaishnaviate cultural development in Assam was not an isolated phenomenon. It was an inevitable part of mainland Indian culture. Dr. Birendra Nath Dutta’s quotation is very much relevant in this connection “Assam is not a haphazard conglomeration of diverse racial and cultural elements but a composite whole arising out of the integration and synthesis of all of them. Indeed, Assam has been a curious melting pot to which have gone the Aryan and the non-Aryan, the tribal and the non-tribal, the indigenous and the exotic-making for a delightful fare with a wonderful mixed flavour. And this Neo-Vaishnaviate cultural movement was spreading from Barepta Kirtan Ghar to every nock and corner of the state.

The great Neo-Vaishnaviate reformer Srimanta Sankardeva spent his most valuable time in the Barepta Kirtan Ghar and cultivated the Ek-Saran-Namdharam. Once Gandhiji visited Barpeta and felt “A great vaishnava revival under Sankardeva in the 16th century has made Assamese people kindly, tolerant and humane. There is no sign anywhere of that form of untouchability which is to be found is South India. Assam is indeed, is fortune for Sankardeva, has five centuries back, given the Assamese people an ideal which is also my ideal of Ram Rajaya”

Barpeta at a Glance:
Barpeta is the head quarter of Barepta District of Assam. Barpeta is renowned in the historical map of Assam as the “Land of Satras”. These satras bear the testimony of the great Assamese reformer, saint, scholar and cultural exponent Srimanta sankardeva and his able disciple Sri Madhabdev, who propagated their new ideals and philosophy for the regeneration of the Assamese cultural life founding Barpeta as a centre of their reformatting activities.

Geography:

Barpeta is located at 26° 19΄N 91° 00΄E / 26.32° 19΄N 91° 0΄E. It has an average elevation of 35 metres (144 ft.) It is 44 KM away from the Manas National Park. Two rivers Chaowlkhowa and Mora Nodi, both of which are tributaries to mighty Brahmaputra run through the town.

Education: Barpeta has a very good academic environment for students. Many great man of Assam was born in Barpeta. Ambikagiri Roychoudhury, Prasanalal Choudhury, Mahendra Mohan Choudhury, Banamali Mishra, Dambharudhar Pathak, Purushattam Das, Dr. Kishori Mohan Pathak are among them. There are a good numbers of educational institutes spreading quality education in Barpeta. The well known institutes are Madhab Choudhury College, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Medical College, Barpeta Law College, B T College, Barpeta Girls College etc.

Transportation:
Barpeta can be reached by air, train and bus. It about 100 KM from Gipnath Bordoloi Internatioanl Airport, 21 Km from Barpeta Road Railway station and buses and other surface vehicles plies from Guwahati and other part of Assam to Barpeta regularly.

Communication:

Barepta is connected with the service BSNL and other major private players of telecommunication. High speed internet connectivity is available.

Accommodation:
Barpeta provides a good number of sophisticated lodges and hotels. The Assam Tourism department’s Prasanti Lodge, Forest department’s banglows, Barpeta Kirtan Ghar’s Guest House are also available. Private hotels tariffs are moderate.

Food and Beverage:
Barpeta is famous for its local cuisines. There are lots of beels (wetlands) in Barpeta, which are the major inhabitance of various species of fish. It also produces good verities of green vegetables. Chinese, Continental and South Indian dishes are also available in Barpeta. The town has a very unique beverage tradition. For the existence of the Barpeta Kirtan Ghar hot drink is strictly prohibited in the town. This prohibition exists from the time of Britsh era. There is not a single wine shop in the town. All most all kinds of soft drinks are available in the town. Though, tea is the most favorite beverage in the Barpeta town.

Brief History of Barpeta:
Barpeta has a great religious importance. It was Known by various names like Tatikuchi, Poabhita, Mathura, Vindavan, Choukhutisthan, Nabaratana-Sabha, Icchakuchi, Pushpak Vimana, Kamrup and Barpeta. The present district was an integral part of the Koch-Hajo and the Ahom kingdom till British administration took over. From the ancient period, Barpeta witnessed the role of the Barmas (380-654) the Salasthamas (655-985) the Palas (985-1260) the Kaamatas (1260-1509) and the Koches from 1509. During the Kamatas and Koch rule major historical development had taken place. During this period large number of local feudatory-chiefs, known as ‘Bhuyan’ ruled the region. The Bhuyan’s are migrated from eastern part of India like Kanuaj, Gauda, Bengal etc. Later they embraced with Assamese Nation and accepted Neo-vaishnavism under influence of Srimanta Sankardeva.

During the regime of Koch King Naranaraya, Shrimanta Sankardeva and his renowned disciple Srhee Shree Madhabdeva visited the Koch Kingdom at Barnagar (Sorbhog). Subsequently Koch King Narayana took saran (accepted) to vaishnavism. The Koch rule was ended with the annexation by the Mughals. The valiant Ahom fought a number of battles against the invading Mughls. Some well known battles were fought at Jakhlikhana, Bhabanipur, Betkuchi etc. Ahoms were deafeted and the Mughals took over the administration and systemised the entire revenue administration. Kamrupa became a sarkar, which was devided into parganas. Barepeta, Khetri, Bajali, Barnagar, Bashbari and Bijni became parganas. For administrative convenience the paraganas were devided into taluks, lats and villages. Parganas were placed under Barbaruas asnd Choudhiries. Taluk remains under Talukdar. They were assisted by Thakuria, Patwaria, Kakati etc. who kept the revenue accounts. Judges in pargans were called Sikdars, whereas Amin and Kanango were responsible for land survey, assessment and collection of revnue.

With the advent of Shrimanta Sankardeva, this region turned into a religious place dotted with numerous satras and in fact Barpeta town came to be called “Boikunthapuri Dham”. As a part of part of patronage to religious places irrespective religion the Ahom rulers had already provided a large number of land- grants to the satras. Dr. Maheswar Neog has pointed out such land-grant in his work “Prasya Sasanwali”. The grants were irrespective of religion, some Muslim Dargah at Baushi, Bhella, Khetri etc. were provided the grants. The most interesting fact is that these granted were made in copper-plate inscriptions (Tamralipi), which are invaluable sources of history.

As a result of the successive invasion of the Burmese, a wide-speared destruction took place. Later, British army entered into Barpeta to drive off the invaders and restore peace. With the advent of British rule Mouzadari system came into effect. In 1841 Barpeta became a Civil Sub Division and John Batlor became the first administrator. As a part of policy exploitation; the British rule enhanced the rate of land revenue, which also resulted a numbers of peasant unrest in between 1893-94 particularly in Bajali and Sarukhetri area. Large number of arrests was carried out to spoil the attempts of unrest. Raijor Shabha (Peoples Body) was constituted during this period to raise the revolt against the British rule.

During the period of freedom struggle, when whole India was raising its voice against colonial rule; Barpeitas were not behind the screen. Large numbers of people participated in the freedom movement and were jailed. The great Barpeita Madan Chandra Barman and Rauta Koch are the martyrs of freedom struggle, who sacrificed their life during Quit India Movement in 1942. Some of the important Congress leaders who lead the freedom struggle in Barpeta were Ambikagir Raichoudhury, Chandraprava Saikiani, kabiraj Ganshyam Das, Umesh Chandra Brahmachari, Dhaniram Talukdar, Ganesh Lal Choudhury, Golak Pathak, Sonaram Choudhury, Madhusudhan Das, and Dr. Jinaram Das etc. The father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi visited Barpeta in 1934 and so did Pandit Jawaharlal Neheru in 1937. The visit of these two national leaders had a tremendous impact on the raise of national awakening in the minds of the local people.

Srimanta Sankardeva: The Great Vaishnava Reformer:
The great vaishnava saint and reformer Srimanta Sankardeva was born in Alipukhuri of Baradowa in Nagaon in 1449. He destined to play a significant role in preaching to humanity and protecting human religion, the downtrodden, the oppressed and the untouchables.

In Gita, Lord Krishna said to Arjuna “when irreligion prevails, I manifest myself in bodily form age after age for the purpose of protecting the saints and destroying the inauspicious forces to foster religion.” Lord Krishna is the symbol of art, Srimanta Sankardeva’s incarnation is a great one, and he was also a symbol of art. There is no ‘Guru’ in the world who equally magnificent as poet, dramatist, painter and sculptor. The incarnation of Srimanta Sankardeva is a historical wonder. He contributed immensely to the integrity of the human culture.

“Ek-Saran-Namdharma” preached by Srimanta Sankardeva emphasizes on the chanting the name of Lord Krishna through devotional songs accompanied by musical instruments. The worship of Lord Krishna through “Nam Prasanga” leads to the quest for truth and balance between the soul and the body. Hardly has there been a religious ‘guru’ who effectively enjoined a pure honest work culture, social discipline, humanized love and thus cherished religious values accepted by all. The lesson of humanism can be drawn in his literature, drama, music, dance, totoy, chopoy, bhaona and art & culture.

Eminent anthropologist Rajmohan Nath described about the Neo-vaishnaviate movement as “During his (Srimanta Sankardeva’s) journey, he went among other places to Gaya, Kashi, Puri, Brindhaban, Mathura, Kurukeshtra, Upa-Badarikasram, Varakestra, Puskar, Davarka and Rameshwar. He noticed that vaishnavism was the rolling religion that had achieved with a new outlooks and movement, the unification of the people on common basis is though the medium of congregational player accompanied with music.”

In the same way well known critic Dr. Satyendra Nath Sarma interpreted the issue as “The vaishnaive in Assam was not an isolated phenomenon having no connection whatsoever with the current vaishnaive revival that swept over the rest of India during this period.”

The philosophy of his religion is enriched with the essence of vedant Baktism manuthesim, spiritualism and humanism. The main tenants of his religious faith are truthfulness, religious liberty and a benevolent attitude towards one and all. His religion wholly characterized by secularism. The doctrines of all the chief religion are assimilated into the vaishviate faith. There is no casteism in his religion. His disciples were from different ethnic tribes of Assam. The members from all castes and communities, Brahmins to Kaystas became His disciple . These names are worth-illustrating Chandasai; a Muslim, Gobinda; a Garo, Jayantahari;a Bhutia, Srirama; a Kaivarta and Madhabdeva; a potter. Women have equal access to namgharrs and can take part in nama-kirtana. They receive initiation and even hold responsible positions. It is to be noted that Kanaklata, Srimanta Sankardev’s grand daughter in law, became not only the head of a satra, she also appointed twelve satradhikars to organize more satras.

Srimanta Sankardeva was a great scholar and literary genius. His eminent literary creation is the “Kritan Ghosha”, an early Assamese poetical work. In “Gonamala” he had cryptically described manifold qualities of Lord Krishna in a day to impress Koch King Narayanan. It is almost like putting an elephant into an earthen pot, which is indeed the essence of “Bhagawat”. “Srimod Bhagawat”, the incomparable creation of Vyasdev, the great scholar of Indian classical religious literature was translated into the Assamese Language by Srimanta Sankardeva.

The Satra Institution:
Srimanta Sankardeva and his great disciple Madhabdeva explicated monotheism through simple narrative description of the scriptures. The open air theatre “Namghar” of Srimanta Sankardeva is the pilgrims of universal human religion as well as its ethos and manners. Srimanta Sankardeva’s cult based on the glorification of “Rama”, one of the greatest manifestation of “Lord Krishna”, has given the full blessings of wider Indian culture to the people of Assam. In this exaggeration to say that Srimanta Sankardeva’s Borgeets, dramas, literatures and poetic diction have created the Assamese national life. The satras setup by Srimanta Sankardeva has an important rule to play in the religious and spiritual life of the people. They have also got special functions. The “Satras and Namghars” gradually turned into religious and social institution for congregation and prayer. In connection Dr. B K Barua’s observation clear and vivid “The Namghars further serve as panchayat hall where villagers gather to discuss and solve many of their day to day problems. The community centre have been even to play political and judicial role”

The administration of a satra is run by the Satradhikar and assisted by Deka Satradhikar and other office bearers. Some of the important functionaries of a satra are:

i) Satradhikar: The head of Satra
ii) Deka Satradhikar: The deputy of the Satradhikar
iii) Bhagawati: the reciter and expounder of the Bhagawat and also known as Nam Lagowa.
iv) Deori: he is responsible for distributing the mah-prasad, he is wheealso known as Bilonia
v) Bharali: his duties and responsibility is like a store keeper.
vi) Gayan: the singer of devotional song (Borgeet)
vii) Bhayan: the bhayans are responsible to play various instruments like Dol, Khol,

The Satra Management:
The Barpeta Satra is administered in accordance with the modern democratic values. In 1935 Assam Valley Magistrate Mr. K C Shundar passed a scheme for the administration of Barepta Satra, the same was modified by Assam Valley Magistrate H C Stook in 1938. And subsequently it was again modified by Kamrup District Magistrate Mr. Safikul Islam in 1977. The Satra management committee is democratically elected by a large number of voters, which are known as Samuh. Before 1977 only male members of the Samuh were eligible for casting their votes to form the Managing Committee. On 5th of January 1977 the then District Magistrate of Kamrup Mr.Safikul Islam through an order, recognized the 18+ female voters also.

The main officials of the Satra Management Committee:
i) Bhora Satriya: The Bhora Satriya is not only the religious head but also the ex-officio president of the managing committee. In almost all the religious and other works are done only after having the consent of the Bhora Satriya.

Eligibility: To be elected a Bhora Satriya the candidate must be a resident of within the jurisdiction of Barpeta Sub-division. The candidate should have simple, discipline and self controlled life style. He must be member of Samuh.

Duty: Generally the Bhora Satriya presides over the meeting of the Satra Management Committee; he also leads the religious activities of the satra.

ii) Deka Satriya: As like as the Bhora Satriya the candidate for the portfolio of the Deka Satriya requires the same eligible criteria. He is the second highest official in the Satra institution. He is the Vice-President of the Satra Management Committee.

Tenure: The tenure of the both post is life time other the same are not expelled by the Samuh for the charge of physical and mental incompetence or bad character.

The Election of Satra Management Committee: Barepta (Satriya) town is divided into 15 assembly covering 22 hattis to elect 28 members (Excluding Bhora & Deka Satriya). The election process is almost similar with the general election prevailing in our country. According to the latest Satra scheme the female voter can also offer their candidature, but till date no female candidate had filled their nomination so far. The tenure of the Satra Management Committee is three years. The committee performs all sorts of works i.e. religious, cultural, socio-economical etc.

The satradhikar and his representatives, accompanied by some of the satra functionaries, pay periodical visits to the village where followers of the satra live. He stays either in a namghar or in a temporary camp made for the purpose, gives sarana to new entrants to the faith and bhajana to senior disciples. Sarana is a simple ceremony through which new converts are advised to follow four fundamental principles of the faith, known as CHARI-VASTU, namely:
i) Nam: Reciting the names of God
ii) Deva: Surrender to the God
iii) Guru: Acceptance of a preceptor.
iv) Bhakat: Taking delight in the company of religious brotherhood.

Over the centuries satras have been multiplied into some hundreds, the socio-political and other changed have effected this religious-cultural organization also. There have also been difference among the satras as evident from arranges of the four Samhatis or sects. But the differences are peripheral, and the hard-rock of Sankardeav’s dramatic faith of bhakti remains unshaken. No matter to what denomination a satra belongs, its ultimate allegiance is always to Sankardeva and Madhabdeva, the great cementing forces behind satriya culture, which to some extend, have homogenized Assamese society. It is the time the satras shed their differences, if there are any, and organized themselves in a proper way so that they can contribute effectively to the enrichment of Assamese cultural life.

Sankardeva created the satraiya dance to accompany the ankiya nat, which was usually performed in the satrsa. As the dance developed and grew within the satras, the dance was named by the litterateur Maheshwar Neog, who tried to promote it. Though the dance has come out of the confines of the satras to a wider audience, the satras continue to use the dance for ritualistic and other purpose for which it was originally created 500 years ago.

The Satriya Dance:
The core of satriya nritya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings to the people in an accessible and enjoyable manner. According to tradition, satriya nritya is performed only by the bhakats (Male monks) in monasteries as a part of their daily rituals or to mark special festivals. Today, in addition to this practice satriya dance is also performed on stage by men and women who are not the members of the satras, on themes that are not mythological.

Satriya dance is divided into many genres: i) Apsra Nritya, ii) Behar Nritya, iii) Chali Nritya, iv) Dasavatara Nritya, v) Manchok Nritya, vi) Natua Nritya, vii) Rasa Nritya, viii) Rajaghariya Chali Nritya, ix) Gosai prabesh Nritya, x) Barprabesh Nritya, xi) Jhumura Nritya, xii) Nadu Bhangi Nritya and xiii) Sutradhar Nritya. Like the other seven schools of Indian dance, satriya encompasses the principles required of classical dance form: the treaties of dance and dramaturge, like Natyasastra, Abhinaya Dharpan and Sangeet Rantagar.

The satriya dance is accompanied by musical compositions called Borgeets (composed by Sankardeva and others), which are based on classical ragas. The instruments that accompanied a traditional performance are khols (Drums), taals (Cymbals), and the flute. The violin, harmonium etc have been recent additions to the satriya Nritya. The dresses are usually made of pat, a kind of silk produced in Assam, woven with local motives. The ornaments too are based on local traditional design.

On 15th Nov’2000, under the chairmanship of Dr. Bhupen Hazirika, the Sangeet Natak Academy finally gave the satriya dance its due recognition eighth classical dance forms of India. But only recognition is not sufficient. Its high time to appraise the Satriya Nritya and undertake some institutional support for the preservation and conservation of this unique performing art.

The Doul Utsav:
The Doul Jatra or Deol is a festival of purely religious origin celebrated in Barpeta Kirtan Ghar every year. It synchronizes with Holi festival. It influence over Barpetans is very deep. The Barpeta Kirtan Ghar is the main centre of this festival. The Deol festival continues for four days. All regular religious functions of the Kirtan Ghar are undergone before the Doul during this festival. All the visitors are provided with accommodation and daily quotas of ration from the Kirtan Ghar free of cost. The number of visitors normally overflows during the festival; many of them stay in the houses of individuals as guests.

Let’s have a look on day wise schedule:

Day I:
The first day of the Deol festival is called Gondh. In the evening of the first day Mahaprabhu Kalia Thakur (Lord Sri Krishna) prepares to visit the place of Ghunucha. So His follower (the people of Barepta) collects a lot of reeds and makes a bonfire in front of Kirtan Ghar. After ritualistic tributes are paid to Mahaprabhu Kalia Thakur is carried with beat of drums, cymbals, mridangas and the fireworks. Thousands of Barpetan follow him. He is placed on the Khatola and taken round the fire to let him bask a little and then carried to the top of the Doul or alter.

Day II and III

On the second day, drummers and musicians perform a bhoana, the bhaona is followed by yatra at night. The visitors from different places spent their nights witnessing these performances. The third day is also observed in the same way as second day.

Day IV
The fourth day is called Sueri, the last day of the festival, when Kalia Thakur is supposed to come back from the house of Ghunucha to the house of house of Lakhsmi, the followers besmear Him with colored powders and bring Him down to a Dola or Plaki (Litter vehicle). At the same time another party of devotees carrying their own Dola from Baradi, another vaishava center arrives at Barpeta Kirtan Ghar. The place virtually becomes a sea of devotees. Sounds of conch-shells, drums, cymbals, and Holi songs rend the sky. The children through the fistfuls of colored powders at one another. The God is carried in a procession by devotees to Kanariya, a place some half a mile away from the Barpeta Kirtan Ghar. The precisionists are so numerous that to cover the half mile takes them about three hours. At Kanariya, the God is stepped down of the palki and offered a kind of green pulse to eat. The satradhikar speaks a few words to gathering on the significance of the festival.

After the speech of satradhikar, Kaliya Thakur is taken back to Barpeta Kirtan Ghar. But to His mismay, He finds that the gate of Barpeta Kirtan Ghar is barred to Him with a strong bamboo. Because He was away for all these days at Ghunucha’s place, Mother Lakhsmi is angry with Him and so orders her followers to stop Him from entering her house. His followers bag her pardon on his behalf, but to no avail. Both sides enter into an argument and ultimately fall out and a kind of free-for-all ensues. This is a fought with danger, for young men out of neutral enthusiasm apply all their strength to break the bamboo bar, some get injured in the melee. By any means the bamboo is broken and Kaliya Thakur is carried inside the compound around which He goes seven times. He tires and takes rest for a while. Taking advantage of the peace, a devotee from Lakhsmi’s side reproves Him; one of the His devotee returns the reproves. An interesting verbal duel thus ensues. In the end He admits the defeat, like a peace loving husband, satisfies Her with money and other presents and earns His admittance into the Shrine. There ends the great Doul Utsav.

The Attractions inside the Satra :

Satra Complex: – There are three main gates to inter the Sarta complex, these gates are called is Batchara i.e. (i) batchara from Nahati (ii) Batchara from Uttar hati and Batchaea from dakshinhati. People are not allowed to enter beyond these Batchara with footwear and on any vehicles. It is assumed that the reason behind this rule is to culminate the accident and show honour towards the Satra complex. There are signboards written in Assamese, Hindi and saying the rule.

Kirtan Ghar:
– Kirtan ghar is situated in the almost center of the Sarta complex. Main entrance in the west, Bhag ghar is in east. There are Guru Ashans, which are followed by tow big Ghacha (stand) are kept Akhay Banti. There are two Chairs for Bora Satriya in the east corner of the Guru Ashan.
There are three Guru Ashans in the Kirtan Ghar, it is believed that these Guru Ashan are associated with the name of Sri Sankar Dev, Madhab Dev and Padma Ata. According to the general faith these three Guru Ashan are dedicated towards lord Krishna in a composite form.
There are seven Bar Sarais (great sarais) are kept in a line before the Guru Ashan. One Chaki/ Pradip are lightening in front of each Bar Sarai. The sight is really super natural. There is no statue of any God or Goddess inside the Kirtan ghar.

Bhaj Ghar:
– This is known as Monikut, valuable ornaments of gold and silver are kept in this area. Some representative statues are also kept here. The Bhaj Ghar is established in the east side of Kirtan Gharn in the north-south position. The architectural style of the Bhaj Ghar is unique.

Pat Chang: – The pat chang also carries a special architectural style. The pat chang is a made of wood and tin. It is constructed parallel to the Bhaj Ghar 8(eight) feet away from the later. The floor of the pat chang is 5 (five) feet above from the ground. Some special meetings are held here. Basically religious and administrative issues of satra are discussed here. It is honored as pure as the pat chang of king Kongsha.

Khatkhati Ghat:
– There is a tiny cannel running to the side of Satre complex. It was known as Khatkhati Jan (cannel).Shree Madhab Ded, the great disciple of Srimanta Sankar Ded used to bath along with other bhakats in this cannel. For this purpose steps (khatkhati) was cojnstructed with stone. Hence, it was known as Khatkhati ghat. It bears the memories of great Madhab Deb. Scenic beauty of this jan is really attractive. There are some statues of child Krishna in the water of the jan (cannel). One modern guest house is constructed at the east bank of the cannel. Earlier traditional boat race was organized in this jan, but has government has stop the current of water by constructing embankment at the both point of the jan.

Math: – The math available in the Barpeta Satra is similar with the architectural style of Ahom king. Some precious Sankar –Madhab memorabilia are kept in the math i.e. a piece of stone (used of Sankar and Madhab to wash their feet ), the script of Sankar Deb”s Dasham and Madhab Deb’s Namghosha, Bhaktiratnayali and two “Negeri” currency, which was given to Madhura Das by Madhab Dev as remuneration. It is a general belief that no one tells a lie in front of the Math.

Sri Ram Ata’s Bhiti: – The house (Bhiti means house) of Sri Ram Ata was established opposite to the house of Madhab Dev’s house. Now a day one well is constructed here
, the water of this well is assumed as pure and water from this well is used in all the works of the Satra.


Bhora Ata’s Bhiti
:- In the north-east position of the Satra there is a small but beautiful house. Mathura Das Ata spent his last days in this house as he can wholly concentrate on the holy works.


Bhagawat Graiha :
-It is an open (without wall)English letter L size house, it is used as a prayer house, every day at the morning and evening time people come to listen the Bhagawat. In the time of Deol or holi the Bhagwat house is used as temporary medical house.


Sabha Ghar:
– Sabha Ghar is also an open house in the north-west position of the Kirtan Ghar. General meeting of “Samoh Bhakat” (Community) are held here. There is a small house in the north side of the Sabha ghar it is known As Jagamohan Ghriha. In the last day of Doul Utsav the statue of Shamray is kept here for some moments.

Some other important touristy items in side the Satra Complex are Sankar Dev Library, Bhouna (theatre) stage, office of the managing committee etc.

Other Places of Tourist Interests (Vaishnaviate):

Barpeta is the centre of vaishnaviate culture. There are a good numbers of satras spreading across the district. Since the time immemorial these satras attract large numbers of devotees from all over the state, particularly during the festival and anniversaries. Among the satras that are regularly visited by the tourists are Sundhardiya Satra, Sunpura Satra, Ganakkuchi Satra, Satrakanara Satra ,Jania Satra etc.

The Barpeta town is divided into 22 Hattis that are inhabited by the devoted followers and families of the gurus, which are administered by the Barpeta Satra administration. This unique feature is not found in any place in Assam.

Let’s find out the major tourist attraction of Barpeta:
1. Chinpara Vithi: Chinpara Vithi is the place where Srimanta Sankardeva landed from his boat at Barpeta on the bank of Palengdhi Bori, which is presently called Palengdhihati. The saint stayed here for six months to propagate his faith. This place is located about ½ KM north of Barpeta Kirtan Ghar. The namghar established by the guru still exists here.

2.Sundardhiya Satra: Located near Barpeta Town. This is a satra played an important rule in expanding vaishnavism and reformation. Sri Madhabdeva founded the satra and composed the ‘Bhakti Ratnakar’ and ‘Namghosha’ here in the original vithi (Foundation) of the satra. The great saint during his sojourn here dug a well preserved till today and water of the well is considered holy. Three gurus Asanas (Chair) placed in the name of Srimanta Sankardeva, Sri Madhabdeva and Sri Badhula Ata.

3. Ganakkuchi Satra: Established by Sri Madhabdeva and stayed for more than eighteen years. A large number of Sachipat Puthis (Books written on the leaves of a special kind of tree) are preserved in this satra. It is situated within the radius of Barepta Municipality.

4. Baradi Satra: This satra was also established by Sri Madhabdeva. The common people were greatly influenced by the teaching of this great scholar. This satra became an important centre of vaishnaviate learning.

5. Gorokhiya Gosair Thaan: Sri Narayan Das Thakur Ata, a disciple of Srimanta Sankardeva came to offer his devotion that said to be founded by some cow herds (Gorokhiya). The building of this Thaan has a close resemblance of the Barpeta Kirtan Ghar. The Thaan covers an area of 25 Bighas green land, where Doul festival is organized annually with pomp and splendor.

Suggestion and Recommendation:
Following steps can be taken to develop Barepta Kirtan Ghar to boost up the cultural tourism and over all development of Barpeta Kirtan Ghar:

1. Infrastructural development (i.e. road connectivity, guest house, one museum etc.) should be done to attract more tourists.

2. Tourism and cultural ministry of Assam Government should initiate marketing activities through print & electronic media.

3. Government should try to get the Brindabni Bastra from British Museum. Non-government organization should also initiate awareness programmes to gain the public opinion for the same.

4. Assam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. can launch special package tour from Guwahati on weekends.

Conclusion:
The Barpeta Kirtan Ghar is the centre of Neo-Vaishnaviate culture of Assam. But unfortunately Government of Assam in not interested to boost its tourism potentiality. In 2000 the Sangeet Natak Academy recognized Satriya Nritya as a classical dance, yet after the recognition state government has not taken any bold initiate for the conservation and preservation of the same. On the other hand, thousand bighas of land belonging to Barpeta Satra is under the illegal possession. This is the high time to do something for the preservation, conservation and development of Barepta Kirtan Ghar. Every Barpeita as well as Assamese community should loud their voice for the greater interest of this unique place.

The Barpeta Kirtan Ghar has immense potentiality for future study and research.

Glossary:

Aldhara: Personal attendant of Satradhikar or a superior monk.
Athpariya: Officer who keeps vigil at satra (literally, having eight stages of a day of night.
Bahar: Temporary camp for Satradhikar during periodical visit to villages.
Borgeet: Devotional songs in classical tunes particularly composed by Sankardeva and Madhabdeva.
Bayan: Officer-in-charge of instrumental music.
Bhagavati: Ecclesiastical officer engaged in reading and expounding the Bhagavata.
Bhajana: Higher form of ordination.
Bhakat: Monk, initiated disciple.
Bharali: Provision keeper of the satra.
Bhaona: Religious theatrical performance.
Mahapurushiya: A person who follows the religion of Sankardeva.
Samuh: The voter community of Barpeta Satra.
Kar: Lavy paid by the Samuh to the Satra.
Dhar: Fine as punishment for violating the mahapurushiya norms.
Pala: Every person to render his service towards the satra in accordance.

Recommanded Further Reading:
1. Dr. Uday Nath: Barpetar Sanskritik Burnji, 2001
2. Gokul Pathak: Barpeta Satrar Itihas, Amar Desh Brakasan, Barepta, Fifth Edition, 2003.
3. B K Barua: Sankardeva, Vaishanava Saint of Assam
4. Brirendra Nath Dutta: Assam the Emerland Treasure & Land.
5. S N Sarma: Neo-Vaishnaviate Movement and Satra Institute of Assam
6. Janice Darbari: Srimanta Sankardeva: The Living Legend, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi-14, First Edition, 1998.

Note: The study was made for academic purpose. Specially to know the tourism potentiality of Barpeta. I express my heartiest gratitude to all the concerned for their support and information.

Katneswar Barman’s Sculptures

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Shanti Nagar, a beautiful hilly place near the 4th APBN head quarter. I frequently visit this place. Many poor women of this area have availed credit from Ujjivan and earning their livelihood. But yesterday’s visit was bit more delightful. I went to see the impacts of tiny loans among under-privileged families of this area. Suddenly, I met a person. At a winter morning, the man at sixty was enjoying the heat of burning firewood. When I closely looked at him, he was giving the final touch on his first ever concrete sculpture. Balladeer of Brahmaputa Dr. Bhupen Hazarika is smiling through his tough hands. The hands, for the last 42 years were carrying AK47.

Kanteswar Barman, a just retired police officer of Assam Battalion, had started his career as a constable in the year of 1967. He had to given up his education before matriculation due to poor economic condition of his family. But the police protocol could not arrest the creativity of this inborn artist. In the year of 1976, he found the world as a canvas not just a battle field. The hands, which had cleaned the barrels of the gun everyday, took brush and started painting. Episodically, he continued oil painting, mixed media painting and wooden sculpture through out his police career.

“Being a responsible police officer it’s very tough to concentrate on creativity” Mr. Barman said. Now, he has plenty of time, but unfortunately due old age he has lost his control over his finger. Oil painting, mixed media painting needs maximum smoothness of finger. The inborn artist has chosen another medium to express his creativity, started concrete sculpture. And most interestingly, his first project is Bhupenda! For the last three months he is working on the same.

I was looking so curiously his work on Bhupenda’s statue. He suddenly stopped his work and takes me into his drawing room. I was shocked; the room was full of his paintings and wooden sculptures. He described me one by one. Mahatma Gandhi’s wooden statue, Anna Hazare’s wooden statue and numbers of other amazing creative pieces were kept on the room. The paintings are eye-catching as well as mind-blowing. One oil painting on de-forestation proves his geniuses.

But unfortunately, all these beautiful pieces were stored haphazardly; some of those were getting fungi and colors getting pale. Usually these type sculptures and painting are kept in dry and dust free weather and appropriate temperature is also maintained. Sometimes coating also used for durability of these pieces. When I asked about preservation and conservation; his wife answered “some of his painting also got burnt”.

After having a long chat, I came to know that, till date his works are not reported by any new paper also and financially he is not sound to preserve these on a meaningful way. In 2009, he was awarded second prize in an exhibition held at Judges Field, Guwahati. That is the only recognition he has received so far!

Spontaneously, I got committed to do my level best to preserve his noble works. But again unfortunately, I can’t move a single step with out your help.

Published in Dare2Speak.org on 1-2-12

Building Social Business: A quick Review

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Last year I got “Building Social Business” by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. I knew him as an economist and Founder of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh. But after reading this, I got more interest on his writing. During the recent NE Book Fair I purchased his Biography and now searching “Creating a World Without Poor”

Let’s have a quick overveiw on “Building Social Business”: Micro credit pioneer Professor Yunus introduced a new business model and termed it as ‘The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs’. Professor Yunus unearth the idea Social Business when the capitalism witnessing its worst form. His idea of social business is quit different from conventional money making businessmodel as well as NGO and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).

NGO and other charitable organizations are mainly dependable on the donation, so as soon as the donated amount is utilized they have to wait for another donation. In this way they are fully dependable on the will of the donators. But in social business model, the company revolves the invested amount. This recycling process gives maximum outputs (social outputs) and after a certain period of time the investors can get back their invested amount. This also encourage the maximum investors to invest on the social business ventures to change the world not to make money.

The Social Business is aimed to address a particular social problem like poverty, illiteracy, health, malnutrition etc, not to maximize profit. Professor Yunus has given the example of Grameen Danone. The ventures was started by Grameen and Danone group to address the malnutrition of Bangladeshi children. The company is providing low cost Shakti Doi to the poor children of Bangladesh at a affordable price. Grameen group has started many other ventures on Social Business model to address the social problems. The Social Business runs on ‘no loss, no dividend’ basis, where the owner or the investor gets no profit and get-back the invested amount over a certain period. Professor Yunus said that there a numbers of people in our society, whose are concerned about the poverty and other social problems and they have a burning desire to work for development of the society and alleviate poverty. The owner or the investor of a Social Business Venture get mental satisfaction in lieu of financial gain. Professor Yunus also urges that the concept of Social Business has opened a new avenue for investment diversification. Professor Yunus also proposed a separate stock exchange for the social business. He is optimist that people will purchase a share through social stock exchange to change the society not to gain financial benefit.

Professor Yunus has taken seven principles of Social Business:

1. The business objective is to overcome poverty or one or more problems (such as education, health, technology access, and environment) that threaten people and society- not to maximize profit.

2. The company will attain financial and economic sustainability.

3. Investors get back only their invested amount. No dividend is given beyond the return of original investment.

4. When the investment amount is paid back, profit stays with the company for expansion and improvement.

5. The company will be environmentally conscious.

6. The work force gets market wage with better-than-standard working conditions.

7. Do it with jay!!!

Though the book talks about business and all, yet the reader gets a satisfaction and eagerly waits for the next chapter. The language and description is vivid. Interestingly the writer catches up readers state of thinking.

Published in an online journal on 4/2/12

Vikram Akula Stepped-down: End of an Era

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Vikram Akula Stepped-down: End of an Era

On 23rd November’2011 Indian corporate history witnessed two major handing over and taking over. Tata group find out the successor Cirus P Mistry and secondly, Vikram Akula steps down from the position of founder and chairman of only listed Microfinance Company of the country. The poster boy of Microfinance Vikram Akula resigned from his current position Founder and Chairman of SKS Microfinance and his resignation was also granted by the board. Addressing the media Dilli Raj, CFO of SKS Microfinance told that Mr. Akula has resigned from the position voluntarily and his resignation was accepted by the board with immediate effect. The sources informed that he will continue to serve the company as an advisor till March’2012, Mr. Dilli Raj also informed that Vikram Akula has signed Non Compete and other agreements to maintain the confidentiality of the company. (The circumstances don’t tell as voluntary.)
Let’s have a quick look on Vikram Akula and SKS Microfinance:
Vikram Akula holds a Master Degree in International Relations from University of Yale and a PhD in Political Science from University of Chicago. He started his career as a community organizer of SGHs in Andhra Pradesh. He founded SKS Microfinance as a Not for Profit organization to uphold the economic condition of poor. He worked with the organization till 2004 in the same year he joined McKinsey & Company in Chicago as a management consultant. He rejoined SKS Microfinance in 2005 and converted the organization to a profit making company. In 2010, SKS Microfinance emerged as the largest Microfinance Company and the only listed Microfinance Company in the country. The company launched the IPO (Initial Public Offer) at Rs. 985 a share with a discount of Rs. 50/- for the retail investors. SKS Microfinance got a huge response from the market. The company raised a fund of Rs. 1654cr from the IPO; it was oversubscribed by 13.69 times. The major fund houses i.e. Reliance Capital, ICICI Pru and some big FIIs, including Goldman Sachs. The Catamaran Management Services, a fund house run by NR Narayana Murthy, also invested in SKS Microfinance. Vikram Akula was named by TIME magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. But finally couldn’t influence the board members of own company.

The reason for decline:
1) After the listing SKS Microfinance started facing problems. Fund raising through listing was criticized by Nobel laureate Mahammad Yunus. Professor Yunus has seen it as a doubtful possibility and suggested that the profit should go back to the poor. Vikram Akula was of the view that going public is the only way to raise fund to serve the 3 billion poor worldwide. He started very aggressively. Rapid growth has diverted social obligation to profit maximization.
2) Suresh Gurumani was terminated in October 2010 from the position of CEO of SKS Microfinance four years before the end of his term. M R Rao was appointed as CEO; the company didn’t disclose the reason of Gurumani’s termination. It was guessed that Gurumani was removed by Vikram Akula for his personal clash with Suresh Gurumani.
3) Andhra Pradesh Microfinance Institution Ordinance 2010 was issued by state government in October 2010 to check coercive collection policy after the suicide cases were reported. Repayment collected decreased to as low as 10.7%. The company now has to think to write off total loan portfolio of Rs. 8.22 billion.
4) Andhra Pradesh is proved as the trouble child for Microfinance. In 2005-06 district administration has closed at least 50 branches of Microfinance Company. Market penetration for Microfinance is highest comparing to other states. In Andhra Pradesh, the average debt outstanding per house hold is Rs. 65000/- as compared to a national average of Rs. 7700/- of outstanding microfinance debt per poor house hold. Beside these bare truths SKS Microfinance has the highest exposure to Andhra Pradesh.
Possibility of Re-structuring of SKS Microfinance:
Now this is the big question, whether SKS Microfinance will continue to be in the microfinance business or it will be diversified to other avenues. Founder and Chairman Vikram Akula voluntarily resigned (?) at such a point of time, when the share is traded at 122.4 (all time low 105 and all time high Rs. 1,491.50). The closed at 5% up after the announcement of Vikram Akula’s resignation. Another most important fact is that the board has approved to raise Rs. 900crs through QIP (Qualified Institutional Payment. It is also being heard that SKS Microfinance may enter to Micro Insurance, Micro Saving, Remittances etc. in the rural market. The newly appointed non-executive chairman Mr. P H Ravikumar has a proven track record in agri-banking, during his tenure as Head Agri Business ICICI Bank emerged as the second largest lender to Agri-business sector in India. But the present legal framework of SKS Microfinance will not permit to enter in such business. Hence, the possibility of re-structure of SKS Microfinance can’t be rolled out!
Is this a lesson for other MFI?
The proposed Microfinance (Development & Regulation) Bill will show the future roadmap of MFI industry. Beside the legal and regulatory setback some Microfinance companies are still doing fantastic job. Bandhan Microfinance has already begged the title of largest MFI in the country, legging behind SKS Microfinance. Ujjivan, a Banglore based MFI is working in 20 states since 2006 but not have a single branch in Andhra Pradesh. Ujjivan Microfinance Plus programme is a result of social responsibility. If central government would enacted the bill, SKS Microfinance might be saved!

Transforming Downward Spiral of Microfinance in India

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The Economic Intelligence Unit of The Economist group has published their report Global Microscope on the Microfinance Business Environment 2011. India’s position has been downgraded compared to previous year. The industry in global perspective is on maturing stage, while in India it is facing the threats of existence.

Overcoming the increasing number of Non Performing Loan (NPL); Peru again stands at the top for the third consecutive year for its excellent legal mechanism, sophisticated regulators and most significantly government’s commitment to use microfinance for financial inclusion. Bolivia did excellent job in price transparency and disclosure rules and bagged the position of second top country in respect of business environment, regulatory framework and institutional support for microfinance. Surprisingly, neighboring country Pakistan stands among the top three countries in the list. And, India is on 27th position in world ranking.

M-CRIL, a rating agency stated in their report that India’s microfinance growth has been slow downed to a alarming stage, in FY 2010-11 the growth of borrower base has been decreased to 7.5% from 43% and growth rate of loan portfolio size decreased to 7.2% from 76% comparing to previous financial year.

India is next to Yemen where microfinance declined significantly during last year. The political unrest in middle-east had a greater impact on microfinance operation in Yemen. And in India, Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis has rung the alarm bell for the whole industry.

Andhra Pradesh crisis can’t be marked solely as the failure of Microfinance Industry. There were many factors which are responsible for the crisis.

Let’s have a look – Chronologically

Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had introduced a rural lending model called Velegu in 2000. Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) was empowered to run the project. It used to form groups having 10-15 women on group guarantee concept and assured them to access bank credit. Bank provided the loan at 12% interest. But during 2004-05 assembly election congress promised to provide loan at 3% and remaining 9% would be refunded by the state government. It was proved as a game changing idea! Rajshekhar Reddy became the chief minister.

The project had itself some major drawbacks:

i) Rs. 50000/- were given to a group for first year, if group successes to repay the first cycle loan, were eligible for a loan of Rs. 500000/- for five years, no top up loans or emergency fund’s provisions were not made available in the project.

ii) Bank hardly released 50% or less loan amount comparing to their eligibility.

iii) The project also didn’t cover-up poorest of the poor of the state. Ultimately they were bound to rush to the MFIs in a large scale. Secondly, banks were more interested to lend MFIs rather lending to SHGs as lending to MFIs were more secure and cost effective. Rs. 2 cr. can be given to single MFI but to 500 SHGs! MFIs became the last resort for the credit hungry poor.

More and more MFI came to Andhra Pradesh; profit maximization became the main motto! The market penetration increased to 823%, each household was serving 8 loans! Credit culture was also intoxicated by ghost loan, benami loan etc. As per the MIX Market report, MFIs relationship with customers became more transactional; while one staff was handling 331 borrowers in 2005 and 436 in 2009.

The Blind watchdog – RBI

RBI, the so called watch dog of financial sector completed its duty by merely warning the MFIs on periodically, no strict step was taken against the greedy MFIs and money lenders. Being the major funding house SIDBI also kept mum! The rapid growth of microfinance had also reduced a local politician’s ability to use rural credit as a tool of patronage and put MFIs in the firing line. Finally the politics triggered the gun; when suicide case was reported by news channels TDP again saw a chance to win the election, in the meanwhile, congress passed the ordinance before the opposition cashes on the matter. Microfinance industry as a whole becomes the scrap goat!

Contribution of microfinance in India can’t be under-estimated. As a whole 30.9 million active borrowers are served by MFIs in India and total outstanding loan amount is $5.1 billion. Microfinance companies are not only providing loans, they are also providing allied services for poverty elevation and livelihood development. According to the report of Micro-credit Summit Campaign, nearly 9 million Indian households, or about 45 million family members, involved in microfinance, saw their daily income rise above the threshold of USD 1.25 between 1990 and 2010.

The road ahead – for Indian Microfinance

The Microfinance (Development & Regulation) Bill has been pending in parliament since 2007. Now the bill is modified and expected be tabled during next session of parliament. The modified bill has provisions to bring the sector into the ambit of organized financial services and other positive changes. Still it has some negative provisions i.e. product cape, margin and interest cape, credit limit case etc.

RBI credit policy in March’2011 capped household income at Rs. 120000/- and credit limit at Rs. 50000/- for all MFI customers, does it reflects the current inflation rate? If RBI doesn’t verify the ground reality, if RBI also follows the path of planning commission (Rs. 32/- as bench mark for BPL), no doubt MFI industry will collapse very soon.

Government speaks about inclusive growth, financial inclusion but in works, there is a big zero. RBI itself estimates that 50% of Indian families don’t have bank accounts. Dr.Ela Bhatt, a Gandhian and lawyer, and referred to as the Mother of Microfinance (she founded Self Employed Women’s Association or SEWA in 1972), was recently appointed to the Board of RBI. Dr. Ela Bhatt says in her speech on 100 miles principle at UNDP meeting- There are six things one needs: roti (food), kapda (clothing), makan (housing), primary health, primary education and primary banking. She also admits the non-availability of primary banking and financial facilities.

Hope to see some positive regulatory changes to rescue the sinking industry!

Published in timesofassam.com on 18/11/11