PATNA: Kamla Devi, Pankaj Kumar, Geeta Devi and Sanjay Singh, all Hindus, share one thing in common. Their lives have been transformed through “interest-free” loans provided by a Muslim cooperative credit society in Bihar, yet another example how integrated Indian society has always been at the grassroot level.
They are four of nearly 9,000 Hindus — mostly vendors, small traders, roadside shopkeepers, marginal farmers and women — who got rid of exploitative moneylenders thanks to interest-free loans by the Al Khair Cooperative Credit Society Ltd that is based here.
“I used to sell potatoes and onions in a small roadside shop. I was often exploited by moneylenders for a small amount of Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 that I needed for my business. But a few years ago, I was surprised when someone informed me of interest-free loans from Al Khair Society,” Kamla, in her mid 40s, said.
She first took a Rs 10,000 loan to run her shop, followed by loans of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50, 000.
“It helped me expand my business from a vendor to a wholesale trader,” she said.
Now doing financially well, Kamla managed to fund the education of her two sons, with one getting admission in an engineering college and the other in a BEd college.
Based on the Islamic principle of prohibiting interest, Al Khair Society has provided interest-free loans of more than Rs 50 crore to nearly 20,000 people. About half of these beneficiaries are Hindus. Regardless of religion and any other considerations, Al Khair Society has opened new vistas for large sections of marginalised people, skilled and unskilled, from unorganised sectors.
Geeta Devi not only turned her small roadside vegetable shop into a big one; she has opened another vegetable shop for her son.
“Our life has changed after I came into contact with Al Khair Society. It helped us live a life of dignity. For poor people like us, interest-free loans are God’s gift and, unlike in regular banks, there are no uncertainties about getting the loan,” she said.
What attracts people, many of whom are not literate, to Al Khair Society’s door is that it involves minimal paper work and a poor-friendly perspective. — IANS