Behind the glitter lies a deepening gloom. The shopper’s paradise, Patharghatti, is caught in a unrelenting debt trap. Those who shop here with gusto are little aware of the vendors’ plight. Every footpath hawker has a heartrending tale of misery and pain.
Most of them have borrowed money on high rate of interest often ranging between 40 to 50 percent and even more. Weather they have good sales or not they have to shell out the interest on a daily basis. “Even before the day is out we have to be ready with the interest money”, says Majid, who sells garments.
Patharghatti, the economic hub of the old city, is always crowded. And during festivals the rush is mindboggling. But there are days when the hawkers sit idle. Most of them borrow heavily to push up sales but end up paying a heavy price. According to an estimate the moneylenders mop up a cool Rs. 2 to 3 lakh by way of interest everyday just on the stretch from Makka Masjid to Madina circle.
Why do they borrow money at such high rate of interest? For most there is no choice. Hawkers need small amounts between Rs.50,000 to a lakh to buy goods but it is not easy raising the amount. Nobody is ready to advance hand loan and there is lot of procedure involved with banks. “But the financiers offer the money without any surety,” says Amjad Khan, who deals in crockery.
Not just the footpath vendors even those who sell vegetables and fruits on pushcarts in the old city also keep taking regular loans from financers. It is the same old story of defaulting on the daily payment and ending up taking loan from another source to clear the dues. “It is a never ending cycle”, says Khan, a social worker in Edi Bazar.
Of late the old city is witnessing a unique system of loaning. Many families borrow money by depositing their ration cards with the financiers. They don’t pay any interest on the money borrowed but allow the financiers to draw ration on their cards. This kind of barter system is rampant in many areas. Some moneylenders are believed to be having scores of ration cards, it is said.
Majlis president, Asaduddin Owaisi, wants the moneylenders to be exiled from the city since they have become a menace. Addressing a mammoth meeting the other day he called for a social boycott of financiers, sorcerers and anti social elements. “It is a pity that Muslims are sucking the blood of Muslims”, he remarked.