Money, money, money and lack of it at the BOP
13 May 2013
“We are happy about the agriculture here and until our death our agriculture is most important thing in our life as it feeds us” (BOP5).
Most of the people in Kolli Hills consider themselves poor, but majority seem to be content as their economic status have been steadily improving in the past, as a consequence to the favoring policies of the government. There are now more work opportunities for labor and the farmers are being paid more for their produce than in the past and the ones in most need are being given food rations by the government.
Kolli Malayali is no longer a closed tribal system and the society is moving from subsistence agriculture towards commercial agriculture. Many Kollis have sold their traditional land to lowlanders, and now work for them in the fields, while there are also many small scale agriculturalists, who still own their own land. Cash crops, such as tobacco, tea, coffee, spices have replaced more traditional local produce and the harvest is also being sold to lowlands. Middle men are exploiting the limited opportunities to sell the crop in the hills and take substantial commissions for taking the produce to markets. The importance to have an access to a road cannot be overstated as without it, a farmer has to pay much more for the transportation and is losing out on the predetermined prices, as there is no organized sales network and they are more vulnerable to the buyers will.
Banks are providing loans only to landlords and not to ordinary farmers, who are resorted to rely on credit from their family and neighbors or they can get informal loans from whom they call “estate people”. They charge much higher interests than the banks as the rates are added to the loan on a monthly, not on a yearly basis. Typical monthly rate is 2 %, which cumulatively can quickly become a massive burden for the borrower and result lifetime of indebtedness for the family.
The size of a family obviously affects the family expenses and especially young children and girls are being considered solely as a source of costs for the family. Men are in charge of household economies and women do not have own money unless they go to work themselves. Therefore they are completely economically depended to their men. A local NGO employee explained that, “even if a daughter goes to work, she has to give all her money to the father. Whatever expenses she has such as to get a new sari, a meager amount is taken to her, but the rest goes to the father”. She is expected to earn her deposit for the marriage and she is being compared with the dowry monies of the other girls in the neighborhood and thus needs to save in order to get a good husband.