Mounting loans leave trafficking survivors stare at uncertain future

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The interest rate for the loan amount of Rs 70,000 that Trisha, 27, had taken during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is mounting. Every 15 days, she has to give the money lender an amount of Rs 1,750.

A survivor of trafficking, Trisha has fought many battles — of stigma, lack of family and societal support, and a struggle with finding livelihood opportunities. While she always managed to find hope around the corner amidst her struggles, the resident of Canning, West Bengal, is finding it hard to afford rations for her husband and two children during the second wave of the pandemic.

“I am worried about the increasing amount of debt at a time when I am unable to afford rations for my family. I have weathered many storms. But this time, I do not see any a solution to the increasing distress that we are in,” said Trisha. 

A survey among 53 survivors of trafficking by West Bengal-based NGO Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra (GGBK) showed that 40 per cent of them had taken a loan from various land owners, shopkeepers, mortgaged their ornaments and had taken additional loans to run their family, for livelihood, and for treatment. 

A further break up showed that while 36 per cent had taken loans by mortgaging their ornaments, 18 per cent had taken loan from bandhan and self help groups, 50 per cent had taken loans from moneylenders and neighbours, 14 per cent were purchasing daily essentials by taking loans from shopkeepers, and nine per cent had borrowed money from their relatives. The survey highlighted that survivors also have the additional burden of having to frequent police stations as they often receive threats from the traffickers. This entails more expenses with the need to hire a car back and forth, it said.

While 67 per cent had taken loan for their household expenses, 14 per cent had taken loan for treatment and medicines, the GGBK said.

The interest rate varied between 1 to 18 per cent for the survivors.

When it came to how they would repay the loans most of them were in despair. Rekha, 32, is among 80 per cent of the survivors interviewed during the survey, who have little idea how to repay the loan. “We are steeped in uncertainty now. My husband and I are struggling to make ends meet for our family. Work has come to a standstill. First the pandemic, then came Amphan. A second wave, followed by Yaas. We are devastated,” said Rekha, the Sunderban resident.