New ‘empowerment’ for women

It’s all about empowering women in a different way; nothing at all to do with the nationally-acknowledged empowerment programme Kudumbasree or its paler counterpart Janasri. If it were good as appointed earlier by private banks and financial institutions to forcefully collect dues or even seize vehicles, the role has been taken over by women. No force used, but sufficient abuse and nuisance that can put one to shame in the neighbourhood.

Jayaraj P of Mulamk-unathukavu in Thrissur recently learnt what women power is. One morning last week, a young woman kept honking the horn of her two-wheeler in front of his house. When he stepped out she asked for Jayaraj. And when he enquired what this was all about she mentioned the name of a chitty company in Thrissur from where he had won a prize money of `5 lakh during the monthly auction four months ago. He was yet to receive the full amount despite his having given sufficient collateral security in the form of his wife’s ornaments. He had not paid his monthly dues as he wanted the full money. She told him that she would be coming in a few days to collect the dues.

She came two days later. Her tone was different. She began shouting, unwilling to alight from her vehicle. Neighbours came out to enquire what was happening. She told them that Jayaraj had taken money from a chitty firm and had not returned it. She threatened to come back soon and kept her word. The third time she came in the morning and began hurling abuses. Jayaraj has, in the meanwhile, been busy arranging money to clear the dues and does not know how to go forward with ensuring that the chitty firm pays him his full amount. He also knows that chitty business in the state is on the brink of a collapse.

The high court had earlier interfered against banks and fina-ncial institutions engaging goons to collect dues. A few cases against such practices had led to a strong intervention by the high court. But now it’s a totally different game employing women.

“In the beginning we make a few calls to those who have failed to repay the loans or pay up their dues to chitties they have secured. Next we meet them personally at their house or work place and convince them of the need to pay up. We then keep going to meet them personally and pester them. We never use abusive language. We are mere collection agents and get a monthly salary and a commission for the amount we collect,” says V.M. Sunitha of Mundathikode, who works for a chitti company in Vadakkanchery.

But neither chitty firms nor private banks say they have appointed women and claim that they engage agencies who promise them collection for a fee. They in turn might be appointing women, claim proprietors of chitty firms.

But the fact remains that women are offered the job on a monthly salary going up to `5,000, an amount towards fuel bill for two-wheeler, a mobile phone connection and a commission of around 2-3 per cent of the money collected.

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