Knowledge Lies in Empowerment
Ratiman, a woman from Agon, Haryana, is one of thousands of Indians that has been exploited by corrupt bank employees. She and her husband applied for an agricultural loan of Rs. 25,000. The money would be spent to increase farming inputs and improve crop outcome for more reliable income. They received Rs. 16,000 of the loan. Bank employees that processed it kept the other Rs. 8000.
Ratiman and her husband faithfully made repayments on the loan. After a while, they realized that they still could not make ends meet. They decided to apply for a second loan. The new loan would be a big burden on the family of nine. But the prospect of a brighter future compelled them to apply. Ratiman visited the bank to apply for the new loan. While there, she discovered that the old loan had already been settled. The government had waived the interest from the loan, enabling them to repay the Rs. 25,000 quickly. Ratiman realized that bank employees had been pocketing the interest and payments after the loan was settled. They had paid Rs. 22,000 in excess of what they actually owed. If she could recover this money, she would not need to apply for the second loan.
Ratiman attended Sehgal Foundation’s rural governance course. The course taught her about the government’s Right to Information (RTI) act. RTI requires that government employees provide citizens with requested government information quickly. Ratiman was illiterate and unsure of the terms of the loan. But she was confident that the RTI act would aid in her recovery of the excess money paid.
Ratiman first visited the bank to see whether they would agree to refund her money. Next, she completed and submit an RTI application. The bank employee that had handled her loan quickly heard of her RTI application. He immediately visited Ratiman’s house and apologized about the mishandling of her loan. He promised to repay the Rs. 22,000 over the next week.
Villagers heard about Ratiman’s successful recovering of extra loan payments. They began lining up outside her house to find out what she had done. The community gained the confidence necessary to start fighting bank corruption in their village. This story goes to show that an entire community can be empowered by one woman. Sehgal Foundation is continuing to educate villagers on rural governance. With the necessary tools, villagers can start fighting for their right to a better future.
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