Benapole, July 29 (UNB)- Even Shylock in Shakespeare’s famous play "The Merchant of Venice" would feel shy hearing the story of a village in Bangladesh where creditors have been snatching lands, belongings from poorer debtors.
Shylock had demanded a pound of flesh from Antonio when the latter failed to pay off his debt, but failed to get it in the face of Portia’s logic that he must take it without shedding a single drop of blood.
But there is no stopping the neo-Shylocks of Rajbaria village under Shankarpur union in Jhikargachha upazila of Jashore, who have been forcing their debtors to pay up to Tk 7,000 interest per month against Tk 1 lakh loan exploiting the frailty and needs of the poor villagers.
Meanwhile, failing to pay the huge amount in interest, let alone the capital, hundreds of poor villagers got trapped in the cycle of loan have been forced to sell off their land and other belongings and even to flee the village.
Shawkat, son of Mansur Ali, Rafiqul, son of Lutfar Rahman, Momin, son of Babar Ali, Jahangir, son of Razzak Sardar, Uzzal, son of Rawshan, Sabur Khan, son of Sayed Ali, and Israfil, son of Hazi Noor Islam, are just some of the borrowers who fell victims to the predatory lenders.
Talking to UNB, they relayed they have nothing left now as everything was seized by the cruel money-lenders. In some cases, the money-lenders have sold out their lands after forcibly snatching the papers of lands they had possessed.
Even after losing everything, we have to pay more to these lenders, they added.
A poor woman of Rajbaria village told UNB, “My male relatives left me alone and fled due to constant pressure from money-lenders. I don’t know where my husband, sons and nephews are.”
“We want the administration’s to take steps to save us now,” said a family member who is literally trapped in the cycle of high interest rate by local money-lenders.
During a visit to Chhotto Bazar, this correspondent found Jinnah, son of Abdul Gafur of Rajbaria village who works for money-lenders.
When asked about the source of money, Jinnah said he works for two brothers --Kamal Hossain and Anwar Hossain, sons of Hazi Amir Hossain of Rajbaria village.
Jinnah said he works as an interest collector on behalf of Kamal and Anwar.
This correspondent lastly found main money-lender Anwar Hossain and tried to talk to him. But after knowing the identity of this journalist, he burst out in anger.
Anwar threatened this correspondent and finished the meeting by saying, “I’ll see you later.”
Later, he also threatened the family members of borrowers for complaining to a journalist, they informed.
Masuar Rahman, Rajbaria Union Parishad member, said he was astonished to hear about the situation created by money-lenders. “I knew poverty led people to leaving their houses in Rajbaria village but never heard of the money-lenders,” he added.
Sumi Majumder, Jhikargachha Upazila Nirbahi Officer, said, “This is very sad to hear this. I think the cruel money-lenders should be punished.”
The administration will take legal action once the victims file complaints, she added.