Parvati works in homes as a part-time help and ours is one of those homes. Some weeks back she asked my wife for a loan to make part-payment for a house that they were planning to buy beyond the distant Virar. My wife asked a few questions, asked Parvati to get the documents for the proposed house that she has and asked me to give my opinion whether Parvati is doing the right thing.
So one evening I found myself in a discussion with Parvati and her husband, who had brought the documents with him. As I perused the documents and asked a few questions, I was shocked. Parvati booked a room with a toilet to be constructed by a builder named Austin Constructions from Mira Road a few years back. His construction site is in Thane. She had to make a down payment of Rs2 lacs, for which she borrowed money at 2% interest rate per month by mortgaging her jewellery to the local moneylender. For two years now she has been paying interest at 2% per month on the borrowed amount and also paying rent in the one room tenement she stays in a Worli slum.
The builder has given a document on his letterhead, which states that a particular tenement has been allotted to Parvati and her husband for Rs6 lacs. There is no commitment on the delivery date etc. It also goes on to say that on possession of the apartment, the builder would have granted an interest free loan of Rs4 lacs to Parvati (the balance cost of the apartment). The loan is to be repaid in 24 monthly instalments starting from the month of possession of the “apartment” and default for even one month would mean that the builder can repossess the flat.
The poor live in such uncertainties that they have accepted these terms and conditions where they have no rights and they can be dispossessed of their apartment very easily. The story doesn’t end here. Apparently the two brothers who own the construction firm had a fall-out and one of them vanished. The second brother, who claims he is honest, intends to meet all the commitments.
So he offered Parvati an apartment somewhere beyond Virar – this time one room with a kitchen and toilet. But even this project is stalled for some reason or the other. Meanwhile Parvati is losing her patience and presumably also coming under increasing financial strain. So the builder offered her another place somewhere in Thane (different from the first one), which is ready and available for possession.
The catch is that the price went up by Rs2 lacs, which Parvati has agreed to. Of the Rs2 lacs, Parvati has to pay an additional sum of Rs1 lac immediately before registration of the apartment and her interest free loan amount will go up by Rs1 lac. This is where we come in. I am not sure whether Parvati will get her apartment even after paying this money because someone is staying in this apartment. The builder has assured them that this person is his representative and will vacate immediately.
Let’s assume everything goes well. But there will be relatively limited opportunities to earn what they are earning now while staying in Worli. Therefore, her ability to service the loan will be limited and at risk. What do we do? We will most likely give 50% of the additional loan amount but once she moves we have no way to ensure that our loan is repaid or written off over a period of time when she works with us. We have asked her to arrange the balance loan from one of the other households she works in. None of this is easy for Parvati and very time consuming. Meanwhile the meter on her loan from the moneylender keeps ticking.
To add to my concerns, I feel that this new construction may not be entirely legal. The recent collapse of a building in Mumbra has further raised my concerns. But Parvati and her husband are convinced about it and say they have asked around and people have been staying here for the last ten years. Assuming that everything was legal indeed, then can Parvati get a loan from a bank? The entire family has got their Aadhaar cards but not a bank account. And without any steady source of income (I am sure no bank will consider household work as permanent employment), the chances of a loan are close to zero even if the bank account gets opened some day.
My next question was on the Aadhaar card (a pet subject of mine, as regular readers would have realised). Parvati has no idea what it is for; it is just another card. Shilpa, from Dharavi, daughter of an auto rickshaw driver and a bright student in Class X that Tina and I met, also has no clue about what the Aadhaar card means for them. She knows that it could help her parents to open a bank account but so far all banks near their house have turned them down! Time has come for the Government of India to ensure that services promised by use of Aadhaar are delivered.
Will a day come when Parvati’s dam of patience will break? We should not forget that Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, also has many wrathful incarnations and is not always benevolent.
Aside from the above, I wonder about something else. In spite of all the hardships Shilpa smiles radiantly through our conversation of over an hour. Parvati’s daughter is also always cheerful. Whereas in our upmarket residential complex, I see quite a few unhappy children, always wanting something more, always feeling that they are entitled to more, always feeling that they do not have something (you may find this article interesting: India’s elites have a ferocious sense of entitlement). Where are we going wrong as parents and as a society? I do not profess to have any answers, but look forward to some interesting thoughts and insights. And I do hope that Parvati and her family get their home without any further mishaps.