Rural finance: The parallel economy of the Bundeli middlemen

In a new series on rural finance, Khabar Lahariya deep dives into its various facets, exploring the nature and details of daily transactional activities in Bundelkhand. First up, a portrait of the middleman – the broker who liaisons between the common man and government representatives.

The trouble with middlemen in Bundelkhand is that…

If this was the mandatory essay topic in schools in the hinterland, instead of how Swachch Bharat Abhiyan has changed their lives, the students would be far more creative. Khabar Lahariya fills in the blanks on this essay, with vignettes from across Bundelkhand.

The trouble with middlemen in Bundelkhand is that...
… there are too many of them.
… they work unofficially                                                                                                                                                                                                                   .… their work is off-the-record.
… they are not accountable to anyone. Not to the pradhan, not to the tehseel admins or anyone else higher up in the authority chain. And certainly not to the people who comprise their clientele.

The trouble with middlemen in Bundelkhand is that…

Bank mitras, lekhpals, sachivs -- they go by many names, but they have the essential in common: they all serve only themselves. Exploiting a populace that’s largely illiterate, living below the poverty line, barely surviving, or just about scraping by, they make neat packets of money off of the misery of the poor. By hook or by crook, and more often than not, exerting a great deal of 'dabangai', which loosely translates as brute force.

Here are a few snapshots of the quintessential Bundeli middleman and the parallel rural economy he runs – a product of a defunct system, and one that he feeds on.

Middlemen & corruption

According to village residents, the lekhpal is in cahoots with the pradhan, and liaisons with private firms, giving them the opportunity to dig up land assigned for cow shelters, in exchange for money.

Farmers protest against the patwari – local parlance referring to an individual who maintains ownership records for a specific area and undertakes collection of land taxes and also other monetary tasks and transactions – alleging that he’s lobbying for drought compensation packages for only those among them who are paying him. The ask has varies between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000, and the patwari is currently AWOL.

The usage of brute force is common

'Tehseel Diwas' is marked by protests to remove the lekhpal. Besides the more common allegations of corruption, he’s also known to give death threats on a regular basis.

The middleman is not accountable 

Meet Rajkaran, a self-professed bank mitra, having held both private and banking ‘lending’ roles, reluctant to reveal his current designation, or the nature of his dealings, both past and present. It is in the hands of men like Rajkaran that small farmers such as Kharaunch’s Mithai Lal place their bank passbooks, hoping for that loan waive-off they’ve heard the state government has bestowed upon them.

 

Khabar Lahariya is a women-only network of rural reporters from Bundelkhand.


Updated Date: Jun 16, 2018 18:45 PM

Also Watch

Social Media Star: Abhishek Bachchan, Varun Grover reveal how they handle selfies, trolls and broccoli
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 It's a Wrap: Soorma star Diljit Dosanjh and Hockey legend Sandeep Singh in conversation with Parul Sharma
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 Watch: Dalit man in Uttar Pradesh defies decades of prejudice by taking out baraat in Thakur-dominated Nizampur village
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 India's water crisis: After govt apathy, Odisha farmer carves out 3-km canal from hills to tackle scarcity in village
  • Sunday, July 15, 2018 Maurizio Sarri, named as new Chelsea manager, is owner Roman Abramovich's latest gamble in quest for 'perfect football'

Also See